It was an oil painting of bloodroots, the white petaled flowers with yellow centers that grow wildly in the woods and bloom early in the spring in patches of sunlight.
Cupped in large green leaves, the unusual wildflower
unwraps its layers in the morning and rewraps them at night. It was a favorite decoration in Aunt Anne's home. In a brandy snifter
filled with water, the flower looked like a decoration on a table at a candled wedding reception.
A poet may have been stirred to write a poem about the flower's birth in a shady area, comparing it to a loving relationship that blooms in a drug-infested area where other liaisons die.
A musician may have been encouraged to compose exciting song lyrics about meeting an alluring, and possibly dangerous, new lover wandering through the woods in a sheer, flowing ivory dress and a headband of flowers circling her long blond hair.
In her younger days, Aunt Anne hiked through the woods in boots, navy slacks, a red sweater, and red plaid flannel shirt with her boxer dog Bitzy, searching for the early bloomers. She wore gloves because handling bloodroots sometimes causes a rash similar to poison ivy.
Venturing into the woods could be dangerous for another reason. Stray dogs run wildly through the area. Aunt Anne carried a stick made of a fallen tree branch to ward them off as she trekked around the oak, poplar, and red maple trees. The tall trees stood like erect Marine Guards, protecting their inhabitants: plants, animals, and snakes.
As she grew older and needed a cane, Aunt Anne sent her daughter Anne Louise into the woods to collect the wildflowers.
Anne Louise shivered at the thought of going where the snakes slither, hiss, and play dead, but she gritted her teeth, put on boots, a trench coat, and gloves and gathered the bloodroots that captivated her mother.
Aunt Anne died at 88, leaving the still life incomplete. ”I was going to finish it, put stems and flowers on it, said Anne Louise, who is an artist. "But I decided to leave it in my room, as is." In its unfinished state, "Bloodroots" lets its viewers determine what Aunt Anne was trying to convey: beauty and danger, calmness, or something deeper.
Aunt Anne's still life joins other unfinished works, including "Answered Prayers," by Truman Capote, and the 10th symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven.