Contrary Mary

Mary, Mary quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And so my garden grows.

~English Nursery Rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Contrary Mary loved her garden and never wanted to be parted from it. Unless she was eating supper or sleeping, everyone knew that if they wanted to see Contrary the only way was to tromp around behind her cottage where they’d find her amongst the ferns, freesia, and feverfew. “Plants are much better than people and flowers far more beautiful,” she could often be heard to say. Her neighbor Quentin could not agree more.

Contrary did not care if it were a rainy a day. She would still spend hours in her garden, tending and babying her flowers, lucky ladies that they were. Far too busy snipping, trimming, mulching, and talking, she never bothered to protect herself from the elements. Daily her mother cried and wrung her hands while her father railed bitter warnings that she would catch her death. Contrary gave not a hoot and did as she pleased, day after day. Her parents should have known their counsel would be to no avail. They named her, did they not?

On that gloomiest of mornings when she fell quite ill, no one was really surprised it had happened, though it was sad none-the-less. The worst was to hear Contrary begging, “Do not part me from my garden, I care for naught else.”  No one could figure out how to get her bed out into the garden, so they settled on moving it to the back door, which they left wide open. Not the best of plans, leaving her exposed in this manner, but her pleas were so tearful. Contrary made all of them promise: father, mother, and older brother to bury her in her garden after she died. Her love was too great to be parted from it. It was her last wish and of course they could not refuse.

All fine and good, but Contrary happened to be admired quite secretively, by Quentin the Vampire Botanist who lived just down the road and across the way. He had long loved and admired her from afar. Viciously, he cursed his lack of fortitude, which caused him to delay and now never to tell her how he truly felt. If he had, she could be by his side, as his “Bella Vampress il Fiore” (when in a romantic mood, Quentin always thinks in Italian).  Unwilling to let her go, Quentin came up with an idea. Beware of ideas, my friend, for although some of these are quite grand, others can be just as easily quite tragic.

Utilizing his botanical science and his vampire magic, he infused her spirit with the fertile soil of her garden.

Now amongst all Quentin’s creature creations Contrary Mary’s ghost sprouts up in various guises and incarnations. She seems fond of changing her ectoplasmic outfits, as well as her hairstyle on a daily basis. What’s a lady ghost to do? She no longer has need for shoes.

As her name suggests, although she now can spend eternity with her beloved garden Contrary is, to put it mildly, annoyed with Quentin’s arbitrary decision to trap her essence this way. She expresses her annoyance in the only way available to her: by sprouting tiny thorns all over her stems. No one dare pick her, not even Quentin.

You may well wonder, if Contrary is a ghost why hasn’t she escaped? She can’t. Not yet. But if you witness the various expressions that move sometimes violently across her tiny ghost face, it’s not difficult to imagine that she’s working on it. And when she succeeds, which could be any day, I really wouldn’t want to be Quentin. Would you?

Inspired by the nursery rhyme, I drew Contrary Mary with a fine-tipped, black marker and then painted her using acrylics. Her story? After I finished painting her, she told it to me.