Tending the Garden of the Soul

A young woman tends her garden with the care of a soul healing itself in the streaming sunlight, watering the young plants and tending to the new life promising of a nurturing abundance.  Each morning as she awakens, she looks out the window of her bedroom, the blanket of the night’s repose still warm and protective around her, her first thoughts of what the day will bring and the tasks to be done.  With a patience that speaks of resignation tinged with a yearning for hopeful joy, she lingers in that place, feeling vulnerable, and slowly gathering herself into focus, casts aside the dreams of what might be, places her feet on the hard and cold floor, walks slowly to the window, and with a sad reluctance reaches out and parts the curtains.

Seeing first the distant hills flecked with budding trees, she reaches with her gaze beyond her kingdom, outward and upward beyond the horizon, sometimes filled with streaming morning light, sometimes barred by gray clouds heavy with a portent of rain.  Some days, her vision is stopped short by tears descending from the heavens, and it is on those days that the curtains surrounding her soul are the hardest to open, when the grayness penetrates her heart like a dull dagger, quietly bringing the tears of her own grief to her eyes that reflect the pools of sadness in the vales of her valley.

Her young life has already brought her an ancient loss, the most grievous loss of all, the loss of never having.  On these dimming days, her heart cries out for what she feels she will never find: to be loved, to be held, in only the ways a mother holds her infant, in only the ways a true and noble man holds his wife, in only the ways another human being who does not judge, but only loves and cherishes, can hold.  Even on those days of golden morning light, she knows that some morning will bring the darkness, just as she knows that in those dark wintering mornings that pierce her heart the deepest, there will as well be mornings of warming and healing luminescence.

Taking a deep breath, and another, and finally one more, she draws herself to the moment, and in that presence she lets go, for a time, of the lingering past and the restless future.  Her breath awakens her to her beating heart and the blood of life coursing through her, a tangible tingling in her fingertips as she feels the gauzy fabric of the curtains and the pattern of the weave.  She turns away from the window, turns away from her hopes and dreams, and dresses herself, cloaking herself in protective layers of wool, shielding herself from herself.  Reaching for the door, opening it, stepping softly across the threshold, closing it behind her, she begins her morning, tending her garden with the care of a soul healing itself in the working of the mother earth.

A young man of noble descent, sitting tall and straight upon his handsome steed, rides with contemplative intention through the last of winter’s waning snow-laden fields.  Each evening, as the crimson sun withdraws its tenuous fingers from the deepening skies, he lays his blanket on a sheltering knoll and his thoughts wander along the worn and well trodden paths of sadness and the quest upon which he is compelled.  With a firm but gentle hand he unclasps his sword and lays it down next to his blanket, his sword notched not from battles with his fellow man but rather in the breaking of the chains with which the evil binds and fetters the will, shackles the freedom to love and be loved in both the giving and the receiving.

Supine to the heavens, he reaches with outstretched hand to cup the first glimmering star in hopes of touching an angel that will aid him in his quest to unbind the good, but he touches only the distance that separates him from the angelic worlds, while next to him his sword gleams in the knowing starlight.  The sanguine moon rises behind him as a chill wind blows across his brow, bringing clouds of troubling portent scudding across the starry night, and his tenuous connection with the truth is frayed, a worn garment that each night must be mended before the morrow’s battle begins anew.

His wounds are many, but none more grievous than the wounds of his heart, each encounter with the chains that entangle his soul a poorly healing scar that the darkness of the deepening night opens afresh, the agony of which no herb, no salve, has he yet encountered that can cure.  From his bosom this grief extends its tendrils to his very bones, an ache that brings him to his knees as he gasps, inhales the sharp daggers of frigid air that meet his inner grief, numbs it with the intensity of the present from which there is no succor.

With the inevitable exhale, the resignation of a burden carried each day but that which honor does not allow the release, he collapses on the cold earth, shielded only by a thin blanket, trusting in its warmth.  His ragged breath slowly calms as he allows the darkness, flecked with diamonds, to envelop his weary muscles, eyelids closing, the forest scent wafting away into the distance, the lone hoodie’s caw softening to silence, he is sleeping, his horse standing watch in huffing contemplation of springtime’s coming.

And so it happens that one day, as spring waxes into the lushness of summer, the young woman looks up from her flowering gardens and beholds the young man, and they meet each other with a gaze from which they cannot break, meeting with an understanding beyond words, words spoken from the heart.  They stand together in that moment, each feeling all of eternity pausing in its endless motion, and in that motionless space and time, they see each other deeply and know what they see in each other’s eyes.  Speaking, he says “I will tend the garden of your soul for as long as I am able to wield my sword to bring goodness to the world.”  Speaking, she responds “I will heal you of your wounds for as long as my hands work the soil to bring life to the world.”

And so together they did, bringing goodness and life to the world, as eternity moved again.


The Butterfly

Many years ago, when the world was much different, there was a beautiful butterfly whose wings were the color of the noontime sky.  It was early spring, and the butterfly went flitting from flower to flower in the green fields, but none of the flowers would open to him.  He asked the flowers, “oh, why will you not open?” and shivering, the flowers replied “because it is still too cold.”

That night, while the butterfly was thinking about what the flowers had said and the moon rose in the night sky, the butterfly decided to fly up to the moon and ask the moon for her wisdom.  He fluttered and he flitted until at last he reached the moon, and asked “how may I warm the flowers in the fields?”  The moon replied, “I do not know, but perhaps my sisters the stars can tell you.”

So the butterfly fluttered and flittered even higher into the heavens and when he came to the stars, he asked them, “how may I warm the flowers in the fields?”  And the stars replied “we do not know, but look, the sun is rising in the east, go and ask her.”

The butterfly fluttered and flitted to the house in the east where the sun was, and asked “how may I warm the flowers in the fields?”  The sun replied, “I will give you two tiny drops of sunlight, one for each wing, which you may use to warm the flowers.”  And as the sun placed each drop of sunlight on the butterfly’s wings, first the left and then the right, the wings turned brilliant golden and yellow.

The butterfly flew back down to the fields, and with a loving touch, he warmed each flower so that it opened its heart to him.  He went flittering and fluttering from flower to flower, opening the hearts of all the flowers.  Flittering and fluttering, fluttering and flittering.  “Oh, there are so many flowers, I must rest my wings and catch my breath for a moment before continuing my work.”

When he was rested, the butterfly flew up into the air again and completed his task, until finally, all the flowers, blown by a gentle wind, were waving to the sun high in the heavens.