ANOTHER SECRET GARDEN
On the following day Peter Hood was waiting for her outside the door to the greenhouse, sitting on an old wooden chair in the sun. Hanging from his belt was a quiver filled with about a dozen target arrows. Two bows hung from the stump of a broken off branch on an ancient nearby apple tree.
“Just like the old days,” said Peter. “Ready to shoot?”
They walked the short distance along the dirt path to the beginning of the wide field of evergreen trees. The first few rows were all young trees less than three feet in height. Later on came row after row of larger trees, and finally trees over seven feet high, ready to be cut and sold before Christmas. Peter and Chi Chi had stretched caution tape around the field and tacked up a few prominent signs reading, CAUTION: ARCHERY PRACTICE RANGE.
Looking down the rows of Christmas trees Phoebe could see the many hay bales piled up toward the middle of the field. Paper archery targets were pinned up in various places. A wall of hay bales behind was designed to catch stray arrows. It was all part of a game, a kind of archery-style follow-the-leader, that Peter and Chi Chi had invented years ago.
After about twenty warm-up shots, Phoebe and her father played the game for almost two hours. They stalked about the field, finding seams in the thicket of trees clear enough to allow an arrow to slip through to a target. It was an engrossing game, but as some point Phoebe’s attention was distracted by the strange new design in the set-up of the hay bales. The walls behind the targets used to be in the shape of an uneven cross, but now had become an extended rectangle. After a while she was sure that something was hidden in the center of the target area.
They sat on a log in silence for a few minutes. In the still air the day was growing hot. Peter said, “So I’m sure you noticed. Why don’t you ask me about it?”
“So there is something in there!”
“It’s part of the experiment we started last year. Want to see it?”
“It’s just a little garden started with Wendy’s seeds. Chi Chi and I are seeing how they grow under different conditions. It’s a question, you know. Can anyone grow these great vegetables with her seeds? Or do you have to grow them a certain way, in a certain environment. You know, soil, timing and temperature, exact location, amount of sunlight, cultivation, space, water. There are so many factors.”
Peter led the way through the Christmas trees to a wall of hay bales. He pulled a ground-level bale back by the corner and a section of the wall slid open a foot or so. They squeezed through.
Phoebe found herself in a secret garden. Eight slightly raised beds overflowed with growing plants. Narrow paths ran in between. She saw peas and beans and cucumbers growing up the sides of the hay bales. Fat orange tomatoes were bursting from tall vines climbing wooden stakes. Carrots and turnips were peeping out of the ground. Baby pumpkins, still green, and other squashes of many colors glowed amid a profusion of leaves. She reached over, picked a finger bean, and began chewing on it.
“You’re already acquainted with those, I see,” said her father.
“I love them! But I’m confused. Is this supposed to be a secret, or not?”
"The vegetables themselves are no secret. Anyone can buy them at Sammy’s, and save any seeds they might have, and plant them just as we’re doing; but we don’t think the Morphy organization is interested in that except in passing. They want the really big money, some great discovery that could spawn a new industry. They’d like to give a few plants to a corporation, study them in a university, and then patent the seeds and market them. That would be more their style. So we don’t want them stealing our plants, and the less they know the better.”
“But they can just give the vegetables to a lab, and grow seeds, and make their own plants.”
“That’s true. We can’t stop them. We’re just not cooperating with them.”
“Then why all the hiding?”
“There are people who would steal everything from Wendy’s garden if they could find it, partly in an effort to make her medicines. And they might try to steal everything in this garden too – we have plants, special plants, whose fruits we do not sell, and greens sold before they go to seed.”
The conversation paused, and Phoebe used the opportunity to summon her courage. She looked at her father. His brown eyes glowed and sparkled.
“Dad,” she said, “I’ve got an important question, and I need a real answer.”
“I’ll do my best. That’s all I can say.”
“A memory just came back to me yesterday afternoon. When I was little I saw a stone on the table in your room. I looked at the smooth blue part…”
His eyes focused sharply on hers. “And?” he asked. “Did you see something? I’ve often wondered.”
“The Good Fairy hovered over me, and the light from her star came shining down.”
“Yes… And what happened?”
“We were all toys, and we unfroze. We came alive.”
“Ah! Ah! Thank you for telling me. That is so comforting. You’ve seen her, one of the guiding visions of dreamstone. I had no idea…”
“You took the stone away, and I never saw it again. You were upset, angry.”
“I was afraid. We knew very little about dreamstone then, and nothing about its effect on children. I’d been careless to leave that stone in the open. Very foolish. I never made that mistake again. I should have spoken to you long ago.”
They were both seated on hay bales, but now Peter stood up and began walking back and forth. He began talking, still pacing. “It’s not a bad thing, but it is… important. You’ve seen a dreamstone vision, and your mother and I had no idea. You must have a lot of questions, and so do I.”
“Why don’t I see anything in my charm? It’s made of dreamstone.”
“Only the very large stones produce visions, and not for everyone. The effects vary. Some people are more sensitive than others. And people see very different kinds of things, though there are themes that stand out. The winged woman often appears, she of many names. Sometimes she appears as old as the hills. You should know this: There are people looking – hunting – for the large stones. They are very rare, and valuable beyond comprehension.”
“How is it that you have one?”
Peter could not reply. He pinched a couple of tiny leaves off a nearby rosemary bush, and smelled them, and then chewed them like gum.
Finally he said, “You may remember Teresa, Wendy’s aunt. She moved up to the North Ridge Mountains long ago. That’s where dreamstone comes from.”
“Why doesn’t anyone ever mention this?”
“It’s public knowledge that the mine in the North ridge Mountains is the only known source of dreamstone. For years people have been searching for new discoveries, but with no success. This search has become more frantic as the price of dreamstone has risen. You’re probably aware that dreamstone is now used in a type of ceremony to help people with their dilemmas and major decisions. And even though only small stones are available – and almost no one reacts to the small stones – dreamstone is acquiring a certain reputation.”
“People are probably looking at the large stones.”
“The large stones are so rare that as far as we know, not a single one can be seen by the public. No museum or university seems to own one, though rumors of large stones are constantly circulating. Those rumors are more prevalent around here, making dreamstone an especially touchy subject.”
“Penny told me the same thing, but I still don’t understand why.”
Peter had lost his cheerful manner. His eyebrows formed great ridges, hiding all but the pupils of his eyes. He turned to Phoebe and said, “The people hunting for the large stones are often associated with Milton Morphy and his organization. He is aggressively buying up all the dreamstone he can find.”
“Why? To get rich?”
“Yes, no doubt about that, though he’s rich beyond belief already. But there are other issues. The large stones give some people the ability to see things of importance, warnings of dangers ahead especially. We believe that dreamstone helps us receive guidance. It’s our dearest hope that dreamstone may be a source of good for our world on the difficult road ahead.”
Peter’s eyes met Phoebe’s in a piercing glance, drawing all her attention. “As a sort of working hypothesis, we picture dreamstone as helping us communicate with the central good in the universe, a source of life and intelligence that cares about us, cares about us very deeply. But we don’t know what a person like Morphy could do with it.”
“The central good in the universe? You mean like God? Come on, Dad, what are you trying to say?”
Peter pinched off the tip of a rosemary branch and rolled the leaves into a tiny ball. Phoebe began to feel irritated. She wished her father would make his point and stop hesitating. “I don’t see anything important or urgent about my vision,” she said. “Why would anyone care?”
Peter took a deep breath. “That stone you looked into years ago may have looked big to you, but it was actually no bigger than a thick book, and the dreamstone crystal embedded in it was maybe the size of a child’s fist. It was much too small to be considered a vision stone. We were very casual with it, but you had an experience rarely given to anyone. You must be very sensitive to dreamstone. This talent, this ability you have, grows more and more needed as time goes on.”
“We believe that these visions are deeply meaningful, not only to the person involved, but to whole communities, to the larger world. They are messages, warnings, major efforts to help us in our time of trouble.”
Phoebe looked at her father in surprise, and gave this some thought. Finally she replied, “But I don’t see any message or warning in my vision.”
“Well you saw her, the outstanding figure among all the visions we know of. She appears in different ways, but there are usually similarities. She glows, and shows us things we need to know. She smiles at us and gives us a sense of good will. She leads people to a problem or struggle they must deal with. Reverend Tuck is elated over her appearances, and quotes from the Bible about her.”
“She’s in the Bible? I never heard anything.”
“Yes, try Proverbs 8 and 9. He calls her Wisdom, or Sophia, and says something like, ‘Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. And she says: Happy are those who listen to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors, for those who find me find life.”
There was silence in the garden, protected as it was from the noise from Main Street. Phoebe could faintly hear the bees, and watched them crawl into the enormous yellow squash blossoms.
“I’m not convinced,” she said. “And even if I agree with you, what am I supposed to do about it?”
“All right, that’s a perfectly good place to start. She came in person to visit you, Phoebe Hood, and showed you something. It now becomes your responsibility to see what that vision means, and how it should guide your actions. Think about what you actually saw. Did she look at you?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Did that glance communicate anything to you?”
“It was like, ‘Here’s a wonderful thing I’m doing for you, and all these toys! Look at the miracle of things coming alive!’ I was very happy. I felt like my little world matters.”
Her father smiled, clearly glowing with happiness. “Okay then. What more can anyone add to that?”