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Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

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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The little girl climbed the tree rather tentatively as it had been a long while since her small hands had clasped the rough branches. She was not truly frightened, but some days she wondered whether she had somehow forgotten the strength and agility needed to ascend to the lofty heights of the familiar branch which had borne her weight so many times in the past. After such a long absence, everything seemed so strange and familiar at the same time, and that in itself seemed very strange.

The boy was not here, but everywhere there was evidence that he had never been far away. Glittery blue dragonflies dangled from odd lengths of string, not just from one branch but in fact from them all. She smiled then giggled as she brushed past them; how her imagination set them free from their strings and sent them into frantic, blissful hovers, each wing moving in a different direction to achieve their magically perfect stillness, like falcons riding the rolling wisps of wind, suspended from distant clouds.

Yes, the tree was full of dragonflies, their gossamer wings glistening in the tranquil sunny haze. It took some time to spot any butterflies at all, and when she finally found them, they were somehow dull and faded and tattered from neglect. They looked like lost whispers, like tired, grubby napkins. Like a child’s toy – once cherished, now almost forgotten. Yet somehow the small child’s presence in the tree filtered soft rainbow prisms of light onto their tired paper wings, spinning ever so softly so that one might think they might almost twirl back to life. She took a breath, and exhaled slowly, savouring the air, the light and life itself.

The next time the young boy climbed, the magical breeze blew against his skin like a whispered secret. He brushed past many twigs that scratched his arms and legs as he searched for what he knew he would find. He darted between the dragonflies he had suspended from every hopeful branch. He scanned for shimmers of colour amongst the myriad of worn butterflies, but everything was old and nothing was new. Disappointed as he had been so many times in the past, he lowered his back against the tall trunk, one foot upon the branch, the other barefooted leg dangling like lost hope.

Idly, his fingers played along the rough bark of the branch that held him. The tree that once had been so young and vibrant had now grown to ancient wisdom; every furrow of bark was familiar. The next moment, something felt strange to his touch, small and soft, somewhere between the feel of bark and leaves. Careful not to dislodge the tiny unseen mystery, he bent down carefully to see whatever secret his branch now held. The magical breeze blew again, and with great care the wide-eyed boy made his way back down to the earth’s thick carpet of leaves.

Though excitement flickered through his thoughts like a ripple, he knew he would need to be more patient than he had ever been before. It might be a very long time before the chrysalis would transform, but when it finally did, the stained glass mosaic of butterfly wings would bring a new flush of colour and renewal to the tree’s ancient branches. He had already waited a very long time. And now as he looked back over his shoulder to the silhouette of the tree in the fading sunlight, he knew he could wait just a little longer, and maybe even forever, for a new butterfly to emerge.

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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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