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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

The sign said ‘Garden’, but it seemed like nothing more than a long unkempt driveway that wound its way into an unseen distance. She pulled her long pink jacket tightly around her body against the chill of morning air. Then a tight row of stone steps called her down another leaf strewn path until she arrived at a lake where light played tricks and trees seemed to reach from beneath the water’s glassy surface back towards the branches they reflected.

Tiny bridges reached to a tiny island, but these were not hers to cross, so she circled the lake slowly, engrossed by the reflection of the world beneath the surface that seemed so much more real and vibrant than the one she inhabited. The stippled back of a rainbow trout broke the water’s glassy veil twice, sending it to endless ripples, ripping her briefly from her reverie back to the ground on which she stood.

Then a vibrant flash of candy pink caught her eye from the nearby bridge where a small child suspended over the rails glanced up quickly from the water, catching her attention and squealing with delight. The brief meeting of their eyes was as deep as the lake itself, as true a reflection as the connection between actual trunk and reflected leaves.

Then like the fish, the child was gone, and the adult knew that when she was ready to appear again, she would do all she could to make her feel safe enough to stay a little longer. The woman could neither see nor feel the magical breeze that rippled the water and caught the most golden leaves and gave them the sacred gift of flight. She held out the palm of her hand in hope, while the flutter of delicate yellow leaves danced like tiny golden kites before gilding the water below.

When no gossamer leaf kissed her hand to grant her wish, she folded it back into the warmth of her pocket before ambling up the path, towards a world where rainbow fish and butterfly leaves and children on bridges were little more than gentle whispers of what might one day be again.

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Can you see the little girl in pink overalls with eyes wide and full of wonder, almost hidden in the garden? She used to explore this secret space every day but she hasn’t been here for many months, and now she marvels at its transformation. At this moment, she is totally transfixed by the stunning, still, silent woman standing against the backdrop of hedge like a monument to some past era, serene upon a sandstone platform. Surely she has been carved overnight by the gentle hands of faeries and sprites! The stone folds of her long dress flow like fabric, eternally unaffected by the breeze that blows. The large stone basket she carries is filled to overflowing with invisible violets. How the child’s face floods with a flush of delight!

Slowly, she draws herself away and deeper into the garden where more secrets and surprises are certain to unfold. A tiny tear rolls down her pink cheek as she makes her way along a short, straight length of path, its pebbles punctuated by defiant weeds. Where did all the pretty purple cat-tail grasses go that she used to caress gently as she walked? And when and why did they die? Will they ever return to their sweet softness, swaying gently in the magical breeze? She laments what is lost, but hiding deep inside her tiny heart is a seed of hope that – one day – what has been lost might somehow be restored.

The child skips then ambles as children do down the path as it starts to wind towards the old metal swing, creaking on its badly rusted hinges. Just before she sits, she detects an unexpected echo of the exquisite statue she had seen before. Ashen grey compared to the other, large breaks are evident throughout her motionless body. There are enormous scars where she has been shattered by circumstance beyond her control, snapped at the waist and wrist and shoulder – so utterly broken. Yet someone had seen past her brokenness and decided that she should not be discarded. Carefully and kindly, they had searched the undergrowth and found her missing pieces, then taken time to fix each fragment meticulously back into place.

And now here the silent woman stood, scarred but intact, disfigured but somehow more noble and beautiful because of all she had been through and the value she now held because she had been saved from the scrap pile and been restored. Her imperfections spoke of the kindness, grace and mercy of another, and this proved that mankind was truly capable of honour and goodness. The child shed a tear and smile simultaneously at the sight and the revelation, then continued her ambling way down the secret garden path.

Again, the lesson repeated itself. At the very end of the garden path, flowering bushes had once stood strong, providing solitude and seclusion for anyone wishing to delight in the garden’s secrets. The child remembered a time when violent winds had blown the tall, flat-faced, purple lassiandras to the ground, exposing the garden entirely to those who would never otherwise be invited in. Then tiny magnolias, sweetly called ‘Little Gem’, had been planted to replace them, with a hope and a dream that one day these would fill the space and protect the garden’s secrets once more. The last time she had seen these little ones, her heart despaired at how overgrown they had become with weeds, how overrun they had become with other lesser plants that seemed intent on their destruction.

But now what was here? Not a weed to be seen, and the lesser plants themselves had been removed, destroyed. And here indeed were the three magnolias, not overcome, but carefully transplanted to fill the space, without threat or competition. The child’s heart leapt inside her. Like the broken statue, she had not doubted that the little plants would have been surely doomed. But here they stood, proclaiming all the strength of their potential to become even more than they were before, to grow past what had tried to kill them and to transform the small, secret world that surrounded them with all the strength and beauty that only hope and resilience and recovery can bring.

And though the girl with pink bows tying back her hair was only a child, that was all she truly ever wished to be. A Grown Up might walk down the garden’s weed-strewn path, only to think ‘Statue. Missing plant. Another statue – broken. More insignificant plants.’ But the eyes of the child could see that everything in this secret garden had been dreamed from nothing. When it had been broken, it could be repaired, to have even more value for having been lovingly restored. And she saw something of herself in the three Little Gem magnolias, once doomed to be overcome, now destined to feel the sun kiss their supple stalks, empowering them to soon become all that they were truly meant to be.

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Ladybugs are strong and bold, perfectly round, utterly robust,
Able to lift tremendous weight with tiny, shiny wings.
Completely bright, bringing sheer delight whenever they appear –
A small and most beloved jewel, sparkling in the gardener’s sight.

Dragonflies are ethereal, their deep magic embossed on
Filigree of impossibly long, iridescent wings.
Appearing, disappearing, appearing again,
The ever-present Spirit trembling over still and troubled waters.

Butterflies flit upon the breeze as though no-one else can truly see their
Origami paint in flight, fluttering in the garden’s light.
Strength and frailty intertwined in such a fragile, bright surprise,
But butterflies are nothing without ladybugs and dragonflies.

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“Our Friendship Tree is a sacred place,” declared the girl in the pink overalls to her constant companions, the white haired boy and the rose-cheeked girl, “But the time has now come for me to take you both to the most magical place I have ever been and the most magical place you will ever see.” Her sea-blue, ocean-deep eyes twinkled with delight, for this place was more magical to her than pixie dust, more magical than the wonders of deep, dark water, more magical than the beloved Friendship Tree itself.

She had stumbled across the Foxglove Spires Garden quite by accident and had only ever been exploring there three times by herself. Each time had been more magical than the last. With every expedition, new secrets had unfolded themselves to her amazement. The gardens had become the hiding place of her dreamiest dreams, her richest inspiration and her most perfect imaginings. She had longed to reveal even just a few of the hidden spaces and treasures she had discovered to those she treasured most, and every night she dreamed of further discoveries, made all the sweeter by being so sweetly shared. And when she awoke that morning, she knew with her first conscious breath of air that today was – without doubt – a day destined for a new kind of adventure.

Seeing their reflections mirrored back to them in their friend’s excited eyes, the boy in the blue coat and the girl in the red dress both reached to run their fingers over the silver friendship charms that hung around their necks. Their soft fingertips pressed through the tree-shaped holes pressed into the flat round pendants, as they always did before beginning a new adventure. The necklace spoke like a silent whisper to the three – and to all who saw them together  or apart – of unity and discovery, but most of all of the purity and joy of eternal friendship. Their silver charms caught the few rays of sun that managed to break through the heavy cover of cloud, their gleam reflecting in the eyes of their pink friend with the star-twinkle smile. She ran her fingers over the matching pendant that hung on a silver chain around her own neck, celebrating the special bond she shared with her two friends and signalling the start of their next exciting adventure.

The  pink girl linked her arms into the arms of her two friends and led them smiling down a long pebbled path towards a tall grey stone wall covered in ivy. A thin piece of dark green rope had been strung loosely across the wall’s narrow opening, and the girl’s eyes lingered on it solemnly for several moments. “I’ve never seen a rope across the entrance before”, she sighed, her sunny face forming a slow, apprehensive cloud. “I have a really strange feeling about this. I don’t think we can cross it. It’s got the kind of magic that says “No-one should enter today”.  “But our magic is stronger”, replied the white haired boy, lifting one end of the rope and motioning his friends to move past him through the arch of the stone wall. “Two could never cross that rope, but three can,” he intoned, nodding with his usual confidence that he was never wrong. He recognised the hesitance in the pink girl’s round blue eyes, but used all his inner magic to try to dispel it. He suspected that the garden hidden behind this stone wall held the deepest, strongest, most secret kind of magic.  And somehow he sensed that if the three of them didn’t explore together here today, they may never have the chance to do so again.

The beautiful rose-cheeked girl observed the looks and words that passed now – as they so often did – between her two friends. She loved them both with all her heart, yet her eyes always clouded over whenever she saw their eyes meet or heard their words connect, exposing a powerfully deep and unique bond that only the strongest friendship could ever make possible.  The white haired boy was the prince of all her fairy-tales, and she sometimes she struggled to open her heart wide enough to share him with anyone else. But when she looked across the pebbled path and into the now slighlty anxious blue eyes of her friend with butterfly patches sewn onto the knees of her favourite pink overalls, she saw straight down into the depths of her rose-red heart and knew that there was love enough for all three of them to take this next adventure together. “It’s ok”, she smiled at her friend, her beautiful blue-green eyes filling with love and reassurance, “We’ll stick together no matter what happens. You brought us both here; now, if you please, you must surely take us on an adventure!”

The girl in the pink overalls felt safe once again in the love of her two amazing friends, their words and thoughts reassuring her, despite her fears that bobbed at, then just below, then at the surface again, that the garden may somehow be unwilling to truly welcome them inside today. Linking their arms together once again, the trio crossed the threshold of the stone wall entrance and into the magical world that awaited them. The children with the white hair and the red summer dress raced ahead, allowing their quick steps to take them wherever the winding pebbled paths may lead. “Slow down!” cried their friend, her voice calling unseen from somewhere behind them, “You’ll miss things! There’s a secret hidden just off the path at every step! Come back to me! Come back and see!” And they turned around and retraced some steps to find her standing at the top of a broad stairwell made of large cobbled stones, leading down into a deep circluar garden.  Overgrown ivy spilled onto the circle of stones that encompassed a weathered stone urn. “It’s a garden within a garden,” breathed the girl in the red dress. “There are more gardens within this garden than any of us could ever count,” her pink friend replied. “Breathe the air in deeply – it’s different in every space. Every hidden corner of this secret garden makes you come alive in a different way.”

They all breathed deeply. Then the trio headed off again, sometimes together, sometimes the pink girl lagging behind to take her own deep breaths, then leaving each sacred spot to catch up to her friends again. Then just as she heard her friends’ voices laughing again around the next corner, the pink heart within her stirred as she neared a gently familiar space. It was undetectable from the path, the old wooden structure completely covered over by a blanket of thick ivy that climbed up its tall round beams. The blanket spilled across its open top to create an almost solid canopy, through which just a vague hint of cloudy sky could be seen. “Don’t move on too quickly,” she implored her friends. “This is the most magical spot of all.” But it was too late. Their heads had only just disappeared through the far side of the shelter, their voices now disappearing down yet another windy path. This place was more than a hidden garden shelter; this place was the child’s very soul itself. She breathed in the cool, sun dappled air deeply, every cell of her body being completely infused with the sweetness, the freshness, the purity of the magical secret space.

A long, rugged wooden table ran down the length of the outdoor room and a faded wooden cabinet with empty shelves rested where a back wall would be if one existed. Beside the shelf, in the corner of the structure that seemed to absorb the life of the plants that grew up and over and through its deteriorating wooden frame, grew the solid frame of a small tree. Its sturdy trunk and long limbs had somehow become an organic part of the structure itself. If every other beam fell down, this tree would surely hold the structure up. There were branches and leaves somewhere high and out of sight, extending up and out through the illusion of ceiling made by the gnarled, woody remains of some climbing plant that had long since forgotten how to flower. The tree stood as naturally beside the empty wooden cabinet as though the seeds of both had been planted at the same time. They had grown tall and old together, watered by rain and nurtured by softly infused light. The pink girl leaned into the tree, head resting, eyes closed against the V that stemmed from the trunk, then she slowly dissolved, becoming one with the tree’s strong, smooth branches. Her friends spied her from outside the shelter through the gaps the ivy hadn’t yet filled in and smiled to each other at the girl so blissfully lost in her moment alone with the tree, feeling as though she was truly one of its branches. This wasn’t their tree; it was her tree and hers alone. They knew she would catch up soon enough.

Further down the path, the beautiful, breezy rosy girl found and climbed half-way up a special tree of her own.  This tree was taller and more richly cloaked with leaves. Its labrynth of strong, low branches was made to be climbed. She wrapped her hand around one limb, then the next, climbing higher and higher still. Her white haired boy was close behind her, climbing the limbs that were closest to hers. “This is our Tree,” he thought out loud to the lovely girl, who had transformed into a climbing rose. “It’s not the same one we usually climb, but it’s exactly the same.” “It is,” she agreed, and they climbed with bliss and glee, both hearts pulsing wildly with intense joy, love and fun that brought flecks of bright sunshine into the very heart of the cool shaded garden. Just as the boy was about to steal the sweetest kiss (and to give an even sweeter one in return), the girl in the pink overalls appeared at the top of the path that led down to the tree. Exactly as her friends expected her to do, she let out a pink squeal of delight at the sight of her friends climbing high in the tree’s branches, and she ran towards them down the steep, sun-dappled path.

“It’s the Friendship Tree! I knew we would find it in this garden! I’ve been here three times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s been waiting until we all arrived here together to reveal itself!” She climbed up into the tree with her friends, and it was as though they had climbed together in this exact same tree a thousand times before. “Look what I can do!” she squealed, wrapping her hands and ankles around a thick branch to hang upside down, looking back up into the laughing faces of her two companions sitting astride on one of the branches above her. Her pretty rose friend looked down at her and smiled, “Maybe we need to climb down soon and explore the other parts of the garden?” And as much as they never wanted to climb down at all, they all knew there were a million other secrets just waiting to be discovered – secrets that could only be discovered together. They jumped down from their branches and ran through the garden, laughing and exploring, and at every turn of the pebbled path they found a new, well-hidden garden secret. Sometimes ancient candlesticks with tall green candles appeared magically at the bottom of old stone steps, leading down to a beautiful cracked concrete urn. Other times, there were ancient ruins covered in ivy, with a small wrought iron table and seats faced to peer into magical lakes through narrow stone archways. Once a large lizard crossed the path in front of them and stopped still as they giggled and inched themselves closer, to see if they could make it a friend. Then they arrived at a beautiful lake, embroidered with lillies and surrounded by tall, sprawling willows, and an enormous lakehouse, full of empty seats just waiting to be filled.

And like all children on magical adventures, the happy trio found themselves tired and thankful for a place to sit and rest. The white haired boy raised his hand to the pendant tree around his neck and whispered ‘Thank you Tree for our adventure today’. And the girl with the rosy cheeks touched her own necklace softly and thought ‘What would our lives be like without this friendship? May it never end.’ And their eyes both turned to the girl in the pink overalls, who raised her hand to the pendant hanging on the chain around her neck, only to find it was not hanging on the chain around her neck at all. Her pale face went an even paler shade of pink, closer to white, her eyes filling with disbelief, then a dawning sense of despair. “It’s gone”, she told her friends, dismayed. “I’ve lost it. I knew we shouldn’t have come into the garden today!” Her blue eyes, always so full of sunshine and stars, now filled with tiny clouds, then steady drops of rain. “We’ll find it!”, declared the boy, and instantly the trio took collective flight to trace back through every secret space of the garden, desperately searching the ground covered by every step back to the start of the path for the silver gleam of the lost, treasured pendant – finding nothing. Separating to search every inch of the path back to the stone wall entrance, and back to the lakehouse once more, finally the exhausted children found one another again at the trunk of the tree they had climbed and swung from so joyously. The girl in pink sank to her knees, then sat sobbing, grieving for her most precious treasure that surely was now lost forever.

The depth of her sorrow was enough to bring a tear to any eye close enough to see. The white haired boy sank down beside her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder. “Yes – it’s gone. But time has a strange way of restoring the things that matter to us most. Our pendants have kept the three of us together, but they are not magic. Our friendship is the true magic; the pendants are just symbols of something we will carry forever deep within us. That is something that can never be lost,” he said as he tapped his friend gently on the head, her sad eyes brightening ever so slightly. Standing nearby, the rose girl felt her own eyes cloud as they had done so many times before, still processing the bond that existed between the other two. It was rare and deep, and sometimes she felt it was part of a circle she stood far outside. But when the eyes of the pink girl turned in her direction, fearful that the bond of their friendship might somehow be broken by the loss of the necklace, a deep love seemed to spring from the wells of her heart, stretching out towards her tearful friend like the arm of the boy around her shoulder. Instinctively, the rose girl lifted her hands towards the pendant around her own neck and undid the chain’s small silver clasp. Then she moved with outstretched arms towards her friend, seated at the base of the tree. “With this necklace, I give you my heart, my love and my trust,” she said. “It will stay with you forever and its magic will never be lost or broken.”

Now the girl’s deep blue eyes flooded, and when she could find no words to thank her friend for her enormous sacrifice, she threw her arms around her shoulders and tears of gratitude spilled onto the ground. One of the tears landed in the cup of a fallen leaf, and the white haired boy thought he noticed an odd gleam reflecting in the teardrop’s watery mirror. He squinted – maybe the silver gleam was simply a stray ray of sun?  Then he smiled broadly, recognising a familiar shape and pattern shimmering upside-down in the tear’s salty dome. He stood slowly so as not to disturb the girls as they hugged, lifting his arms high up to the branch where the girl in pink overalls had suspended and swung herself upside down not too long before. Removing the silver necklace and charm from a small twig, he softly fell to his knees again and placed it gently around the neck of the beautiful girl in the red dress whose own neck was now bare after the sacrifice she had made.

Before she realised that his touch was anything more than a tender embrace, the boy looked the rose girl deeply in the eye and said softly, “‘Time has a strange way of restoring the things that matter to us most,” and he took her hand and raised it to find the pendant that had now reappeared like magic around her neck. Wide eyed with wonder, the two girls embraced the boy, then each other, then the trio linked their arms and made their way back up the long winding pebbled path to the stone entrance covered with ivy. They stood for a moment, looking at the dark green rope that blocked the exit. Laughing, the white haired boy put his arm around each of his friend’s shoulders and they walked straight through the rope, out into the blinding sunlight of the world beyond the secret garden, knowing they would all return the next time the garden chose to welcome them in.

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