A most pleasant Summer Saturday outing in England is a visit to an open Gardens event, held regularly by many of the hundreds of tiny villages that dot the English countryside. These events, usually sponsored by a local church or organization, open up a dozen or so of the villager’s gardens for viewing, provide maps and instructions, serve tea and cakes in the village church or hall, and sometimes sell plants, jams, and crafts.
In June 2004, Pauline, our friend, Sister Collette, and I visited an open gardens event in the village of Bromham, in Bedfordshire. We visited about 10 magnificent gardens over a mile square area, each being completely different, and each carrying the signature of its creator.
In one particular garden I experienced an especially strong feeling of love and warmth, perhaps because it featured purple irises, which were the all time favorites of my mother. They always thrived everywhere around her home. I would have given anything to stay in that garden and paint for a while; I didn’t want to leave. Fortunately, I had failed to read all of the instructions provided with the map, among which was one that said, "No photographs." So, as an alternative to staying, I took several photographs of the iris garden, with painting later in mind and I published one of the pictures on the WWT site in the "Inside England" series.
A year later, a friend, Tom Bentley, while searching for photographs with which to renew his screen saver ran across the photo of the iris garden, liked it, downloaded it and saved it for later use. Then while looking at the photo more closely, he noticed something rather strange. Within one of the irises he could see what appeared to be a perfect image of a face, which he interpreted to be the face of Jesus Christ. Then to his great surprise he noticed other images in the surrounding flowers and trees that appeared as angels surrounding the Christ. It reminded him of a related phenomenon that took place in the nearby village of Estill Springs, where a religious image created by a street light and a diffuse glass window drew hundreds of pilgrims from far away places to see the "miracle". Such images appearing in windows, on walls, and even on stale cheese sandwiches draw national attention and often command high prices.
He sent the garden photo to me with insets to mark the images and asked if I had noticed these. As soon as I saw the photo, even before reading his note, I again experienced the warm feeling that I had before while in the garden.
I was, indeed, surprised that I had not noticed the images before; they now appear very clearly. Perhaps I had seen the images subconsciously, explaining my feelings. Then perhaps, the angels really were there.