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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Season(s) of a year or life (01/13/11)

TITLE: Tending Grief's Garden. <i> For Lew</i>
By Author Unknown
01/20/11


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Surely the king had heard about my reputation with plants. In all my sixty-two years, I hadn’t kept one alive. Nevertheless, I found myself duty-bound that spring, for the tangled mass of vegetation otherwise known as the flower garden.

In our land, those in mourning were required to report to the king. He would assess the situation of the mourner and assign them a new position. For some it lasted months, others years.

Edmund’s death was unexpected. One day he was tending the vineyard, the next he was in bed, and then he was gone. Just like that. I still expected to hear his boots scraping against the doormat at noon. In forty-three years he'd never been late for a meal.

It'd only been a month since Edmund died and I still hadn't sorted through his belongings. I didn’t expect the summons so soon, much less an assignment to the most spectacular botanical catastrophe around.

But I knew better than to argue with the king.

So when he looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, "Esmeralda, I know you're still grieving. You're just going to have to trust me on this. Go out to the garden, find Joshua, and he'll show you what to do. You're to go back every day until the job is finished."

He sunk into his upholstered chair, laid his head back, closed his eyes, and let out a deep, satisfied sigh. He was done, but I wasn’t.

I cleared my throat. "Any idea how long this task might take?"

I knew it was impertinent to ask, but I couldn't help it.

His head popped up again, "It'll be finished when it’s over.” He grinned. The king was known for his sense of humor.

"Fine," I scoffed. "I'm going. I'm going."

I found Joshua bent over behind the garden fence. He was pulling weeds.

“Joshua,” I called out. “The king sent me over. I’m supposed to help you.”

Joshua stood and arched his back. His wiry white hair dipped and turned in thick waves over his head. The late morning shone through his straw hat, leaving sunlit and shadowed freckles on his face. His tall and burly stature didn’t match his gentle disposition. I liked Joshua. If I was going to be stuck here, I couldn't have better company.

It started out agonizingly slow. We began in square inches not feet. Hunched down, inspecting every leaf. Joshua pointed out the differences between those plants that would grow into flowers and those that were weeds.

“The beginning is always difficult,” he said. “Summer has this way of helping the weeds flourish, which crowd out the flowers. It’s our job to identify the plants, rid the garden of what’s not needed, and nurture the soil, so that the garden can be beautiful again.”

By the time the sun began to crawl under its earthly covers, my back was full of ache and my fingers felt thick and clumsy. But there was something cathartic about yanking out the ugly things. There was something healing in the slow pace, the recognition of good and bad, and in feeling the stings and scrapes. These things were temporary, they hurt badly now, but in time, restoration would take its place.

It wasn’t until winter that I could rest. Take stock of what I’d done, and be proud of the new calluses I bore.

Over the cold months, I finally put away the rest of Edmund’s things. I rearranged the bed to sit under the window, something Edmund wouldn’t have done. I took in one of the barn cats, and invited one of the neighbor girls over for cooking lessons. She was about to be a bride.

On the first warm day in spring, I made my way over to the flower garden. As expected, Joshua had beaten me to it.

The view beyond the gate was spectacular. It wasn’t the manicured lawns of the palace, or a field of bright tulips. No, these were just sprouts. Tiny green shoots glistening in the dew under a new season’s sun. It was a glimpse of the beauty that waited.

I felt an arm around my shoulders, and I looked up to see the king’s face smiling back at me. Pride lit in his eyes.

“You’ve done well, Esmeralda. I’m proud of you.” He squeezed my shoulder.

“I couldn’t have done it without Joshua.”

“He couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I guess you’re right.”

We both smiled at the sight.


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This article has been read 1323 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Carol Penhorwood 01/20/11
We are constantly taken by surprise at the wisdom of our King. Often His commands don't make sense, but we discover it is always for our good and His glory.
Henry Clemmons01/22/11
It was a glimpse of the beauty that waited. I love great lines, especially when they are in great stories that inspire and encourage me. Super job.
Beth LaBuff 01/23/11
I actually REALLY liked this, especially the "fable" quality of it. And this bit of foreshadowing, "It’s our job to identify the plants, rid the garden of what’s not needed, and nurture the soil, so that the garden can be beautiful again.” was just a perfect descrition of that season of her life. I felt satisfied with the satisfaction she felt for having done her job well. Nice work on this super creative story!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/23/11
As someone who also can't keep a plant alive, I smiled at the MC's predicament. That drew me in and the good writing kept me until the end.
Rachel Phelps01/23/11
I loved the message in this story. It took me a bit to click into the rhythm of the story, perhaps because there was a lot of exposition early on. Then again, I'm a character fanatic, so my perception could be skewed. Really excellent concept.
Sarah Elisabeth 01/25/11
I, too, loved the "fable" aspect. The King is always wisest in our grief. Really good writing here!
Laury Hubrich 01/25/11
Weeds see me coming and laugh because they know they'll be safe. Weeds or flowers? That is the question:)

I like how we watch the woman slowly rise from her grief back to life. Nice job!
Lollie Hofer 01/27/11
Lovely, absolutely lovely. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.
Rita Garcia01/27/11
Love your writing style! Lovely story with an insightful message! CONGRATULATIONS on your win!!
Lillian Rhoades 01/27/11
Well crafted from opening sentence to a great conclusion. I love how you subtlely tied grief to the seasons of life - at least that's how I read it.

You deserved your win.
Joanne Sher 01/27/11
Just lovely, Lynn. Beautiful storytelling. Definitely fitting of its place, my dear friend.
Theresa Santy 01/27/11
You have a spectacular talent for arranging words. I can't even form the words that would adequately describe how thoroughly I enjoyed this story. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.
Carol Slider 01/27/11
What a lovely story, tying together the seasons of growing, grieving, and living. Congratulations--well done!
Beth LaBuff 01/27/11
Congratulations, Lynn, on your Editor's Choice award for this exquisite story!
Bonnie Bowden01/27/11
Thank you for sharing such wisdom in this fable. God's ways are definitely not our ways, but it is nice to know that He's working everything out for our own good.

Congratulations on your win. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Charla Diehl 01/28/11
I could identify with your MC on several levels. There is something therapeutic about gardening--the tending to them and the satisfaction of watching them come to life. Liked the analogy within this wonderfully winning piece. Congrats!