The Guiltless Garden
The gardener, Verloren, left in despair. Leaving was painful but staying would have been worse. Verloren went with nothing more than she had arrived with, except for one thing; guilt. She carried the guilt of murder and, just as heavy, the guilt of wanting to consume another being. After several weeks of travel which seemed to be getting nowhere, she remembered a bedtime story her grandfather told her as a small child.
“Verloren, when you are weary go to the Garden of Garourinn. It is in the North Country where the winters are long and cold. There you will find the Head Gardener if you are so fortunate to be graced with his presence.” It was the first clear idea that Verloren had had in a long time. “Go quickly girl,” she thought she heard her grandfather add, “the season has not yet turned and you will be able to cross to the North Country. If you wait any longer, the pass will freeze and you will indeed wait a long time until it is clear again.”
She set off immediately, feeling that there was no other option that was any less arduous. While travelling, she pondered with both surprise and relief that her grandfather’s voice seemed to hold no reproach in it. Perhaps, she thought, he doesn’t know what I have done. She pushed the thought out of her mind, being sure it was the case. Just as her grandfather had said, the pass was not yet frozen. With considerable effort, often, having to retrace her steps from wrong turns, she made it to the other side, tired but unharmed. She glanced backwards to the pass and realised that she only had about one week before it would be completely frozen over. She needed to find the Garden of Garourinn, procure an audience with the Head Gardener, and then cross back over the pass before winter claimed the land as its own.
The days went by. Not only could she not find Garourinn but everyone she asked gave conflicting advice. Some said it was a myth and she was wasting her time. Some said it was high in the mountain but near impossible to find. Some said they had just visited the garden that day and it was only up the road a little. She quickly followed the directions she was given but there was no garden and no one in that area seemed to know of its existence. The last day was upon her and she had to make her way back to the pass before it closed. Verloren had a heavy heart. Her mission had failed and she had nothing to return to that was worth living for. Perhaps, it would be better to walk so slowly that the pass did freeze and then she could quietly go to sleep in the cold and not wake up. Her slowing paces suggested that this was the solution she settled on.
Verloren was startled by an abrupt voice. “Don’t be foolish girl,” said her grandfather. “Do you think that going to sleep will end your pain? It will not. Climb the next hill on your left and you will find Garourinn.”
Verloren was now wide awake and, with hope in her heart, she reached the crest of the hill. The view stole her breath. Perhaps, I have already died. She seemed alive, so she walked down into the green valley, a stark contrast to the surrounding mountains of white, rocky ice. There were trees, grassy meadows, and little homes. Everything looked peaceful. The sun was somehow shining warmly on this valley only. The massive walls of cold mountain were forbidding and, yet, they acted as a protection for the valley without infringing on its microcosm.
Verloren stopped at one of the little cottages because the door was ajar. She entered and felt immediately at home. A fire was sharing soft, comforting light with the room. She realised that she was very cold and wet and extremely hungry. There were clean, dry clothes on a chair which seemed to belong to her, although, they were much simpler than her normal taste in fashion. She gratefully took off her wet ones and pulled the new ones on and, strangely, had never felt so beautiful in any piece of clothing she had ever bought. On the table were warm bread, creamy butter, fragrant cheese, and slices of red apple. A sweet lemon and orange drink was more delicious than anything Verloren had ever tasted. Feeling safe and content, she lay on the welcoming bed and fell deeply asleep instantly. She did not have a worry in the world and could not even recall why anyone could possibly be worried about anything.
The morning light made dancing patterns on the floor. Verloren woke and suddenly remembered her quest. Having found the Garden of Garourinn, she must now find the Head Gardener. She was recalling that there were things she wanted and this was her chance to get them. The memory quickened her pulse. Not being able to see anyone to ask directions, she hastily walked back to the top of the hill to get a better view. She turned to the pass and could see that it had almost frozen over. On turning back to Garourinn, she saw, to her horror, the garden valley was there no more. There was a sudden, panicked emptiness in her stomach, worse than before she found it.
“Hurry Verloren,” the icy wind was swirling around her, “you have no more time. Run to the pass and cross now. You will not find Garourinn here again.”
Verloren ran to the pass, managed to cross it, and upon reaching the other side, fell to the ground in a sheltered place. She slept; exhausted but troubled. The next morning, still utterly exhausted and barely able to move, she tried to make sense of her journey. What a complete failure. I did not get to see the Head Gardener. I am no better off than when I started my journey. All I had was one, strange moment of peace which vanished as quickly as it came, as if to taunt me with the reality of my own existence. The hours passed as she walked but the bleakness did not. It grew more dense. Perhaps, her grandfather would talk to her again. Presently, his gentle voice floated into the recesses of her mind, moving in, and then vanishing as soon as she concentrated on it. If I relax, I may hear him better. The voice became more audible and Verloren realised that, this time, it was not her grandfather’s voice at all.
“I am the one you sought, Verloren. I am sorry that you could not see me this time but you are not ready. You did well. You found the Garden of Garourinn, if but for an instant. The healing you received there will help you to become lighter and you will be able to tolerate the frequency of Garourinn for longer periods before it disappears. Garourinn is my home. It is yours too. You will need to visit Garourinn many more times before you will be able to see me. Now that you have made the treacherous journey once, it will not be necessary for you to make it in person again. Instead, try to find it in your sleep. Each visit will strengthen you. Let me leave you with these thoughts.
You, like most Earth people, carry much self-loathing and guilt. It is true that you have done many bad things, many more than you currently admit to yourself. That is alright because it is the same for almost everyone there. Garourinn is the guiltless garden. Those who visit start to see their real form. They realise that they are indeed whole and beautiful. Seen as they really are, all sense of guilt vanishes. Nothing exists except this truth in Garourinn. It is very pure and has tremendous healing power. Those who visit regularly bring that power with them back into your world. You see, Verloren, we strengthen in ourselves what we give to others. Eventually, those frequent visitors may choose to go to other places. Everyone is free to stay as long as they wish. Garourinn is for your happiness and for all those who belong there. It is for everyone. By the way, I know your grandfather well. He comes here often but these days he mostly visits other lands, not your Earth home.”