Once there was a large park, in which a variety of gardens were lovingly tended by a master gardener. Each garden had a number of beds, in which any kind of plant, blooming and non-blooming, could be found. There were formal gardens, filled with carefully-planned and symmetric beds, and herb gardens, populated by the most fantastic variety of edible blooming plants. There were sculpture gardens, decorated with the loveliest of shrubs, and cottage gardens, which seemed almost a riot of blossoms in a fantastic variety of colors, textures, and scents. And each garden was a haven not only to the plants that the gardener had chosen to grow there, but also to the many beings who buzzed about the blooms or wandered meditatively through the well-worn, tree-lined stone pathways that beckoned welcome to any with a love for nature.
In one bed, there was a certain blooming plant who, though beautiful beyond description, was equally fragile and required much individualized attention from the master gardener. Some extra mulching was needed in autumn seasons, and a constant eye was kept on her during winter storms, to make certain she would not be overwhelmed by the cold and bitter winds. And so, in the care of the master, she grew and even flourished, despite the harsh climate in which the park lay. She was so beautiful, in fact, that one day, a wanderer who chanced upon the park, was stopped in her tracks. Such a lovely bloom! she thought. And since there was a stone bench under a spreading willow beside the bed, the wanderer sat down and gazed long on the beautiful, though fragile plant.
The wanderer, of course, could not long stay. But she also could not forget the tender beauty of that blossom, and she found that her wanderings often returned her to that bench, to that plant. And she found herself drawn particularly to this plant because she was so fragile, so exquisite. And she would pay special attention to this one plant, eventually becoming blind to all the other beauty around her in the master’s lush park. All she could see was that bloom. And she decided she must have her.
Now I do not know whether it was from vanity or insecurity, but the blooming plant herself came to thrill at the wanderer’s every visit. No one, she thought, had ever paid her such special attention as this one wanderer. Not even the gardener gave her such kindness, she thought in her foolishness. Only this wanderer loved her as she needed. Now, of course, deep, very deep down, she knew this wasn’t true. But you see, she desperately wanted, and convinced herself she needed, the sort of affections the wanderer promised.
And the wanderer promised quite a lot, actually. She did, she admitted, have her own beautiful garden at home, with a special blooming plant that required most of her care. And her garden, it was true, did not have any room in any bed for this fragile, but lovely plant. But there had to be a way to make it work, bemoaned the wanderer. I love you, she whispered gently to the plant. No one loves you like I. I love you far more than I do my own blooming plant, she said. You’re different. I should dig you a special bed in my own park, where no other blossom would distract me from your beauty—where you and I can be together forever, where you can bloom and flourish beneath the gaze of the only one who truly understands and loves you. And with all the attention, and all the gentleness, and the all the promises, the fragile little plant fell madly in love with the words of the wanderer. And she believed she was in love with the wanderer herself.
As time passed, however, the fragile blossom found herself more and more anxious to be transplanted, to begin her new life in the wanderer’s fantastic new garden, coming to despise her own bed. But over and again, circumstance conspired against the two. The wanderer could not find a suitable place for the bed, for her own flowering plant would not approve, and in fact, rightly deserved and required most of her attention. It was immoral for her to even think of having another centerpiece in her garden, so she had to be careful.
This is true, said the plant to a plain, brown sparrow who happened just then to light on her. I shouldn’t really be spending so much time thinking about transplantation. And she mused long thereon. But she waved these sad thoughts aside, whenever she heard the amazingly gentle, affectionate, and encouraging words of the wanderer. Maybe somehow that old plant of hers will go away, she thought.
Now it was true that the garden tended by the wanderer was a completely different kind of garden, one in which this fragile blossom would not only clash horribly, but which itself would also likely be the death of her. So she understood, sadly, but stoically, that she could not yet go to live with the wanderer. And she considered paying less heed to this wanderer, more to the many other blooms in her own garden, more to the many other creatures who wandered through and loved her as much as the other blooms around her. But this was not nearly as satisfying as the specialized attentions of the wanderer, so she found herself ever falling back into thoughts of that grand someday when she lived in a new bed, tended lovingly by her own, her beloved wanderer gardener.
Now the wanderer, though treasuring the little blossom, found the cross-pollination between her and her fellow plants a very threatening thing. If the blossom truly loved her, she said, she’d quit these toxic exchanges. If she truly loved her, she would set herself aside for the attentions of the wanderer alone. But, said the plant, I must cross-pollinate, if I am to bloom at all! But the wanderer did not care. She wanted the plant all to herself. All of the lovely little plant—including her precious pollen. Now what was the plant to do? If she did not pollinate, she would become barren, and what beauty she had would disappear, overcome by her fragility.
Sadly, the plant realized she could not help but cross-pollinate. And when she told her beloved that she must share her pollen with others or die, the wanderer flew into a rage, and reached into the bed, violently yanking her blossom from the stem, and tossing it into the lawn many feet away from the bed. If I cannot have all of you, she cried, then no one will enjoy your beauty! And she left the garden, it seemed, never to return. And the sparrow looked down from her perch and wept.
But the blossom was not all there was to this plant. She was beloved by the gardener, and he made certain she had deep roots. And she stretched her viney reach to the wanderer’s own garden, letting the wanderer’s centerpiece plant know of her wandering to gardens away from her own.
Now it is true, of a fashion, that the wanderer never did return, but only to that particular garden. The park had many gardens, with many beds, and in a not-so-very-far-away knoll lay a particularly fragrant bed of fragile, yet stunning blooms of all size and hue. And because the wanderer loved the master gardener in her own way, and because the wanderer did love nature, she could not forever stay away from the park. And her wanderings one day took her near her old haunt, and in her attempt to avoid it, she found this new, protected spot of beauty. And the variety of spectacular blossoms took her breath away.
There was no stone bench here, instead, a small grassy patch, on which she would spread her cloak. Then she’d lie on her stomach, propped up on her elbows, to gaze deeply at the many blooms. And because she was so close to them in stature, the gracious plants assumed she was another blossom planted there by the master gardener. And she never told them otherwise.
Well, she never told them as a garden, anyway. She did tell two of the closest, most sympathetic seeming plants, along with a tender young bud, that she was in fact committed to another blooming plant. She had her own garden. Of course, she didn’t intend to tell them this. But nature has a way with truth when one is lulled by the fragrance of authenticity. And the accidental words of a wanderer have a way of winging themselves into the wind.
These three understood her to mean that she was a potted plant, in the long, painful process of transplanting—a process, it turns out, every resident of this bed well understood. They all knew that the master gardener, when moving them from one bed to another, had to slowly extricate root systems, had to alter soil pH, and had to work in mulch and fertilizer—sometimes over months—before the plant was ready for the new bed. They knew that sometimes this meant a blossomless season or two for the transplant, but that eventually, as the older, more established perennials proved, the blooms would be strong and secure, and the fragrance sweeter than was possible in the old bed.
Potted plants, they all knew from experience, were confused, pained even. They felt attached still to the old bed, even though they knew they belonged in the new—for the master never moved a plant without her first knowing in her very roots that she needed transplanting. But it was still difficult, for all that. And it was often true that when a plant was moved, the old garden would reject her as inferior, mistaking the gardener’s action of digging her up as the yanking of a weed. And the pain of such rejection, it was well-known by all transplants, often led the temporarily potted plant to believe she was in fact a weed. And it was true that those who thought they were weeds would often sniff at the riotous colors of this particular garden as nothing other than the clashing jumble of an overgrown, untended, embarrassing forgotten corner of the park.
So it was that the two gentle plants and the young bud believed the wanderer to be a confused, unhappy, yet cherished transplant-to-be. And they loved her. And they told of their love to the passing sparrow, who thrilled to see what she thought was another one of the gardener’s saving efforts. As time passed, the wanderer became known to many of the plants in this bed. She shared in their joys, commiserated in their pains. And they came to believe she was one of them, soon to be transplanted by the master into this protected, welcoming bed.
It came to pass that, like before in that not-so-distant garden, the wanderer discovered one bloom—one of the two sympathetic plants—a bloom more fragile, more lovely to her eye than the rest in the protected garden. Maybe it was because this bloom was vulnerable, maybe because she was stunning. Regardless, she began to pay special attention to her. She saw that the soil in which this bloom was planted was filled with sharp, painful stones. She noticed the plant struggled to bloom, but did so with few complaints, for the bloom loved the master more than many other plant ever could. In fact, this bloom was so adored by the master gardener that he often whispered into her petals his secret plans, gently pruning her as he walked through the bed, kindly caressing her even as he rearranged the jagged stones about her roots in what seemed to be the most inhospitable, uncomfortable pattern possible. Yet for all that, she bloomed magnificently. Breathtakingly.
And the wanderer wanted her for herself.
And since this magnificent blossom was filled with love, and since this blossom was without guile, she too fell for the wooing of the wanderer. She had, it is true, been one of those told about the other garden, but she hid that away in her stem, preferring to believe the wanderer was really a confused transplant-to-be.
Now for anyone observant enough, it was certainly warranted for the bloom to beware. But you see, the bed of the plucked blooming plant was many yards away, so none in this protected transplant bed knew of the wanderer’s selfish rage, and as kind and trusting blooms, familiar with the pain of transplantation, they embraced anger with kindness, softened fear with encouragement, and interpreted doubt as growing faith. So when the wanderer told this magnificent bloom about herself, she took care to present herself in such a light as would most endear herself to the garden.
Thus it came as no surprise that this second bloom fell madly in love with the wondrous words of the wanderer, thinking she was in love with the wanderer herself. She, too, was promised a softer bed, better care, gentler soil, richer fertilizer. She, too, thought she understood the role of the first plant in the wanderer’s garden, though she was a little unsure about the wanderer herself on occasion. What was her species? She hadn’t encountered this kind of bloom before, but some blooms grow closer to others, and some balance the pH in the soil best for other plants. So there must be some explanation, the magnificent plant rationalized to herself.
It also, unfortunately, comes as no surprise in this part of the story that the wanderer eventually became jealous of the magnificent bloom’s cross-pollination and demanded that she stop immediately, reserving all her pollen for the wanderer’s own store. But the magnificent plant just laughed it off, and the whole garden joyously celebrated this happy new friendship between the supposed potted plant and their beloved, magnificent, blossom-in-sharp-stones. They played games. They told jokes. And they welcomed the wanderer even deeper into their bed, into which she brazenly walked, finding a bare space of soil where she spread her cloak and lay, propped on her elbows, even as the brown sparrow flew overhead, wondering at this unexpected new arrangement.
She had, the blooms all believed, finally been transplanted. And they celebrated. But none was happier than the magnificent flower, who, despite the agony of her soil, laughed the loudest, bloomed the brightest, and shared her joy with all the blossoms in the bed.
Until the wanderer began to feel a pang of guilt. No longer was she certain who or what she was. Her vantage from the center of the garden confused her. Was she really a potted plant? Did she belong here in this garden? She wasn’t sure. Or maybe she was. I don’t know. Maybe this was indeed a garden of weeds, and maybe she belonged here—as a weed. She knew she’d damaged the fragile bloom in that other bed. She felt guilty, and considered approaching the master gardener. But no. Not yet. Not like this.
Her own garden grew neglected, the centerpiece blossom wary. And her increasing distance, the growing sense of dutifulness in her care for him disconcerted him. Was the wanderer wandering, again?
And the magnificent blossom refused to hold back her pollen from the others, knowing that they needed it to bloom as much as she needed theirs. And she could not bear the thought of her selfishness being the cause of another’s demise.
And the neglected blossom inched his viney branches towards the protected garden, looking for his wanderer.
But the wanderer was aware, and she was quick. Sensing the danger of discovery, she jumped up, threw her cloak over the low, stone wall, and cried out to the whole garden that she had nothing any longer to do with the magnificent bloom.
But she returned, late one night, when she thought no one was looking, when she thought all the blooms slept—the wanderer wandered back to the jagged ground of the magnificent blossom, who now wilted a little from the weight of a new batch of sharp stones the gardener had fitted around her stem. Confused, the blossom looked up and asked the wanderer what had become of the promises and the love she’d only days before lavished upon the plant. And the sparrow, who was hidden in the shadows, listened intently.
But the wanderer gave no reply. Instead, turning with disdain, she focused her attentions on the sympathetic young bud who grew beside the heap of jagged stones, that selfsame bud who had so kindly listened to her doubts and fears only days before, that bud who was perhaps the most fragile of them all in the fantastic garden of the master.
This young bud was especially treasured by all in the garden because of her especial vulnerability, her ability to pull blooms out of the most painful soil, a soil that seemed dry, infertile, and sandy, a soil that seemed often to mock her and defy her every attempt to flourish. And they treasured her because they saw how softly the master would tread when tending her, how gently he would arrange the sand and soil about her roots, and how nakedly she would cry out to the gardener when she longed for rich, moist loam, instead of the dry, brittle sand that seemed to her so bitter. And they treasured her because she bloomed anyway, in abandoned, unselfconscious love for her master.
It was this passion that drew the wanderer, who had been watching the bud even while wooing the bloom. And though she knelt a hair’s breadth away from the magnificent bloom, she let her fingers trace a pattern through the sandy soil around the bud. And she wanted her all to herself.
You see, the wanderer wanted everything any bloom had, always and completely for herself, even though she never gave fully of herself to any blooming thing—not to her own blossoms in her own garden, not to any flowering plant that caught her fancy. Perhaps—and I’m sure I don’t know—it was because she feared commitment, perhaps because she was unable to give herself fully to any single garden, perhaps because she simply didn’t know how.
But the incongruity of her demanding everything while giving little struck many of the blooms in the protected garden as worrisome. And when she abandoned their own dear blossom-in-sharp-stones they were shocked, but when she began to focus attentions on their beloved little bud, whom many saw as a young transplant they wanted to protect (even though she’d been in the garden longer than some of they!), the hints of an angry wind began to whisper through their leaves.
They watched the young bud stretch her stem towards the wanderer, and they heard the wanderer woo her with the same words she’d offered the magnificent bloom days earlier. And the magnificent bloom wilted for shame at desiring better soil than her master gardener had chosen for her. And she wilted for believing the words of the wanderer. And she buried her blossoms beneath her jagged stones, believing the garden no longer safe for her foliage, feeling the knees of the wanderer so close still to her own vulnerable roots.
All the blooming plants in the bed watched the young bud force herself to grow towards the wanderer instead of towards the sunlight, watched her try to prune herself according to the wanderer’s whim instead of the design of her own master gardener. And they watched as she willingly gave up cross-pollination for the sole attentions of the wanderer. And they wondered how long it would be before those who relied on her pollen would suffer and diminish, how long it would be before she herself would wilt away.
And they wondered when the gardener himself would step in and rescue this precious bud, why he hadn’t banished the wanderer from his park, why he had allowed her to cause such damage even while seeming to be but another potted plant waiting to join them in their welcoming home. And they doubted his care.
And though many bent and swayed with the angry wind, the majority of them were unaware of its origin, unaware of its purpose. Others, who had been planted near to the pile of jagged stones, saw the wilting of the magnificent bloom and watched the bending of the bud, but feared their outcry would alter the pH in the bed, would thereby endanger the newer transplants, so they remained silent, preferring to keep the weather in their no-longer protected garden calm, instituting a dangerous truce instead of a truthful peace. And plants began to lean towards each other in awkward bouquets of opinion. And the riotous diversity and integration of this once joyful garden grew threatened.
It happened at this very moment, when the bud began to work away at her own stem, attempting to cut herself out of the garden so as to be wholly the possession of the wanderer, that the little sparrow flew again over the garden in one of her many travels around the park. She had heard of the plucking of the fragile blossom, witnessed the wilting of the magnificent one, and watched even as the bud began to stretch towards the wanderer, falling, like the others, for her words and believing, like the others, she was in love with the wanderer herself.
And the little sparrow began, in her plain, unexceptional way, to sing over the garden, to remind them of the love of the gardener. And she reminded of his care, and how she had seen him, only moments before, gingerly tending to shrubs and creeping vines just a few beds away. She sang of the variety of gardens in the master’s park, and of the amazing diversity in even this one bed. And she sang of how she could see, from her perch in the bush or from the vantage of her many flights, how varied were the ways the master tended his own, how diverse were the species in his garden, how each plant was tended such that she or he would bloom to perfection, and how the gardener chose different soil, different sunlight, and different pH for each plant’s best care. She sang of the love of the master, even beyond the comprehension of each plant.
And many remembered how tender the words of the gardener had been when he had transplanted them, and they remarked how those in the most difficult soil seemed always to bloom the most beautifully. And those closest to the young bud begged her to pollinate, or tried with all their might to share their pollen with her, in order to keep her strong. And they loved her.
But the wanderer, feeling strong and invulnerable, or maybe weak and quite vulnerable—I’m sure I don’t know which—looked to see who it was that interfered. And hearing the song of the sparrow, she reached up and snatched the bird from the sky, telling the bud that she, the wanderer, was better equipped to understand the gardener, that the bird was a deceiver—you know how birds are!—and, to the horror of some and the confusion of others, she dashed the bird against the ground, thinking she had silenced her song.
But the song was of the love of the master. And even without the bird crying it over the garden, it could not be silenced as it blew in the breeze, for every bloom, every bush, every blossom, every bud rang out, even in the angry wind, even with the buzzing of nature, of the unquenchable, unconquerable, inexplicable, and bewildering love of the gardener for not only those who lived in his gardens, but for all who, kindly or maliciously, happened to enter his lovely park. And all knew that soon the master would set all things aright once more.