The Parson's Tale, a series of seven botanical charcoal drawings, is inspired by the last of the twenty-four Canterbury Tales, before Chaucer himself weighs in with his own Retraction at the very end.
Within the "Tale", a long and tedious sermon on Middle Ages morality and piety, the Parson invigorates an existing motif of a hierarchy of sinful behaviors: those that are troublesome and those with a capital "S" that will lead a soul to eternal damnation. By Chaucer’s time this idea of a hierarchy, which had originated with early Christian hermits often referred to as The Desert Fathers beginning in the 3rd Century, had become fixed by convention and had coalesced into seven motifs. These seven motifs can be found in numerous works such as Dante's circles of Purgatory, prints by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. To Rick Shaefer, this presented an interesting point of departure for this series of Botanical drawings.
In working the framework of the Tale into the narrative of seven floral landscapes, the artist has given added emphasis to the small panoramas that inhabit the base and background of each piece. Areas that might have served a perfunctory or even decorative function in historical portraiture present, in these drawings, clues to the understanding of each motif. The usual "main characters" of the flowers themselves are relegated to a supporting, but far from superfluous, role. In the series of seven motifs, the order established by convention has been maintained. The artist has left it up to the viewer to identify the specific theme depicted in each drawing.