A man called the Gardener
In deep and mellow tones, the rich brown earth, mostly buried under jade green grass began to say. "Yes indeed! I have a tale to tell. Not so long ago, I lived in a careless and carefree, selfish existence, caring for nothing and no one. Slugs and snails had a carefree time too and moved or multiplied within me as they pleased. We were happy enough together because we knew no better. BUT ONE DAY! And I shall never forget it! A man called a Gardener came along carrying a cruel looking piece of wood and iron in His hands. Oh dear! What He did not do to me is not worth telling. He dug and chopped and hacked away, turning me over and over again with a total disregard for my cries of terror and pain. My old friends for the most part were either killed or fled to more peaceful regions, and I was left alone to my cruel fate. After this, the Gardener filled me with evil smelling stuff called fertiliser and finally went on to bury me under a burden of green turfs. It was all too much for me and I never expected to recover."
"But this man called the Gardener exhorted me to be patient and trustful, that He was my friend as I would finally see. So hard to believe, then, but I am so glad I did. Now, just as he promised, I bear this heavy but lovely weight of glory upon my breast, which is all you kind friends, and I am so happy to have you, yes, every one. Ha ha ha!" Yes indeed! His was a story of beauty through pain, laughter through tears, and the whole garden laughed with him.
When the laughter subsided more or less, the grass began to speak. "We are so glad to know that you love us, despite all we so unwillingly caused you to suffer. But we have a tale to tell too. If you take a look over the wall, you will see grass just like we wanted to be, tall, unkempt and ugly though we once did not think so. Able to swing in the breeze and see everything coming and going. It seemed the best kind of life to us but not to the Gardener. He said we would be happier with responsibility and thinking of others so, as soon as we raise our heads the least little bit along he comes with a sharp sickle and lops them off, trimming us to our proper size as he calls it. But he assured us although he seemed to be cruel he was but fitting us for real joy and happiness if we would only be patient and trust. It was SO hard to believe at first, but, look at us now! Only yesterday the mistress complimented the Gardener on his Ė exquisite lawn that was more beautiful than a rich green rug from Peking. Of course she meant US and it made us so happy. No one ever said those things to us in the old days, and we are so grateful to the Gardener.
"Perfectly true, perfectly true" piped the pretty robin. "Now, whose next with a testimony?" "We are." Chorused the exotic blooms from the flowerbeds. "We have a tale to tell too. Once, we lived in a far away land where it was always warm and secluded, nestling at the feet of shady trees, in the jungle. We were completely satisfied with our quiet and peaceful life and sought no change. But one day, men came along looking to right and left. We tried to hide but to no use. They saw us and exclaimed at our beauty then dug us out of our desirable dwelling place transplanting us far over the ocean into this garden. At first we were most miserable as you well remember and would not speak to you. However, the Gardener seemed very kind and understanding and persuaded us to be patient and trustful too, then one day, we would be very very happy, and we surely are, so happy to have our part in this picture so fair and so happy to be making others happy too."
Out of the ensuing happy laughter, the roses, red, yellow, pink and white, sought to make themselves heard, very ready and willing to tell their tale too. "Well indeed! We can see how lovely the rest of you look and well know that we are lovely too, thanks to the Gardenerís skill. The grass made mention of our mistress. Well, it was just two days ago that our mistress picked a large bunch of us, the best she could find, though she frankly confessed there was little to choose between us for beauty. Then she told the Gardener, "Your roses are simply out of this world and the sick folk up at the hospital will be so delighted when they see them." You can image how happy we all felt to be praised to our faces in that way. However, it wasn't always so with us. Once upon a time, we were so very weak and sickly. Oh yes, we had lots of leaves and little children around our feet with which in our foolishness we were completely satisfied. But the Gardener wasnít. With a sharp knife he hacked and chopped and cut away even the babies from our feet. Destroying dead sticks and suckers he said, but he seemed to be destroying us too. Our tears of grief and pain were ignored but he comforted us by saying, "You think I am so foolish and cruel, but when the spring comes you will rejoice. I am not robbing you but giving you increased beauty and life. Just trust and be patient." And is it not true?
"It surely is," interrupted the red rambling roses. "We have a tale to tell too. Being ramblers we naturally like to ramble anywhere and everywhere over paths and the roof. Then the Gardener took us in hand. And, Oh what a change! We thought our end had come for sure. Not content with lopping off many yards of our long and we thought lovely stems, he fixed us to a wooden frame on the wall so that it was impossible to go anywhere apart from his permission. We cried for days and begged for freedom but to no use. He told us that "In the springtime our tears would be turned to laughter, just be patient and see. That, truest joy was only found in seeking to make others happy," and isnít it true?"
"It happened just yesterday. Two old people passing by, stopped to gaze and admire this lovely garden, and we heard them say "Arenít those red rambler roses just gorgeous!" No one ever said that before the Gardener come into our lives and changed us. How happy we truly are! Springtime has truly come with its sunshine and roses, roses such as we never dreamed possible previously. All thanks to the Gardenerís skill. We are part of this lovely picture, created right out of His heart, indeed we are!"
Spray drenched faces and drops of fresh dew
A slight stir in the lily pond made the million scintillating ripples increase in radiance. "Your testimony is good to hear for it is our testimony too," exclaimed the lovely white, pink and pale yellow water lilies, glistening with spray drenched faces. "We too are SO happy to have a part in this picture so fair, and an important part too. What would a fishpond be without water lilies? But we too had to learn through bitter experience. The Gardener set us deep in the slimy ooze at the bottom of the pond. It was horribly unpleasant and so dismal and dark. He told us to press up through the mud and water into the lovely sunshine above, that there were many there, waiting to enjoy the loveliness that would be ours in that day. So, since he was so kind we decided to be patient and struggle upwards. And Oh! We cannot express in words just how happy we are to be here with you all and to belong to this lovely and happy family."
"Thatís true, thatís true, but drops of fresh dew, what about you?" trilled the sweet little Redbreast. "Oh we!" they piped in tinkling tones. "Indeed, we were wondering when our turn would come to tell our tale, before it is too late, for our time is fast running out, and we have to go in a few minutes, the sun is so high. All through the long dark night while the rest of you are sleeping, we have to work and silently prepare for a new day. We wash and beautify your faces and finally gather enough moisture from the air to replenish what we have given away. Then we rest and lie still as the sun rises and soon experience this glorious transformation as a reward for our work in the night. Our reward is to see you all looking so beautiful because of our silent and hidden labours and then to clothe you with sparkling multihued gems as now. And now we MUST go, goodbye, goodbye until tonight!"
The whole garden rang with happy laughter as they cried in return, "Goodbye and donít forget to come again this night for we need you."
Blessings in alabaster and marble goldfish
"We would like to tell our tale too," requested the rough blocks of alabaster that so elegantly framed the flowerbeds and fish pool, where the lilies reposed so peacefully at the feet of the chubby little angel. "You surely may, you surely M-A-Y" Ė trilled the robin.
"Once upon a time we were one solid bed of alabaster, buried in the earth away from everyone, and fully satisfied with our condition. We needed nobody and never dreamed that anybody needed us. But one day we suffered such a terrible jolt. Men in rough clothes came and bored holes in our sides, which they filled with gunpowder. Then, from a distance they pressed a button and blasted us into a thousand pieces. We thought that was the end of us. When the dust settled they came and sorted out each one of us and carried us away. For a while we were troubled and unsettled but soon saw how good it was to be here with you all and the difference our presence makes, so we are happy and satisfied in ways that were impossible previously. Why! Instead of being finished we have just begun to live! And we love the ferns and little rock flowers that cling to our breasts, we do indeed! We are so proud to know ourselves as foils to embrace your fair beauty." The alabaster blocks beamed with radiant faces while everyone again laughed happily.
At this juncture, with a trill of amused laughter, the marble angel interposed a few comments. She spurted a spray of liquid diamonds a little higher than usual as a prelude then with a roguish twinkle in her eyes pretended to scold them. Wagging a reproving finger she exclaimed. "There is one very very important point you have all completely forgotten and that is "Ladies first," and especially when that lady is your very own queen. However, I freely forgive you since it is so good to see you all so happy and eager to tell how you received your beauty." When the laughter subsided the queen continued. "I too of course have a tale to tell. If it were not so I could never be here, to bless and rule over you from the heart of this lovely lily pond. What I went through is something I donít wish to suffer again and wonít need to, for the work is finished. However, I am deeply grateful and glad to have paid the price which enabled me to become your queen. This IS a lovely picture and no one could deny it; but we all paid a price for our part in it. Some were not willing so that have no part with us in this picture so fair."
"I too, like the alabaster, lived in quiet seclusion and was satisfied. I too was blasted out of that selfish peace into something far better. But for me it also meant much chipping and chopping and changing until the artist was satisfied. I needs must be shaped and polished and go through much pain in the process. I wondered if he would cease before I was all chipped away. Many times he stopped and stood back to gaze, then started again, and I gave up hope. But at last he gazed in admiration and said, "Beautiful! Beautiful! You look so lovely and real as if you could walk off that pedestal." Then he placed me at the heart of this lily pond and you with one accord elected me as your queen. It was when I gazed in the lily pond that I realised how exceedingly beautiful he had made me, and I know you all agree. I love all my subjects and am so happy and proud to rule over you." The joyous company smiled and nodded and waved their wholehearted approval.
It seemed as if there was no one left with a tale to tell, when suddenly, lots of red, black, silver and gold faces pushed up through the million scintillating ripples and cried. "May we not tell our tale?" "Of course you may," replied the queen graciously. So they began. "We once pined for unlimited freedom to swim and play in the big lake. We longed for lots of friends and lots of scope to play hide and seek in and out of the rocks and caves and weeds. But it was not to be and we found ourselves as we thought, imprisoned in this tiny pool, swimming round and round, frustrated and getting nowhere. Now we know differently."
"We were so sad, so unhappy until the Gardener taught us better. " In the big lake you will be merely living for yourself and bringing no pleasure to me or anyone else. That is too selfish a life and does not lead to true happiness. Here, you are not wasting your life going around in a useless circle as you think. You are bringing great pleasure to others, and will bring great pleasure to yourself as a result. Selfish, self-centred people are never really blessed and happy. Only service to others can do that. There is a rich joy in self sacrifice" Ė so he said, and so we have proved it to be. Old people and young, look for us in the water and love to see us flashing back and forth lit up by the rays of the sun, and so do you all, that we well know. Thank you for letting us speak." And to the accompaniment of happy laughter the pretty fish flopped back under the water, flashing back and fore. But it was not all over yet. The lively little redbreast that had been master of ceremonies suddenly became super elated. His sweetheart had flown across with a message which she whispered into his ear, hence the elation. The three little blue eggs had hatched out. In their places were three huge baby mouths gaping and hungry. The parents seemed hysterical with joy. The mother had suppressed her feelings while the fish were speaking but now it burst forth uncontainable. "Come and see! Come and see!" she trilled in an ecstasy of mother love. I walked over to the nest to gaze upon those ugly baby faces, which fully satisfied the parents. Papa plunged into the tall grass over the wall and returned with a fat wriggling worm, which he fed, into the gaping mouths. Mama trilled in sheer delight. "Arenít they sweet, arenít they sweet, arenít they v-e-r-y sweet?" Yes, they were, at least to her.
Then the little scarlet-breasted happy robin began to speak to me. "Ah! It was well worth waiting for. Often I grew weary and wondered how long I must keep the eggs warm. It was sometimes a burden and I felt it would be better not to bother, but I am now so glad I was patient. And after all, what would this garden be without some baby robins." And as all seemed to be agreed I also agreed. This after all was NEW LIFE, through suffering and pain. There seem to be no other way. There can be Ė no other way.