Ode to Our Lady of Leavenworth
Before I get into the who and why of this incredible Omaha woman, let me first start by explaining my need to champion my fabulous Omahans in an ongoing series. When I was young it seemed that everywhere I looked in Omaha there were glimpses of truly great characters. So many eye catchers, especially in Benson, where I grew up, the midtown area and downtown Omaha. I have always looked for the fabulous (in all things) and created stories and names for people out of complete, honest admiration. One could argue that I didn’t have much life experience and therefore these people looked interesting to me. But I don’t think that quite covers it. There are a couple of reasons why I think those fabulous, colorful, free spirits are seen few and far between in the last decade and a half but that would turn into, perhaps, a weird, ugly rant about socioculturalpolitical shifts and the killing of American style by way of Walmart and this blog is certainly not about that. Any of that.
I simply wish to acknowledge that we have been in the company of real greats: The Broom Man, Seven, Sly Stone of Downtown Omaha, the Orange Lady of the Old Market, Little Edie Beale of Leavenworth, Val the Old Market Artist, the Cosmic Superhero of Leavenworth, Skip the Hardhat Guy, the Hessian AKA Krokus, Mary the Wandering Woman Who Is Actually Rumored to be Quite Well Off, the Smoking Buddhist Monks of Saddle Creek and countless others who, sadly, I have forgotten over time. I’m sure you’ve heard of a few of those, passed them on the street or had the privilege of interacting with them. The fact is, the beautiful, rare birds are not seen very often these days. There are still some eccentric souls to be seen around town. This series, Fabulous People of Omaha, is meant to honor them. Also to serve as reminder to look up from the pavement, to look outside of your car window, to get off of your phone as you walk around. You will see some real treasures.
On a beautiful,warm March day like today, I am reminded that spring is near and it won’t be too, too long until I will again see the beautiful, diligent, spring bustling of Our Lady Of Leavenworth. Surely you have seen her on the three-way cross over of 57th Street, Happy Hollow Blvd and Leavenworth. Her home faces west on 57th. She has the most amazing, glorious garden which she tends most of the year. My favorites are her flowers that she grows right along Leavenworth. These flowers are so tall and they will reach right out to your car, urging you to slow down and take it all in. She also has pret’near a forest of sunflowers. Our Lady of Leavenworth wears a yard-work uniform that is, at once, both fashion and function forward. I love her varied, nonconformist looks. I believe the sun informs her original yard-work wear. One day while my partner and I were walking in Elmwood Park, we passed a couple who were also out walking. The woman was petite, attractive and wearing a floral, almost golf type, skirt. My partner, (we will call him Mr. Cassette going forward) who happens to know of Our Lady of Leavenworth in another capacity, excitedly said, “Did you know that was Your Lady of Leavenworth?!!?” I about ran after her for an autograph as I was so happy to not only see her beautiful face out from under that duct tape hat but to see her out of her natural habitat. It was exhilarating. But I’ve strayed….what makes Our Lady of Leavenworth so noteworthy in my mind, is that her persona, her style, her sheer will and intention is an act of love for all the passersby of the high end of Leavenworth. Or I pretend it is. Maybe it is a purely self-indulgent act, that special show that she creates on her corner, but I don’t think so. I have never had the courage to approach her as I do truly enjoy her from afar….but when I do, THANK YOU is going to be one of the first things I sputter out. Around these parts, we all think she’s pretty much the Queen Bee.
(photo taken July 3, 2013 the summer there was a lot of construction in OLOL’s block, which she, understandably, appeared none too pleased about.)
Thanks, Omaha friends.