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A Peace Garden

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

A peace garden is a place of pathways, trees, cubby holes, and totems; a place where statues and saints serve as alters for people to lay down their hearts. If you’ve never been to one, and wonder, “What the heck is this crazy life all about?” You may find some answers in a peace garden.

It’s a place that somehow just makes everything ok. I had no idea what a peace garden was. That information was kept from me so I had no expectations. Even now I hesitate to write about it... not wanting to spoil the experience for others. Yet, for those without one near, this could be of value.

This was my experience:

I walked into a quiet outdoor garden where words spoken aloud are not allowed. I was given a cloth ribbon, a marker and was told to wander and do what I was inspired to do. At first I noticed a ribbon here and a ribbon there tied onto a tree branch or a bush with the prayers of the human written upon it. “Please give me strength to face this life” was written on one. “In memory of our beloved mother” was written on another. “I pray for peace and love on Earth” on yet another.

As I turned the corner I walked straight into a small circular alcove and before me was a huge tree covered with ribbons. Hundreds of ribbons hung from the many branches on the tree swaying softly in the light sunny breeze. There was a bench and a statue of a saint, which one I did not know. I walked up to the tree slowly and reverently. Softly touching and reading the ribbons on the tree. I felt like I was almost intruding on the privacy of those before me, but I couldn’t help but read the words on the ribbons; “God give me grace” “You are stronger than you know” “I will always love you” “Please God save my son.” Each ribbon I touched seemed to hold the sentiment of the individual who wrote the words upon it, and each sentiment shot through my body. Suffering. So much suffering. So many pleas for help, for strength, and for courage to face the challenges of life.

Also dispersed amongst them were ribbons of love. Love and reassurance. Soothing words to calm the heart and bring relief. “You are stronger than you know” “You are loved” “For every mountain climbed there is a valley to rest in.” My heart swelled with emotion and I had to sit down on the bench beneath the tree laden with ribbons to cry. So much suffering. I could feel it. So much love. I could feel that too. It was as if for suspended moments in time I became witness to all of humanity, and I cried for the beauty of it. And I cried for the beauty of it. And I cried for the beauty of it. Bittersweet tears witnessing the heartbreak of humanity and the love that held it all. I saw God on that bench. I felt love on that bench. Not the romantic kind of love, but the love that encompasses all things and all feelings. It was as if sadness and sorrow danced with love.

Tears slid down my cheeks, tears of beauty. My heart felt gut wrenching pain and infinite love at the same time. I saw the beauty in sorrow that gives love the opportunity to express. Good and bad, right and wrong vanished and I witnessed the human experience in all of its glory. And I cried some more. I saw all of existence in those ribbons. I saw people from all walks of life seeking relief from their suffering, or offering comfort to those who need it. I sensed the presence of God holding it all in loving arms and the words came to me, “All is well.” I experienced a deep knowing that all is perfect in the world just as it is.

I used the cloth ribbon in my hand to dry the tears and wrote on my ribbon, “And so it is.” Perhaps it was my way of surrendering how I felt life should be or could be. I mean, whose idea of a better world is best? Yours or mine? And who am I, in my idea of a perfect world, to rob someone of their suffering when suffering while I was sitting on that bench was so beautiful wrapped in the arms of love. Yes, I thought, there is something much greater than I at play here.

As I stood up and slowly made my way back, I realized I was a different person than I was before I entered. This time I had a deep knowing in my heart that everything was indeed well in the world, that nothing needs to be fixed, that the world is absolutely perfect just as it is.

I guess that must be why they call it a peace garden.

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