By Kenyon J. Eshenbaugh
Edited by Maddy Noonan
Life is a garden. An orderly plot of greens, reds, purples, and blues. At least — that’s how it should be. My garden is chaos. In my garden, weeds are rampant and color is sparse. In my garden, disarray is law. Early on, I fenced my garden in — I knew it would grow and grow, threatening to expand onto and overtake all gardens. The neighbors watched from afar, wondering why and how my once beautiful and vibrant garden could have gone dull.
As I stride through my garden, careful to avoid the bramble that has encroached upon this once sacred place, I notice the thorns. Thorns that drip with the blood of broken hearts. These patches of brambles were at one time a bush of red lustful roses. Now, they act as a barrier; a preventative measure, a wall to hide behind, to protect me from my neighbors’ prying eyes. I can feel their glances turn into stares. Judgment masquerades as curiosity.
The sky is grey and my garden seems to match. All my plants have given up on life, almost choosing not to glow in their former glory. I look out past my fences. I look out onto my neighbors’ plots of land. I stare and I reminisce. Thinking back to days when Father, Mother, and Brother visited this place. Back to days when my violets seemed to sing sad songs as they swayed in the wings and glowed in the most deep, beautiful shades of blue. Shades of blue you could feel, a presence in your chest that made a promise: A promise that someone, somewhere feels these infinitely deep shades of indigo just as you do.
Next to the violets were Mother’s roses, which didn’t need to glow to command attention. Gazing upon Mother’s roses lit one’s soul ablaze with a feeling so intense, it would threaten to consume your very essence. A feeling we all know too well. A crimson that reminds you of those nights you had snuck out to chase “the one” — a red that reminds you of waking up next to your person, knowing you take up all the space in both their heart and mind.
Behind Mother’s roses stood Father’s sunflowers. When you first entered my garden, you would be greeted by many scents — you could spend days following each one to its origin. One of those scents would have led you to Father’s tall yellow plants. As you stood among Father’s flowers, wondering how a flower could be so tall, you are captivated by the rings of bright yellow petals. Their bright hue makes you feel how you feel when your favorite song comes on. This yellow evokes a content state of being, like seeing the sun come through the clouds on the last day of school.
This yellow has a promise, too: A promise that, yes, you may feel shades of blue, the sun willset, and some days it might rain. But that’s why we have jackets and umbrellas, you can’t see a sunset if the sun never descends, and there will always be a tomorrow morning. This yellow promises that shades of blue, no matter how deep, can be washed away with a little bit of sunshine.
Mingling along the patches hide Brother’s poppies, bursting with a bright orange curiosity. A genuine wonder about everything there is on this planet. The orange petals beckon you over, as if they’d like to tell you their secrets. A bright tangerine that wanted nothing more than to get out from underneath Mother and Father and explore.
I reminisce about the day when these colors truly blossomed, then I remember that I am staring off into space in my rainy grey garden. I remember how it once was. How I feel it should still be.
Back in my gloomy present I trudge over to the shed and grab my tools, for I have grown tired of the groom. For days, I hack away at the bramble and for days more I turn the weed-ridden soil. I work from dawn until dusk and each night I fall asleep exhausted and satisfied with my hard work.
After many days of difficult and often tedious work, I stand at the entrance of my garden and behold the fruits of my labor. Once again this land has regained its beauty, this time molded by my hands. It has become a sanctuary in its own right, with its rows of violets that sway and sing as they did before and a patch of Mother’s romantic roses that burned with passion twice as strong as before. Father’s sunflowers stood behind the roses and violets and seemed to smile with hope for the future. Brother’s poppies run around looking for all the new sights to see. These four patches dances together, a happy family in the center of the garden, surrounded by brilliant oranges, greens, purples, pinks, and more. All coexisting in the harmony that is life.
If Kenyon’s story resonates with you and you’re looking for someone safe to talk to, please consider TeenLink, a helpline for teens by teens. From their website: “Our teen volunteers are trained to listen to your concerns and talk with you about whatever’s on your mind – bullying, drug and alcohol concerns, relationships, stress, depression or any other issues you’re facing. No issue is too big or too small! Calls and chats are confidential.” You can call 1-866-833-6546 or chat at teenlink.org.