Fiction: The Vision of the Beautiful Garden

This can stand alone but it also is a follow-up to these short stories: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

By Nathan C. Vance

Early one morning I stepped out of bed and suddenly I was standing in a field that reminded me very much of a blank canvas. I was approached by a man. He was wearing old clothes and work gloves and told me that this land was his. I apologized for trespassing; in truth I had no idea how I had even gotten to the place, but he assured me that he didn’t mind a bit of company while he worked, so I stayed.

He told me that he owned a great deal of land, but that this spot was his absolute favorite. As I looked around, I did not understand his passion for the place. It had literally nothing on it, and the soil was tougher than any I had ever seen. And I looked all around, but I did not see water to sustain this plot of ground. Despite my confusion, I stayed.

The man took a shovel and began slowly, methodically working the soil. The land was vast. It seemed far too large a task for one man and a shovel or even two men for that matter, but I offered to get a shovel anyway in order to help. He told me that he enjoyed the work and didn’t mind doing it himself. Then he asked me if I would just stay and keep him company; tell him all about myself. He said that conversation helped pass the time.

It was strange. I didn’t know the man but his presence gave me a sense of ease. He seemed safe so I started to talk. First I told him my name. He smiled an odd, knowing smile, like that wasn’t new information. I asked why he was smiling and he replied warmly, “I just like the sound of that name. It fits you perfectly,” he said. It was a small thing, but that statement made me feel really good. No one had ever said anything like that to me. I liked his reply so much that I never bothered to ask his name, I just started telling him more.

I told him how old I was and where I was from. I told him what I did for a living and the name of my wife and my son. Their names brought another broad smile to his face. He said, “I love those names. I feel like I can see your beautiful family in my mind. Tell me all about them. I want to know how you met, what you love most about each other, when and why you decided to have a child, if you’ll have another one; tell me everything.”

As I write this, it sounds like I was given a command, but in the moment it was merely a request. Truthfully, it was very thoughtful. I hadn’t ever met anyone so interested in me and my life. And he couldn’t have known how badly I needed to talk about these things because I talked and talked and talked. I talked so much that I eventually had to stop and get a drink as I was losing my voice. And what was even more amazing was that, even while working diligently on his land, he was always intently listening. I think he felt like he had to reassure me that I had his attention several times because he would stop and repeat back my own words to me verbatim. He didn’t have to do that, but it made me feel extremely confident.

Eventually I was overcome with a sense of guilt as I was talking so much about myself and watching him work, so I made a second offer to assist. The man stopped and smiled. “Tilling this ground with a shovel is hard work. It can only be done by someone who absolutely loves doing it. I would never ask or expect you to assist. But I’m so enjoying our conversation, if you would keep talking to me, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

With that, he drove his shovel back into the hard soil. I watched him and I knew that the work was strenuous, but he made it look so easy. It was obvious that he was enjoying himself. And that made me feel even guiltier, so I asked, “I know I’m being very rude and I’ve said so much about me. Can I know about you?”

His smile returned. He was warm and sincere. “I can tell you that I love you more than you could ever know. It’s why I like hearing about you so much. I can tell you that all of this land will someday be a place for you and your family, and many others. But I need it to be perfect before I can start moving people in.”

I was confused. What did he mean he loved me? We were just meeting. How could he love me? And why would he be working away at this site that he clearly loved just to give it to me? It all seemed very strange.

Sensing my unease, he interjected, “I will tell you all that you need to know in time, but for now, I really want to hear more about you. I assure you that I mean no harm. Just tell me whatever comes to your mind.”

So without really knowing why, I went on. And I started talking about my past. I went all the way back to my earliest memories. For some reason I felt it was necessary to give him a picture of all of the inputs that had shaped me. I told him about my parents. Where they met and how they got together and then about my siblings. I began discussing the way that we were raised and my feelings about why my parents did many of the things that they did. And as I continued to talk, I was telling him how each of those things affected me.

And more than that, I told him about all of my friends through the years. I told him about the good ones and the bad and stories from each. And he would occasionally ask a question that would lead me into another story. And before I knew it, I was telling him about the way those people had shaped my beliefs and perceptions. And as I was telling him how they had shaped me it occurred to me that I had tried to shape them too. What was so odd was that no matter what I said, he would look at me with the same knowing smile. He never seemed bored, or surprised, or even upset. It was like I was confirming information to him rather than supplying it.

Hours must have passed and I had been speaking non-stop. I decided it was time for another break as I was again feeling a bit self-conscious. “Sir, I feel so guilty. You’ve welcomed me onto your land and you’ve worked so hard and listened this entire time and I’ve done absolutely nothing to help. Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do?”

He stopped and looked at me. “You have helped me so much more than you can know. And look, while you were talking the time flew by and the ground is all tilled.”

“So you’re done?”

He smiled again. “No, but the hardest part is done. Now comes the planting. And as I think about it, I believe you can help me do this, as long as you keep talking to me. I can’t tell you what a joy this is for me.”

So he handed me a handful of seeds. As I took them he said, “Plant these exactly where I tell you. If not, they won’t grow. And as we work, I just ask that you keep telling me your story.”

It seemed an odd request. But it had been so nice to tell someone about me and my life. And it was even better that this odd man listened so well. So I started talking again. This time I told him all of my past sins. I told him everything that I had ever felt guilty for. I went into detail of my every secret, my every fear, my every trouble. I told him about the uncertainties I could see in my future and even the disgusts I had with my present. I was confessing to things that I had never shared with another human being. I was truly baring my soul.

And as the time continued to pass I realized that I had been so concerned with each of my problems that I stopped planting seed. I was so immobilized by my own life that I wasn’t even able to do the small task that the man had given me. And in the time that I went on talking, he had completed all of the planting himself, including the portion that he had given to me. And I was sure that he would be mad. Who wouldn’t be? I thought.

So I stopped talking and I looked at him with eyes full of shame and said, “I’m so sorry. I asked if I could help and you gave me this seed. And I became so self-absorbed that I failed. And worse than that, I’ve told you far too much. I have ruined my chance to stay here with you on this land.” Before he could respond, I turned to leave and said, “Thank you for listening. I’m sure I can find my way to the exit.”

And then he called to me softly saying, “Wait.”

I stopped and turned. He was smiling back at me with the most reassuring smile. “Just wait,” he said.

I was still very worked up and I started to explain myself saying, “I just figured after all I said that you would think less of me and have me leave.”

He held up his hand and spoke sympathetically saying, “I told you that I love you more than you could ever know, right? So why would I abandon you now for telling me of a few impure thoughts and past indiscretions? Would you send your child away if he confessed these things to you?”

I thought for a second and then I answered, “Well, no. But that’s my son.”

“And I love you even more than you love him. And I am so glad that you told me all of those things. I bet it feels like a weight has been lifted off of you, doesn’t it?”

He was right. I replied saying, “I feel less tense. It’s like I’m not bogged down with secrets and lies; like I don’t have to carry the whole weight of the world on my shoulders. Even now, I look at all the work you’ve done on this ground and you won’t even let me feel guilty for not helping. I just feel so free. Does that even make sense?”

“It makes perfect sense. It’s exactly how I hoped you would feel. I’ve never wanted to add to your burden, but to carry it for you.”

I still couldn’t understand so I asked, “Why?”

“Because that’s what love is and does. That’s who I am. I am that love!”

I liked his response. I still couldn’t fully comprehend this man, but I knew that he was different, and in a good way. I went on with my questioning. “So what now?” I asked curiously. “Do we just stand here and wait for this to grow?”

The man’s face turned solemn for the first time. “Now, I must do what I came here to do. Unfortunately, you can’t help me with this next part. It will be far worse on me than the tilling, but it is the most important aspect of all of this. And for this, I can’t even converse with you. I must do it alone. It is going to be painful, but if you’d like, you are free to watch.”

I couldn’t let this man face whatever was to come alone—not after everything he’d done. So I offered saying, “I would love to help, you’ve done so much…are you sure—”

He didn’t let me finish. I could tell that he appreciated the sentiment but he interrupted saying, “I’m sure. Just stand over there, and no matter what, you cannot intervene. For this, I must be totally alone.”

I watched as he walked to the very center of his land. He got down on his knees and he started to pray. And as he prayed, I could somehow sense that his prayers were on my behalf, for everything I had told him was on his mind and heart. And he even prayed for the people I had mentioned. And as he prayed, he started to weep. I could tell that all of my sins and doubts and fears were with him and grieved him. And soon, his crying became very loud. And it sounded like he was in terrible pain. His body was racked with stress and strain. And then, his tears turned to blood. And as he wept, eventually his tears fell like raindrops on the soil below. I felt so awful. I wanted desperately to go to him and help him in some way as I knew that I had caused this pain to befall this incredible man. I was so sorry for everything I had said and done. I wished I could intervene, but per his instructions I did not.

As I continued to watch, the soiled became stained with the bloody tears and there were so many that they broke off into streams that flowed to every corner of the vast land. It was incredible. I had never seen anything like it. And as he continued to weep, I saw vineyards of the most incredible green and red and purple grapes sprout and grow to maturity. And then I saw bushes upon bushes of every berry imaginable. And these bushes stretched as far as I could see. And then, fruit trees of every kind sprouted tall and sturdy. There were apples, cherries, bananas, coconuts, oranges, and even olives blossoming on them.

Then I saw fields that had to cover thousands of acres and they were filled with corn and wheat and potatoes. And beside the fields sprouted hordes of beans and tomatoes and gardens of carrots and greens ran from them in every direction. And then more trees shot up from the ground. They were filled with almonds and cashews and walnuts and hazelnuts and pecans and even more nuts than I had ever seen. And on other trees, sap dripped like honey and syrup. And then I saw cocoa beans and coffee beans and even exotic beans that I didn’t recognize. It was all splendid.

Intermittently weaved throughout the grounds new plants emerged taller and fuller than what had been before. And then, around the perimeter of the fields and orchards and vineyards, flowers started to bloom. There were rose bushes and lily’s to the north. There were tulips and daisies to the east. There were orchids, hydrangea’s, chrysanthemums, and azaleas to the west. And to the south there sprouted flowers and colors that I had never seen or even dreamed of. I looked all around for a long time trying to take the entire scene in. It was so majestic. With every glance I saw something new that was more beautiful than what I had seen before. To me, it all looked like paradise. It was so magical that I could not even believe it.

And then, I remembered the man. He had worked so hard and listened so intently. He was wonderful. And then I felt sadness because of the heartache I had watched him endure. And I had lost sight of him with all of the incredible beauty growing up all around. So I started to look for him, and as I did, he emerged from the gardens. As he approached me, I felt like I finally recognized him but I couldn’t remember where I had seen him before. And he was different than he had been. He was in new clothes and there were no gloves on his hands. Only his likeable smile remained.

“So, what do you think? Pretty nice, right?” He asked eagerly.

I was speechless. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. And more than that, it felt amazing too. It wasn’t too hot or humid and certainly not too cold. There was a subtle breeze that gave me goosebumps. It was a glorious feeling. And then I remembered his agony. I looked at him and asked, “Are you ok? Whatever was happening seemed to take a toll on you.”

“It was as it had to be, he said plainly, “and seeing your face makes it all worthwhile.” His tone brightened exponentially as he went on saying, “So do you think you and your family could be happy here?” As he said it he put his hand on my shoulder.

My eyes grew wide with excitement! “It’s marvelous! Could I really live here?” As I spoke my eyes drifted to his hand. And then, as I saw a nail hole in it, I remembered. I looked at his other hand for confirmation and saw an identical hole. This was the man who had been in my other visions. This was the man that made the demons tremble. He was the man with the deed in his hand. He was the man whom the mother had so greatly loved that had bid me to come.

“I told you that I was developing all of this for you. It would please me if you would come and live here and help me tend to this garden. And bring your family. And there will be others that live here too. And I want you all to talk to me and to each other and for us to live in perfect harmony. And then, it will be finished.”

As had happened so many times before, the dream was suddenly gone. I looked around at my current reality and it seemed dim compared to the garden paradise from my vision. And what struck me was that this man, who demons trembled in the sight of, did everything for me. Beyond that, he asked for nothing in return. And more than anything, I knew that I desperately wanted to see him again!


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