The garden sits above a stream that sings joyfully over a small dam. By mid summer, there will probably be nothing more than a trickle of water through the race. Here there was once a grist mill, and the terraced foundation remains as a reminder. The mill race is narrow, slightly mysterious, and the water is dark and deep. Beyond, where the stream regains its natural flow, all is overhung with maple, sycamore, honey locust and honey suckle.
The garden was dug out by hand--it was once filled with about 2 feet of "mill trash"--broken bottles, rotted wood, metal scrap, boulders, and all the incidental waste of a thriving business. It was basically a dump. But dig it out my friend did, down to a level, clean patch of earth. She retrieved the millstone, still contained within its metal band, and planted a little red maple in the center.
On the exposed limestone walls, ledges and crannies have been randomly planted with trailing tendrils of shade plants. Tucked in secret spots, offerings; sea glass, crystals, a dancing Shiva. The eye doesn't find these objects immediately, it's more like going on a treasure hunt.
Once I found a few objects, I began to notice the figure of the rock itself, carved by centuries of water, sun, wind, like little sculptures. One begins to appreciate, for example, the life of a tiny fern, green, bright, tender, beginning to unfurl from a pinch of dirt. How did it get there? How long will it stay?
There is a bench for sitting, and a soft, tan bark path for walking meditation. Across the stream, a disheveled grove of bamboo rustles in the breeze. And everywhere, birds dart into the sunlight, searching for insects, then glide back into the shadows. Birdsong is continuous, busy, varied. No one is wasting any time on the longest day of the year--there are at least 12 hours to sing on Solstice, and lots of girlfriends to impress!
Once a gristmill, now a Meditation Garden. Fitting that what once provided physical sustenance--flour, cider, meal--now provides sustenance of another sort. I couldn't help but wonder how many people had been sustained by bread baked with the mill's flour. How many children licked jam off their fingers, from bread made from flour at the mill? How many celebrations started with a toast of "hard" cider, while other guests asked for the sweet stuff?
Here in the Meditation Garden, the variety and glory of nature's expression can be reflected in our own expressions of contemplation.
I am a humble visitor.