Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Garden


I have told many stories here on my blog about growing up in Florida. They were about happy times and fond memories from my youth. There were many of them and I have more to share, however life for me as a child wasn’t always rosy. In fact there were just as many bad times as there were good. Growing up in a three bedroom house with five children, an alcoholic father and a bi-polar mother was often a scary environment for a boy like me.

Being quiet and shy, I kept my feelings to myself and only let them out when they had built up to a point where I could no longer contain my anger and pain. My sister would often joke about how I was a time bomb waiting to go off and how you didn’t want to be the one that drew the last straw. She would warn people to watch out for the “quiet one”. And it was true. I did hold too much anger inside but I had no way to let it out in such a close environment.

When I got a little older though and began to roam, I found a sanctuary. It was a little Garden in the middle of town. It was only about three miles away and as small children we were allowed to roam that far. It was only two miles down the river, across a bridge and then up a busy street. I would walk, ride my bike or sometimes run there just to escape. It was a one square block of heaven in the middle of our small town. The real name was the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens and it was a special place for me.

I loved it for many reasons. First off it was dedicated to men who had sacrificed for our country in World War II and I have always been very patriotic. Inside the art gallery was a list of the town’s men who had served in the military. My father and all my uncle’s names were listed there as well as the names of many of the men I knew as a child. That gave special meaning to that place.




Even though I enjoyed the art gallery, the gardens were my favorite place. In that one square block area, there was lush vegetation, waterfalls, foot paths, small fish and turtle ponds and secluded areas with quaint park benches. I would spend hours there catching fish, tadpoles, frogs, turtles and insects. The vegetation was so thick that it would drown out the noise from the nearby streets and it was the perfect place to hide from my troubles. I had some great times there.



But sometimes life would be so hard for me that I would just sit and think, and cry and pray. I would pray that God would take away the pain I felt inside. I would pray that God would stop the fighting that tore my family apart. I would pray for a way out of the hell that we sometimes went through. I would sit there for hours and wait for God to answer. I waited for that big sign and thunder in the air and for something big and earth shattering to happen to make things better for me. But it never happened. I just sat alone in the garden and talked to God. All I heard was quiet. Peace and quiet. So quiet that I all I could hear was the wind through the trees, the sound of the waterfall and my own self breathing.

Even though I felt God hadn’t answered my prayers I would leave that little Garden feeling calmer, better about myself and somewhat relieved. Just talking with Him took some of the pressure off of me. I would give myself a pep talk and find positive things to think about and somehow the world was better for a while. And every time things got bad at home, I would again return to the Garden and tell God my troubles. It was my one place to escape from life’s troubles.

Last night I felt the need to talk with my sister so I called her. She still lives in that same little town (which is not so small anymore) and only a mile from my garden. During the conversation, she brought up another garden that was in town called Parrots Paradise. It was a fascination to us when we were growing up because it had flashy parrot shows and monkeys but there was a charge to get in so we seldom were able to go inside. That little quarter admission price was often out of our reach. Parrots Paradise is now gone and all that remains are some ruins and some escaped monkeys but I still remember how it was.

I also told her about how I loved to go to the Memorial Gardens and she confessed how she enjoyed going there too. Although she didn’t go into details I felt she went there for escape as well. The Gardens are still there and free by the way to anyone who wants to visit them. They are much the same as they were when I was a child and I still enjoy going there when I visit my sister. For me it will always be a special place. And now that I am older, I realize that God was answering me. He was giving me the peace that I needed to survive. To this day I have a picture in my mind of those Gardens and I can still feel and hear the wind, and know the peace that I found there. Everyone needs a special Garden in their life.


Have a Blessed day,
Greg

25 comments:

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Oh Greg, what a poignant post.....thank you for sharing :o)

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

You were like innocent Adam, walking with God through the Garden of Eden. That was just a small taste of what awaits you in heaven, you know. How beautiful.

There's a song that says, "Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms his child." That was you. Praise God for His presence in your life during such a difficult time.

Angie said...

((((hug)))) Thank you for taking me to your garden. I needed that today. Beautiful thoughts, Chel. I agree.

Lori said...

I'm glad you found a place of peace and sanctuary in that garden. It sounds like it helped you find solace during some really hard times. (And it led to your lifelong love of plants and gardening.) Thanks for sharing so much with us in your posts.

Rachel said...

This is a lovely post. It brings to mind for me how sometimes we need to just be still and hear God's voice. As in one of Mark Bishop's songs;

Jesus is a quiet place for me.
A friendly face, a warm embrace for me.
The years go by and always I
can find him on my knees.
For Jesus is a quiet place for me.
Yes, Jesus is a quiet place for me.

My ADHD Me said...

Your post spoke to me today. I too grew up in a house full of mental problems, bi-Polar, addicts, inablers and secrets. I was taught to lie at an early age and was either in my late 30's or early 40's when I had an eye opening event that changed my lying.

As a child, We went to church. We prayed out ritual prayers before meals and bedtime. But never once did I realize you could talk to God. I learned that MANY years later, from Chatty Kelly (who you probably know by now, is my sister).

I, like you, kept all my feelings inside. It was VERY important to me NOT to show any emotion. (this is something I struggle with even today) After all, I didn't want to the world to think I was "weak". I was (and secretly sometimes still am ) proud to be a "rock" with a wall around me. I still struggle with that today. When something scares me I fight it head on. As a matter of fact, 2 of my big issues were claustrophobia and fire. So, of course I joined the fire dept. Which by the way is the light in my life.
For 6 years it has been the "special garden in my life". No it isn't quiet and peaceful. But it us a place where I can go, am immediately accepted and maybe will make an impact on someone's life.

I also have something else in common with you, Patriotism. It is something I feel VERY strongly about and I always thank any service man or woman when I see them.
I really enjoyed reading about your trip to the Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens. Those walls are are a wonderful way to think about these men and women, remind us of what they went through, and silently thank them...while praying to God to protect the others.

As I wrap up this small book I am writing, I would just like to add something about your story re The guy that was voting for "Bamma". Now that is scary.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll be back.

Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, I tend to ramble. :)

Oh, and watch out for those escaped monkeys...they tend to be funny....

My ADHD Me said...

P.S. Thanks to the referral of Matthew 6. My youngest son is an excessive worrier. I'm going to show him that verse.

Monogram Queen said...

You know, you are very right. Everyone needs a little "garden" in their lives. Thank God i've got mine in a good book on the porch swing. That is where I go to muse, ponder, and give it up to God.

I am sad for your volatile childhood but happy you became the man you are in spite of it. I don't "know" you, but I think I "know" enough to say you are a good man. Thanks for sharing that.

Patience said...

God did answer your prayers! He gave you the garden as a place of solace!

Brenda said...

That was a great journal of your feelings. I also had lots of trauma in my childhood, similar to yours, and as a child I think I thought no one else had it as bad as me. My adult years have shown me that very few people escape difficulties, in one way or another.

Chatty Kelly said...

Greg - you know how sometimes you just "click" with someone and don't know why? We "clicked" and now i know why. Similar childhoods! My sister (My ADHD Me) covered all the bases on her comment, so I'll just say - glad you found peace in many places. Through God's nature...and through God. Amnen.

Jeannie said...

I found my solace walking in the country. I didn't pray back then but it was still healing.

Barb said...

I enjoy the gentleness and graciousness of your posts that I've read, so far. It speaks of a 'learned' peace in your life, even if it's not your natural disposition or inclination. I still enjoy private, hiding spots even though I am quite grown, and so fondly remember our fun in finding them and creating them as a child.

Scarlet said...

What a wonderful post! Just when you didn't think God was listening, he left you with the beauty of the garden and with the peace to carry you through another day.

I wish I had a garden like that. :)

Katherine Aucoin said...

Your story was very moving. Thank you for sharing and opening yourself up to your invisible friends. You always make me think and feel.

Kristen said...

This was beautiful, Greg. And, I think maybe God knew what you needed most of all when you were young was that time and place of quiet. I bet that was Him whispering in the wind to you, too.

ChrisJ said...

I too came from a dysfunctional family and like you I found solace in a beautiful place. In my case it was Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. A place of wild wind and caves, high cliffs, and wide open spaces. That place molded my life and like Wordsworth I found God so real in Nature. It became the foundation for my discovery of Jesus Christ and my walk with God throughout my life. Who knew that skinny child roaming the cliffs with her dog would find such fulfillment? That's why my blog is called FLAMBLOG. I have been back quite a number of times and my husband has recently said we could probably get back there one more time before I am too old to travel!

Sharon said...

Sounds as though your prayers were answered.
Have a blessed day
Sharon

Daisy said...

I loved this touching post. I am glad you had the garden to go to.

Dorothy Champagne said...

Where in Florida?? Loved the way you shared with us.

Patrice said...

It is so good sometimes to be able to just get away, even if it's in the middle of town. A quaint little quiet oasis.....what a great trek down memory lane!

Marla said...

I love this post! It sad but it just moves me! You found a place where you could pray and escape worry for a short time. I think that special garden is why you love to garden now, that was perhaps God's gift to you!

Janell said...

What a lovely description of tha beautiful place!

I'm sorry you had to endure a toubled family life, but thnakful that God met with you in the garen. This made me think of that old hymn; "I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses.... And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known...."

Joanne said...

Greg,

My first stop by. What a blessing to read this post (and so many others of yours). At church today the pastor was talking about this exact thing...peace. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding. No doubt you found it there, in your special little garden spot.

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