Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dreaming of Gardens

When I wake in the night and have trouble sleeping, when my thoughts race, when the past with its bitter sweetness and the future with its hope and torment consume me, I settle my heart by imagining gardens. Gardens I have, or had, or might invent someday. I shift the colors, I indulge in fantasies of impossible opulence—thousands of daffodils! A wilderness of roses! A maze of medicinal herbs, a walled garden of sweetness.

So when I went over today in the heat to talk to my new friend and to return some change to him, I understood at once how his heart works too.

He dreams in the language of gardens.

But let me fill you in. There’s a disputed place in my town, a would be park and garden. And by the grace of the universe and the generosity of good people I’ve been able to start watering in the height of summer, trees and roses, plants that fruit and flower.

And in the shade of a circle of oaks, on the hard ground or on the boulders, people sit and talk. Mostly a bunch of my friends. Mostly not rich ones, sometimes campers, sometimes travelers.

They’ve been eager to help. Something to be carried? Moved? Garbage to be picked up? My friends are there.

Yesterday I was deeply soaking the little fringe tree, concerned by the dryness at the growing tips, when a guy came over. “Bet you planted this tree, sister” he said. No, I told him, not me. Told him past and current history. Admitted I love trees and flowers with my full heart. He watched me try to reach another, more distant tree. “You need a second hose”. Yeah, I told him that was a great idea; I’d work on it. And he said “here, you get you that hose”. And he handed me a twenty.

He’s from Tennessee. Perhaps my age, more or less, though life has been harsher for him. Neck in a brace, shoes worn. Twenty from him was likely the equivalent of a thousand from a wealthier friend.

That’s why I was concerned about giving him his change back today. But he was having none of that. It was a donation, freely given. “You tell them an old homeless man from Tennessee donated twenty dollars to make this park beautiful. Tell ‘em that.”

And he said he’d had trouble sleeping—pain from his injuries, trouble on his mind. But then he thought of the park, of how it could be—the stone benches, the real sidewalk, the beautiful plants. How it would be so wonderful. “Wish I was rich” he said, “but I’ll get my reward in heaven”. I told him to please hold to that vision he has, of beauty, of people enjoying that beauty, of how this place could be. We need those dreams, those visions, those magical gardens in which all are welcome and all can flourish.

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