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upon a time there was a gardener. Not an ordinary gardener, someone in denim and rolled up sleeves who plants things and pulls weeds, who coaxes fruits and vegetables from soil and water; but a gardener who understands everything about everything. A gardener who understands more than you can ever imagine about all sorts things, of living things and of soil and light and water and even things I don’t even know enough to wonder about (and I'm telling this story!). This was a gardener like no other gardener, for he formed the seeds himself, and whispered words over them, making them sparkle and shine in the darkness before dawn, any dawn. He was The Gardener.
The Gardener fashioned a place for His garden with open spaces full of light, and deep dells misted by waterfalls, and dry high places with intense sun. He shaped mountains so they would cast light in interesting ways, and made sandy places and rocky places and flat places and steep places. He pushed big rocks, gigantic rocks, into interesting places to cast mighty shadows. some places He scoured with glaciers to make gentle curvy valleys. He even made places for His garden to grow under the seas.
He took His time. He let the land rest for many seasons, preparing it for planting, permitting the insects and the worms to turn the soil and shift the earth and rocks about. He let time and sunlight dry out the high places, and time and waterfalls moisten the valleys, so there was a variety to the garden that ranged through every type of soil, every type of light, a place for everything.
The Gardener came down from His high workshop and strolled through the garden, pausing in every place, no matter how large, no matter how small, and planted the glittering, sparkling seeds. As He placed each seed in the soil He whispered to it, granting it freedom.
“Choose,” He said. “Be what you wish. Grow true, stay true. Choose what you will be, and I will always be near; I will give you all you need. Choose.”
And as He moved from place to place his apprentices watched from the workshop, eager for what might come.
And the garden grew. It sprouted, and flourished. Some plants grew along the ground, winding through the others. Some grew tall, filtering the intense light, gentling the sun for those who chose a fragile, beautiful life beneath them. Some stood away from the others, growing thick leaves to hold each drop, each hint, of water, and bristled with thorns, safeguarding their treasures of moisture. Creeping and towering, swaying and rock steady, thin and thick, the plants of the garden took on amazing shapes and sizes and forms proclaiming their individuality.
It was an amazing sight. There was every color imaginable. There were colors shouting rainbowed anthems of praise and joy at living within the garden. It was a riot of hues, and shades, and values, and overall the color of green shouted loudest of all, the color of life.
There was harmony in the garden. The differences between the plants echoed the differences of the garden itself, of moist and dry, high and low.
The Gardener’s apprentices moved among the garden, enjoying the beauty, the wonder, of a living world of verdant life. The plants swayed in the breeze and shook their leaves, and sang songs of life and sunlight and the joy of growing.
Most of the apprentices were quite happy with The Gardener’s masterpiece. Most.
There was one who didn’t care for it. He preferred the austere beauty of the great halls of the Gardener’s home. He loved how the marble floors echoed his footsteps, how the brass mirrors reflected his face, how the diamond studded ceilings threw back his ringing voice. The garden’s soil softened his footsteps, the moss-covered cliffs reflected only glinting sunlight, and the blue sky swallowed up his song.
He began to whisper to the other apprentices about the foolishness of dirt, the unsteadiness of flowing water, and the discordant cacophony of colors that life brought into the world.
They cocked their heads and wondered at the differences between what they had always known and what was before them now.
The unhappy apprentice walked through the garden, traveling to the place of the first seed.
The giant tree, the tree of the first seed, stood in the center of the garden, rising hundreds of feet, and reaching upward toward The Gardener.
The apprentice stood off a ways and thought long about the tree, and the other plants which followed it. He thought about the changes to the world, and how his voice no longer echoed. It was then he perfected a new skill. He learned to whisper.
He made himself small, so he looked like a part of the garden, like a branch or a stick or a root. He made his voice small, all whispery, so he sounded like the wind or the water. And he slipped between the growths of life and sidled up to the first tree and its mate. He spoke of other soils. He whispered of other places in the garden, secret places, better places. He spoke of stronger soils, acidic soils, rich soils that gave vitality to the plants that grew there.
At first the pair of trees ignored the sibilant whisperer. But soon the shorter, younger tree began to move her boughs, to creak in the breeze, and coaxed her leaves to rub, to sing, a new song, a song of wanting.
And the song spread.
Other plants took up their own versions of the song. They sang of other meadows, and other soils, and other light. Many of them twisted their growth into new directions. Some crept up the trunks of others and squeezed, choking them. Some crowded their neighbors, and threw their seeds everywhere, producing broad leaves, robbing smaller plants of light. Plants began growing differently, robbing soil of nutrients, pushing other plants aside. And when some faltered in their new growth, and looked back at what they had promised to be, the dark apprentice slid beside them, reminding them of what they wanted, what they needed, what they deserved.
And when The Gardener saw the thorns and thistles, the strangling ivy and the thriving weeds, He sat down on a rock and grieved for the garden that could have been. He ached for what was lost and the harmony that might have been.
And He did something marvelous.
He made himself small. He made Himself soft, and fragile, and began moving about the garden.
He whispered to the plants.
“Choose,” He said. “Be true to what you were meant to be. Grow true, stay true. Choose what you will be, and I will always be near; I will give you all you need. Choose.”
And some of the plants listened to the gentle voice, the one which was not sibilant, but spoke with a confident and warm tone. Those who listened, He touched. He touched them and they sparkled like the seeds they had once been, before they began to grow. They sought their first shapes, their true shapes. Though they had already grown and changed much, had already hurt other plants, and taken what was not theirs, they began to grow anew, they began to produce fruit.
With a final word to them all the Gardener climbed a nearby mountain peak, and settled down to watch what would happen next.
He watched the dark apprentice (and his friends) whispering in the garden, and He sent His true apprentices to scold them away from flowering and budding vines.
And that is how the garden stands today.
The plants struggle with each other, and with their choices. But many of them struggle with the last words they heard the Gardener speak:
“Choose. Harvest is coming soon.”