Rose and I flew to Washington last Saturday, a few hours after devastating tornadoes tore through our beloved Kentucky. My heart aches. 

The remnant storm winds shaved 15 minutes off the hour and-a-half flight. We came to D.C. to check on Aunt Rose’s house and garden in Georgetown. She passed over a year ago. In the interim, Rose has been decluttering and sprucing up.

The Artist’s Garden at Eragny, Camille Pissarro, 1898.

There was another mission.

Aunt Rose’s ashes now lie in rest. I won’t say where.

On many visits here, over 25 years, we would go down to the National Mall and visit the National Gallery of Art. There were always other stops nearby for gardens of joy.

Still Life with Insects and a Snail, Clara Peteers c.1610.

I didn’t grow up visiting museums. I have no memory of going to Louisville’s Speed Museum in my childhood. My interest in art didn’t begin until my mid-20s, simultaneous with my blooming passion for gardening. In the winter of 1976, I traveled alone through Europe on trains and busses, my destination always a museum or a garden.

On this latest visit to the National Gallery we went straight to the Vermeer and DaVinci paintings—Aunt Rose’s favorites—but soon the rich abundance of  flowers and fruits, adjacent to the portraits, came to life. I’d seen many of these paintings before, but Aunt Rose was drawing me closer still.

Girl with a Flute, attributed to Johannes Vermeer, 1665-1675.

The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil, Claude Monet, 1881.

The Artist’s Garden at Eragny, Camille Pissaro, 1898.

The Artist’s Garden at Eragny, Camille Pissaro, 1898.

We returned home three mild, cloudless days later, to a Commonwealth still in shock.

We are closing in on the winter solstice. What’s left will be uncertainty and a slow walk toward spring.

This winter I will search for beautiful flowers at Louisville’s Speed Museum and pray for the blessings of cherry blossoms next spring on the National Mall Tidal Basin.