Once upon a time, there was an ordinary girl with a beautiful garden. Behind a stone wall covered in sprawling ivy, a wooden door opened to reveal a secret garden blooming with every flower imaginable–playful daisies, fragrant rose bushes, lovely lilies, breathtaking baby’s-breath, neat rows of colourful tulips, and other flora she couldn’t even name all contributed to a garden which blossomed with abundance.
Nearly every day, the girl would take a break from her daily activities and visit her garden. She’d carefully slide her antique key into the lock on the door and step inside her personal paradise. There she would walk in simple solitude along the paths that ran through her garden, listening to the birds chirping contentedly in the trees and the sweet breeze as it danced in the leaves. She would sit on one of the many benches or hammocks and let the sun warm her face. She would read, or have a good think, or bring a pot of tea from home and enjoy the quiet beauty of her very own garden.
Once in a while, if it suited her, the girl would haul a brimming watering can from her garage and tend to a specific area of the garden which she thought needed extra attention. She would spend a few days amongst her tower-tall sunflowers, for example, or keep an eye on her tiny tomato plants.
There would be weeks at a time where she would become so occupied with her daily activities that she couldn’t manage a visit to her secret garden. Months would pass without her key turning in the lock, sometimes even years. Her plants would abide all sorts of tribulations: weeds, weather, pests … Yet somehow, every time the girl returned to her garden, it remained intact. Despite her neglect, the garden was just as blooming and beautiful as before. Altered, yes; but it blossomed still. She would find garden gloves strewn across the benches or shovels propped up against the stone wall but wouldn’t think too much about it.
how does your garden grow?
It should be known at this point in the story that there was a wilderness that extended just beyond the garden wall–a dark and forbidding wood where the girl dare not tread. Sometimes she would tiptoe close out of pure curiosity and peer into the unknown depths, but a chill would fall upon her and she’d skip back to the sunny, familiar garden path.
As the girl grew older, she became overwhelmed with the task of maintaining her garden. She was lonely. She wished for someone to enjoy her garden with her, to walk along the paths with her and help her tend her plants. The days stretched longer into night and her loneliness spread over her like the ivy eclipsing the garden wall.
She ignored the tell-tale signs of a caretaker mysteriously keeping her garden alive, for she was alone. She knew she was alone. The more she thought about her insufferable solitude, the more she became impatient with the choking weeds, the pestering bees and the harsh winds, and the more fearful and aware she grew of the wilderness just beyond her garden.
Recklessly, in a moment of desperation, the girl handed her key to the first person who seemed to show an interest in her garden. She opened the door and let him in, giving him just enough instruction without appearing too high maintenance and controlling. Timidly she peered over his shoulder and winced as he yanked weeds from soil. She watched her plants choke under the spray of pesticides but she didn’t breathe a word. Surely he knows what he’s doing, she tried to reassure herself. He was confidant, capable, and she was no longer alone. She enjoyed placing her hand in his and strolling along the garden paths. Her heart leapt when he spoke sweetly to her in the cool of the shade.
Closer and closer the dark woods beckoned. With her new gardener by her side she felt braver; as dusk brushed the garden with strokes of night they danced in the shadows, tempting the wilderness even closer still …
But the garden did not respond well to his touch. The flowers withered and died and the girl could not think about her garden without a knot forming in her stomach. With tears and regret, she let the gardener go and very quickly advertised for another.
Gardener after gardener she let into her secret garden, handing them the key each time with increasing trepidation. Each one had good intentions, but each ultimately failed. Some quit, others she let go. The soil bore signs of too many footprints; the flowers drooped from careless touch. The wilderness taunted her no matter where the girl stood in the garden.
One day, the girl decided she had enough. The last gardener she had just fired had left her garden practically in shambles. Locking the door tightly behind her and stewing amongst the wreckage of uprooted plants and disheveled shrubs, she knew it wasn’t completely his fault. Experience had taught her to give little instruction and let him use the garden at his leisure. Because of her fear and silence and occasional bursts of exasperation, the garden suffered from misuse and neglect.
Now she was alone again, back where she started. In a serene moment she rocked back and forth on her hammock swing and silently wept.
the constant gardener
Creeeeeeeak creeeeeeeak creeeeeeeeeak.
The girl looked up at the sound of squeaky wheels and through her tears saw a solitary figure pushing a wheelbarrow through the demolished garden. With an air of sweetness and simplicity, the figure bent down and lovingly dug through the dirt with his hands. The girl observed him for hours as he slowly and methodically repaired her garden, little by little.
Each day, the girl returned to her garden to watch the mysterious gardener breathe life back into her garden. Her sunflowers stood up straight again and her tulips had never looked more proud. As she became more comfortable in his presence, he showed her–without pretense or imposition–how he had been restoring each flower bed, each rosebush, each tiny bud on every tree. He intimately knew each flower by name and had worked on parts of the garden with which she had never bothered. He was gentle and patient; eventually, he taught the girl how to take good care of the garden with his guidance and encouragement.
With time, the girl understood the signs of maintenance she had seen before–the gloves, the shovels, the rakes and trimmers–had all been because of his invested interest in her garden … and in her.
Her Constant Gardener.
Now the girl has given up complete control of her garden to him, and is daily enjoying the benefits. Hand in hand she walks with him, and he tells her about each aspect of the garden and how he is helping her make it thrive. Together they explore the wilderness just beyond the garden and in his presence, she is strong and courageous. When she is tired or overwhelmed, they simply sit on the bench and enjoy each other’s company.
And they live happily.