Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heirloom Archaeology: The Yard Edition Pt. 2, St. Francis

When I grew up, I assumed everyone had a St. Francis in their yard. We had one. Others in my family had one. When I asked who he was and why he was there, I was told that he protected and encouraged happy wildlife, that he would bring bounty to our little garden. He brought good luck to the yard and the squirrels and the morning doves.

Garden statues of holy figures are a tradition especially loved by Catholics. The concept and general idea behind them will be familiar to those studying ancient shrines for nymphs and other locally sacred beings.

In our family, St. Francis is the dominant garden statue and his presence can be traced to one particular image. It's the most 'sacred' in the family because its the oldest and it reaches back to the elder generation's childhood. It's been through hurricanes and moves, has been broken and reassembled, but somehow its still standing. It's the talismanic Athena Polias of the clan.

The statue of St. Francis has lived in the garden of the ancestral home's courtyard. The courtyard itself has gone through numerous changes over the years. Back in the day ('50s) there was even a palm tree in the middle.

This is where the grown ups sipped their cocktails: Myrtle Rask (my grandmother) and Anna Mae Sirl (great-grandmother).

But St. Francis was there, his toes in a bird bath, surveying his domain. He spent the years encouraging all the tropical plants to go wild, watching over the tiny lizards zipping across the patio, and providing a perch for song birds come to raid the bird feeder.

Analysis of the photographic evidence shows that nowadays St. Francis is in almost the exact same location, with some of the exact same plants still thriving under his protection.

St. Francis in 1958.

Best of all, he's still protecting the little animals :)

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