One day earlier this summer, my husband and I drove down a road we've driven a hundred thousand times and were about to, once again, pass an entrance to a place we've never been, when in a surge of adventure and discovery, we decided to turn on the blinker and pull in. It was the entrance to a wildflower garden—the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. It's hard to say exactly why neither of us have ever gone through that gate, but for me, it probably comes down to assuming nothing much was there other than a garden plot, plus a negative reaction to something I'd once heard long ago, both adding to up to not really even seeing the sign anymore. That day, though, we saw the sign, we made the turn, drove in, and parked. We walked to the gate and stepped through.
There's a dream I've had periodically over the years. Maybe you've had a similar dream. In my dream I discover that my house has many more rooms than I ever knew. The doors open endlessly, and there's more there than I could ever have imagined. I don't wake up from this dream relishing the revelation of hidden wealth but instead relishing the sensation of something more. There's more here than I ever knew. More to be discovered. More to be revealed. That's how it felt going through the gate of the overlooked garden. Fifteen acres—this was no small garden plot!—of wetland, woodland, and prairie; the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. Amidst the flowers and the ferns were benches, benches, benches everywhere, placed at all different angles and in private places for thinking, dreaming, and watching. Benches for sitting and being calm in the beauty. The beauty!
The garden was started in 1907 by botany teachers from the Minneapolis Public School system. The group was led primarily by Eloise Butler, a teacher who retired in 1911 but kept working in the garden. Inside the entrance there's a picture of her, in a long dress of the day, digging with a shovel.
We've since gone out to the Garden a couple mornings before work. Each time we brought a thermos of coffee and some bagels. We found a bench right in the midst of the beauty and started our day. We ate and talked. We were quiet. We prayed. We walked and took pictures and looked with eyes open wide. He and I both plan on going back again and again.
Maybe there's a place of potential beauty and potential calm right near where you live that you've been driving or walking by so very many times without stopping.
I encourage you: stop.
[Photo: taken of some ball-like, spikey flowers I saw on the first time to the garden. On a second visit, I found the tag that identified them: buttonbush.]