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The pilgrimage – a story of sore feet, an aching back, and giddy joy (Part 1)

Those of you who follow my wee blog know that two years ago I lost my best friend to cancer. I was felled by grief, stunned by the loss. I spoke to a dear friend (a social worker) about how difficult it was to move past the outrage and anger, and she asked, “Have you made a space for your grief?” And from that came the idea of a memorial garden for my friend, only instead of flowers, I’d make it out of tiles I had accumulated over years of yard sales.

The garden has been such a blessing. The designing of it, setting out the different pieces, rearranging, adding to, taking away from, it all gave me a chance to find expression for words I felt would devastate me if I spoke them aloud – I loved you. I miss you. Why?

Healing came slowly, but it did come. And in the years since I lost her, the garden has gone from a project to place of sanctuary and peace. This year I added a few more tiles, a meditation chair, and a gorgeous new birdbath! A graceful pedestal arching up to hold the basin, it looks positively ecclesiastical. The Mister and I have taken to calling it “the font.” Sunday mornings during my hiatus, I would wrap a shawl around my shoulders and flee to my garden. I’d start by standing at the font and make a confession of sorts, placing my faults and failings in the water as the surface rippled in the breeze and the trees swayed and swished over head. I’d watch as the sunlight crept across the ground, illuminating different areas as it progressed in dappled grace. At the end, I’d sit in my meditation chair and breathe and give thanks, and breathe and wonder, and breathe and just look, and breathe and breathe. I was always reluctant to leave, but if I tarried too long Someone would send bees to chase me off. One of them actually lighted on my arm! I called on my Supreme Being.

“Dude!” I said, “What the….?”

“Oh relax, lovey. I’m just playin’ with ya.”

“Playin’, huh?”

The summer was wearing away quickly, and at the end of August the temperature took an abrupt nosedive. We even had to turn the furnace on a couple of mornings to warm up the house. I feared an early Fall and wondered how to prepare the garden for the winter. Last year I took in the more delicate items I thought would not fare well in the cold – some little ceramic houses and plaster cast statues and such, but I left the tiles out. When I checked them in the Spring, every single one of the terracotta tiles had exploded! That’s what they looked like. Shattered from the cold. The others had survived, but I didn’t know if I should chance it again.

“I think I’m going to have to take in all the tiles for the winter,” I told The Mister.

“Yup. I think that would be best.”

I looked around at them despairingly.

“That’s going to be such a big job.”

“Oh yeah.”

“I think I can leave all the river stones out though.”



“The squirrels. If they scatter them into the lawn, it could make things a little dicey for Greg (our lawn cutter.)”

“So I have to put everything away?”

He gave a little “sorry” shrug.

I resolved to start on Monday, the 18th, since our local meteorologists were predicting a blissful turn toward the temperate for that entire week. They were so right! I set my alarm for half and hour earlier so I could exercise, shower, and eat before tackling the garden each day. And I found I was actually anticipating my day’s work with a certain amount of eagerness…


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