At the end of a street is a driveway that winds upward leading to a parking lot with ten or so spots where I suppose people gather for their lunch breaks, a quick nap, a phone call, a smoke, etc. I stumbled upon this place with a view eight years ago. We were leasing a house in a gated community that my step-father insisted we lease: it was far too big, fancy and it seemed so strange to me that a guard had to let my friends enter when access by gate was simple.
In walking all around this new area over a few weeks, I walked my then young son (around eight) to his new friend at the end of a cul-de-sac. Many of the kids, including my own son, thought it was fun to slide down on cardboard or in my case scoot on my bottom on the cemented pass. It led to this parking lot and I learned of it then.
It seemed to me there were great views so one morning a very dear friend of mine met me there to meditate. It became a special and sacred place to meet. I soon learned from my friend, if we climbed through the shrubs and up some loose gravel, we could sit on a rock bed with beautiful views of the sunrise and sunset. A small tree was there and soon I began to water it and on occasion, I would leave a pretty rock or an encouraging note.
Over time, when my friend and I parted, it was still a place of peace and reflection for me. I had an idea one day when I was in my yard, what if I created a secret garden for the many people who sat there at lunch, mid-day and sunset, where they could read positive (anonymous) notes of inspiration?
I slowly brought small and medium plants in pots from my own yard and stepping stones with messages like “dream,” “hope,” and “welcome.” I seemed to mostly be able to time my comings and goings without being seen, as I wanted it to be anonymous notes of “you can make it” and “things can and will get better.”
One day when I was watering and changing the note, a young couple in their early 20s approached me – they said they loved coming here and so many of their friends felt the peace and looked forward to the weekly messages tacked to the tree. It started out being strewn with trash, beer bottles, broke glass, etc. Once the secret garden began, the amount of debris lessened substantially. People can feel the presence of peace even if they do not yet embody that peace.
Over time, as I brought my own children there at sunsets, I began to see familiar faces. The age range was mostly 19-30 young adults on the hill, with my fifty year age group and older at picnic tables to read or have lunch. If I would go hiking in nature and find a heart-shaped rock, I would bring it here. I had an idea to leave a small blank journal with pens and wrote: “Write your thoughts down.” It was really amazing how quickly that first book filled up.
The third book was halfway through to completion; I looked at the happy garden and thought how wonderful it would be if schools or even colleges created these small gardens of love and peace and took turns maintaining them.
Over the blessed time of tending to this garden, I met some really nice people who would help me by watering and making sure no trash was left when I was away. One of the guys, in my son’s college age, told me I had created a mini United Nations. People from Newport Beach, Dubai, Syria, India, Mexico, Nigeria visited the garden. It took so little and helped so many feel a part of something, people would leave small rocks, heart-shaped stones and even notes of encouragement to each other: what a gift and blessing to have been able to create such a place.
People wrote of newfound hope, inspiration and determination found on a rock near a tree. When bark went on sale, I created a pathway with it and enlisted the help of the couple and a man in his 50s.
Leave a note of hope whenever you can and plant a garden of love – you never know who it will impact, motivate, inspire and perhaps save. – from the book “Kindness on a Budget” by Suzie Abels