Is His Way
of showing us bits and pieces,
Of Heaven on this Earth
THE ROSE GARDEN
As a child, I used to play in the Governor’s backyard. His mansion could not be seen from our property, but the hill in our yard led to his premises. Through the eyes of one so small, those several acres seemed like an endless playground, a vast universe for exploration. Therein lie the roots of my fondest childhood memories.
At the crest of our hill, I would cross the threshold to “the Governor’s Territory” and find myself on the private road used by his groundskeepers. The narrow road is winding and meanders around the sloping grounds, leading to other attractions on the site: The old guest cottage that has been converted to a gardener’s shed; the colossal structure of a brick carriage house and stable, now antiquated and in disrepair, still a vision of grandeur; the dense wooded area directly behind the stately mansion which appeared in my youth as large and looming as a forest.
It was my very own Eden, this place so filled with picturesque enchantment. In the springtime, the flourishing, green landscape would be dominated by the bluebells that covered the rolling hills. An assortment of wild flowers further enhanced the setting with random speckles of color. In a special spot, there once stood a boysenberry tree that would intrigue us for long periods of time as we ate its crimson berries.
The course of the road rises to higher ground, as the land is situated on a continuous incline. As we round another bend, we find ourselves sandwiched between two grassy embankments. Both are mountainous and symmetrical in height, dangerously steep and unsuitable for climbing. It is here, at the top of these twin summits, where two major focal points of this property are located.
The towering land on our right is a four-acre parcel on which the Governor’s mansion stands. Three stories high and nineteen rooms wide, the dwelling is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds and a massive recreational area. The sight is truly a vision of overwhelming proportions. Yet, for me, standing on the edge of its hilltop, it is the view from behind me that has left the greatest impression: Down below, the road winds through the lush scenery like a snake; across at eye level is the panoramic view of the other hilltop, the parcel of land that is the Governor’s private garden.
Steps of stone lead to the entrance of my adored Rose Garden. Accessed from the road, the large gray stone slabs are layered into the earth and ascend the hillside to create a massive, spectacular stairway. The climb is bordered on one side by a long line of overgrown forsythia, their yellow buds forever in bloom in my memory. When we reach the peak, the forsythia tapers, but the stone path continues straight forward between two extensive rows of trees. Their proximity causes limbs from both sides to entwine above us, forming a tunnel of foliage overhead.
The entryway to the garden is through a grand brick arbor. It’s flooring is tiled with a stone and brick pattern, and the structure is framed by two large white pillars. Its pitched roof is shingled in slate. As we walk through and survey the design of the garden’s plot, we see that two additional arbors and box hedging border its perimeter. One of the arbors is an exact replica of the entranceway. The other is long and extended, running the full length of the garden. This stunning arbor is floored with large pieces of stone and covered in a lattice of wood beams. In the spring, much of the lattice is obscured by the overflowing, climbing vines of flowering, lavender wisteria.
In the center of the garden stands an ornate rounded stone structure that once served as a well. The white stone is intricately detailed with images of angels, each in a different stance, yet all of them reaching out to the next to form a chain. It is from this circular center point where all the flowerbeds have been strategically placed in the garden. The design is breathtaking; and the roses, so diverse in size and color, are abundant and glorious.
As a child, the rose garden was pure magic and my most cherished place. As an adolescent, it served as a place of secluded refuge, a safe haven from the outside world during those years of teenage angst. Sitting in the grass amidst the roses was to find true contentment. It is where I would return to again and again, until one day it became my place of reckoning, changing my life forever. And the sheer magnitude of the surrounding beauty became my prelude to the very first miracle that would grace my life.
The remembrance of that day has been my secret, a personal treasure I have harbored since my adolescence. Over the years, I have entrusted the experience with only a select few of my friends, my closest spiritual confidantes. Faith, for me, has always contained an essence of intimacy. But I have now grown to understand that I was given an immeasurable gift, the gift of truth; and the only way for me to reciprocate such a precious gift is to share it.
My memory takes me back. I am in my sixteenth year. Turmoil, confusion, naïveté…a girl of sixteen… Circumstances in my life have led me into a dark abyss, and those who love me are suffering. Outside the day is covered in a gray blanket of clouds, as dull and bleak as I feel. The scent of wet earth lingers in the air. I’m alone in my garden, alone in my heart of despair. Finally, human nature has me searching for sustenance, and I reach for a glimmer of hope through prayer. For a time I stand there, the young girl that was the old me, pleading with the sky. I remember my last words with crystal clarity. I need to know if you’re really there… Help me… I have nowhere to go…
A single sunbeam emerges like a brilliant laser from between two trees directly in front of me, and strikes me head-on. The glare is bright but my eyes are impelled to widen. In that moment of contact comes a sensation, a foreign entity of such awesome proportions that words cannot fully justify its description. Within my body, the euphoria of being filled to capacity with tingling warmth that is both peacefully soothing and inexplicably potent. I cannot impress upon you the enormity of its power; it did not contain an earthly quality or normality. In essence, it possessed the strength and energy that could only emulate from a Higher, Divine Life Force.
While the sensory details of my account are still vivid in my memory, my sense of the passage of time remains unclear. I distinctly remember my mind surging with emotion as I was absorbing the gravity of what was happening to me. I remember the realization that my entire body was trembling, and the contrasting sense of elation that accompanied it. But I cannot fully comprehend the duration of time I stood there taking in my revelation. I only know that, in my weakest moment, I went searching for an answer. I reached for the glimmer of a star and I found a constellation. As God is my witness, this is my testimony.
I ran all the way home that day, down the winding and narrow road, feeling as passionate and free as a bird in flight. I left my beloved Rose Garden with the Undeniable Truth of His Existence in my heart, and the knowledge that I am never alone.