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The Snowflake Gardener’s Zinnia Dreams

February 27, 2019


NOTE:  In Spanish, “Mal de Ojos” literally means “sickness of the eyes.”  The following new poem is a follow-up to my poem “The Snowflake Garden,” which earlier appeared on my WORDWALK blog and then in my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season  (available from Amazon and also as DBC 08305 from Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD).


Happily, I dedicate this poem to my writer friend Deon, whose favorite flower is the zinnia.



The Snowflake Gardener’s Zinnia Dreams


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



So many, many people

ask about my Snowflake Garden.

In this Wisconsin winter of 2019,

my Snowflake Garden is quite prodigious.

However, please do not be jealous.

Working on this Wednesday

in the abundance of my Snowflake Garden,

my frozen dreams drift

to my grandmother’s summer garden,

lined with bricks set at an unusual diagonal

and filled with two varieties

of red, yellow, maroon, and orange

stalwart, precisioned zinnias–

zinnias to the east and the west of the water pump,

to the north of our family bakery,

parallel with the grocery store building of a tall two stories,

flanked by an iron fire escape.


Like a photograph

that never escapes my mind,

I see my Italian grandmother,

clad in her typical black and white dress,

bending her back to tend her brightly-colored flowers–

the zinnias nurtured by the Aztecs

since 1520.


The “Eye Sore” flower of the Aztecas,

the “Mal de Ojos” of the Spanish–

used for treating eyes–

became a treat for the eyes

as these flower seeds  traveled to Europe in 1753.


Thanks to Doctor Johann Gottfried Zinn,

for whom the eye’s Zinn’s membrane is named,

zinnias spread to Germany, Holland, and Italy

in the 19th century.


The seeds then traveled back

to North America,

in the early 1900s,

around the time

when Domenica Allice Lanzone

immigrated to America,

to my Indiana.


After all of these years,

Do I now know–

thanks to reading the history

of the zinnia–

why my maternal grandmother

cultivated and cared for

her garden of zinnias?


As I continue

to tend to my Snowflake Garden,

I wonder,

“Did she ever think of my eyes

as she treated her zinnias

with such loving care?”



Happy Gardening Dreams!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 27, 2019, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Jenna Merten permalink

    Alice, what a lovely poem! I did not know about that history of zinnias, and I am so glad that you shared their background. Thinking of these beautiful flowers make me look forward to spring.

    • Hi, Jenna–Many thanks for your very nice comment!  Yes, I am trying to think of spring.  In the second book of the Chloe Ellison mystery series, a tidbit of the history of the zinnia was given which led me on a quest and then this poem.

          I hope that the three of you have been doing well despite all of the February weather challenges.

      More soon!  Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. How interesting the story of the beautiful zinnia is, Alice! I so appreciate your researching and sharing the history of the flower and its significance to our Grandma Lanzone. Being a very serious business woman, I don’t remember Grandma taking time to cook, bake, clean, or crochet as did most women of her generation. I find it fascinating that she was so devoted to nurturing her zinnia gardens throughout the hot and humid Indiana summers. But I also remember very well Grandma tending to her zinnias after closing the store for the day. She also liked to sit in the yard enjoying the cooler evenings and undoubtedly admiring her precious zinnias! They must have given her much joy, just as your gardens do for you.
    With love and best wishes for the spring gardening season to arrive at your doorstep very soon,

    • Hi, Mary–Special thanks for adding your recollections!  I recall Grandma’s cooking a little–but, indeed, little.  She made a bread soup with tomatoes and bread.  Before we were born, I think she made a type of macaroon cookie.  Since Grandma apparently did not care for cooking and baking, she was very fortunate to have married a professional baker, who, besides making Italian bread and breadsticks, prepared the family meals in the large brick oven.

      Good night–Alice and Willow

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