Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of the garden beyond the wall. The wall is tall, far taller than I, and is smooth and slick so no one can climb over. If I stand far enough back, I can see the sharp bits on top so that if you were able to climb up, those sharp bits would slow you down, stop you and send you back down this side. The wall goes around a garden that belongs to my neighbor, and it’s a pretty big garden. Of all my neighbors, most have walls of some sort around their gardens. Some have walls that are only a few feet high, and some have walls that are taller than this neighbor’s wall. Sometimes, the walls have no gate, but the owner keeps a mural painted of a beautiful lawn on the outside. Sometimes I wonder if he is hoping that people will believe that that is what the garden inside looks like. There are other folks whose walls are only small picket fences. You can see their whole garden, including all the places that are full of weeds, and all the places that are full of lush grass, flowers, big trees and bushes. Of the gardens I can see, everyone’s is a bit different. Some have trees, some are only grass, some have veggie gardens, some have flower gardens, and some are all dirt.
This particular neighbor, though, lives right next door. Our fences run right up next to each other. She comes out often to talk with me, and the gates are near each other, so that sometimes when she comes out to talk, I get a glimpse of the garden inside. There have even been a few times when she invites me to stand on the threshold of her gate and chat with her. But I’ve never been invited inside.
It’s dangerous inviting people inside. I wanted my garden to be a full garden, full of flowers and bushes and trees. I worked long hard hours to develop such a garden. Sure I’d had various people come in and point out that bush that was overgrown, or that I’d put that flower in the shade when it needed full sun. I remember one time when a friend I’d invited over pointed out the vine that was taking over and choking all the other plants out. I planted it small, a very long time ago. Recently it had begun to grow quickly, and I’d lost control over it. It was one that I’d have to rip out completely. Oh, I dreaded it, because I knew it would leave huge empty places where only dirt would show. And it was a vine that sucked everything from the soil, so I couldn’t replant right away; I’d have to wait and fertilize the soil and let it rest. That was hard to do, ripping that vine out. It was like declaring that the work I’d done was a waste. But I did it. I ripped it out.
Another time, I was learning about inviting people in, and had someone who had been so helpful as I cultivated my garden. He seemed to have such wise advice, and even now I’m not sure the advice was ever wrong. But after a while, he went beyond giving advice and began replanting things himself, and telling me that everything I was doing was wrong. When he ripped out the bush I’d planted so carefully and had poured such love and effort into, without ever asking me, I tossed him out of my garden and told him he must wait and ask before coming in again. Not long after, I was sitting peacefully in the shade of a tree in my garden when I heard a crash. I turned to look and I saw this man with an axe chopping at everything, and ripping up all my carefully planted flowers. The gouges in the earth were growing and marring so much. I cried out for him to stop, but he ignored me. He was bigger and stronger than me, and I couldn’t stop him, until finally when he had destroyed all that was precious to me, he turned and walked out. He never said a word to me. It was all I could do to sit down in the broken earth and weep at the destruction. It took me several years to replant my garden after that, and even now, many years later, I can still see scars in some of the bigger trees that survived.
I’ve been invited into other’s gardens at times. Sometimes they are lush, beautiful places and sometimes they are bare. I’ve put a lot of effort into cultivating my garden, and many years of effort. I want to use that to help others as they cultivate their gardens, offer them advice I’ve been given and share with them the knowledge I’ve learned. I am also learning how to invite others into my garden, again. Its taken time, but my boldness grows. I have also planted tougher plants, ones that are not so delicate, which means that when someone bumps into it, the plant isn’t injured. I also don’t have many plants with thorns or other defenses. I want people to know that my garden is a safe place for them, and that they are welcome to come and sit and rest.