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Love expressed through the creation and nurturing of a garden.
Warm sunlight filtered through the treetops, casting dappled shadows over the garden, the early morning dew long banished by the warmth of the sun .The gardener, a small, woolly-footed Hobbit, surveyed his handiwork with joyful satisfaction; half a lifetime invested in creating a place of beauty and tranquillity, a celebration of life and plenty and of the bounty of nature. A labour of love to honour a lifelong friend
He set off on a final tour of inspection, eager to see that all was ready and that nothing threatened to mar the perfection of his endeavours. He followed the smooth cinder path, his way marked by an edging of round smooth pebbles; each one selected for its shape and symmetry, each placed with exacting precision to achieve a pleasing and eye-catching display, each polished to reveal its innate beauty. The path led him to the kitchen garden. Vegetables and fruit, herbs and spices planted with precision, nurtured with loving hands, tended with the care of a loving heart. Bright marigolds and fragrant lavender inter-planted with produce, vines clambering over canes and trellises, ripe fruit dripping from laden boughs.
Following the path onwards he walked towards a leafy woodland glade, tended with a light hand to enhance its natural beauty.† He stooped and plucked a handful of wild mushrooms that peeped through the soft, damp leaf-litter, snacking on them as he continued his tour.
He passed through a wicker gate into the flower garden. A wild riot of colour and scent to delight the eye and tantalise the senses. Flowerbeds edged with lumps of quartz rock, crystals sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. The gardener, creator of this haven took a seat on a wooden bench and pulled a pipe from his pocket and settled back to allow the tranquillity of the moment to seep into his soul and soothe the frisson of anticipation that caused his heart to flutter.
He had learned his skills at the elbow of a master gardener, skills picked up by example and observation, and more recently by trial and error. And there had been failures and disappointments, but even these had been stepping stones to greater understanding and innovation, no experience wasted where knowledge and hard work could turn them to greater glories.
The seasons had passed, flowing into each other in a ceaseless round, each marked by its own highlights; the first tentative snowdrops of the spring, summerís blazing show of blossom-decked boughs and burgeoning blooms, autumnís bountiful harvest, and winterís stark frost-rimmed outlines, cold earth sheltering the promise of renewal.
The passage of seasons had left its mark on the Hobbit, sun and wind had bronzed his skin, toil had hardened and defined his muscles and marked his palms with calluses, the proud badges of labour. His back and joints now stiff and swollen with age and long use. But the years had brought contentment and an acceptance of a past shadowed by grief. Friendship and companionship offered by neighbours and companions who recognised his worth and his contribution to past victories.
Instinct told him that the time had come.
With a last contented sigh he got to his feet and on impulse plucked a single red rose bud and tucked it into his buttonhole. He latched the gate and followed the path away from the garden, down through the trees and along the well-trodden pathway. He joined his friends, stood beside them, waiting with pulse racing and heart full to bursting.
Frodo watched as the grey sails billowed against the backdrop of the setting sun, getting closer with each passing moment. Elven voices raised in song to welcome the last sailing from the Grey Havens.
His waiting at an end, his gift completed.
His Sam. Brother of his heart.
The last ring-bearer on his last adventure, here now to share the healing peace of this Elven sanctuary. To share his life and his home, his friendship and his tomorrows. To share the beauty and the joy, surrounded by his gift.
The book had been a gift from Arwen, a journal to record his thoughts, his fears, his memories. It had come to him at a time when grief had overshadowed everything, blotting out his ability to enjoy and celebrate the blessings in his life. And she had known and recognised his pain, for it was one she shared; she too had said goodbye to a loved one as her destiny had taken her along her own path.
From that point the journal had been a constant in his life. Everyday he had set down his thoughts, recorded the significant events of his life and of those around him; the big and the small, births, deaths, first steps, successes and failures. For nearly sixty years he had recorded the life in the Shire and always with one ultimate goal, to share his history, to fill in the gaps for the one who had not had the opportunity to share it with him.
Saying his goodbyes hadnít been as difficult as he had feared, they had known what was coming; in truth he had been saying his farewells from the moment Rosie had slipped away from him. Heíd completed his task, raised a happy healthy family who had gone on to create lives of their own. They loved him but they no longer needed him and now he needed to go for his own peace of mind. It wasnít that he had spent his life pining for what could not be. True, his grief had paralysed him for the first few months but slowly with the help of Rosie and his friends he had broken through the pain, had seized the blessings and had lived the life Frodo had wanted for him.
The journey had been long and tiring, but he had needed that time, that space, to leave behind his old life and look forward to the new. He carried little with him; a small pack of travel essentials, a change of clothes, a plate and mug, his little wooden salt box, a likeness of Rosie painted long ago in Gondor and finally his journal. When the grey ship finally stilled and the gang-plank was lowered he stumbled forward, the last to leave wanting to wait until the quayside had cleared.
He thought at first that the silver-haired Hobbit waiting patiently to greet him was Bilbo, though he knew in his heart that Bilbo had passed.And then that long remembered voice uttered his name and he knew that his weary eyes had deceived him. One look into the inky-blue depths, so full of love and laughter, clear and bright, no hint of grief or shame to dull their brilliance, and as loving, familiar arms embraced him he knew that he was home.
For several days he barely moved from bed to chair, exhaustion and emotion overwhelmed his weary body. But he was never alone, Frodo kept him company sitting by his side by day and sleeping in a low cot at his side by night, tempting him to eat and drink even when he had no appetite. It made him smile to think of how their old roles had reversed.
One morning Sam woke feeling refreshed, he bathed and dressed in the new clothes that had been laid out for him. He could hear Frodo pottering in the kitchen and he took the opportunity to walk outside and taste the fresh morning air.
The sight that met his eyes took his breath away. The garden gleamed and sparkled in the early morning light, dew sparkled on grass and flowers magnifying their brilliant hues and colours. He wandered the paths in a daze, touching and caressing the lovely blooms, marvelling at their perfection. He sat down in a woodland glade and closed his eyes, intoxicated by the heady aromas that floated on the breeze.
ďBreakfast, SamĒ Frodo appeared before him carrying a basket in one hand and a steaming flask in the other. They set up the picnic and ate in silence until their appetites were sated and the basket empty.
ďThis garden is a wonder to behold, Frodo. I keep expecting to wake up and find it is all a dream. Itís like the best of Bag End, Rivendell and Lothlorien all rolled into one, only better!Ē
ďIím glad you like it Sam, I wanted to have a garden here for you to enjoy. You donít have to work in it, although Iím sure the gardener wont mind you pottering about if the fancy takes you,Ē said Frodo with a fond and teasing smile. ďIíll introduce you to my gardener very soon, Sam; heíll be honoured to meet you.Ē
ďOh no, I wouldnít want to interfere Frodo, gardeners can be very protective of their gardens, I found it hard to hand my garden over to Frodo-ladís care when the time came.Ē Frodo patted his hand sympathetically and for a moment Sam was conscious that something was out of place, that something had changed, but the feeling soon passed and their conversation returned to the Shire.
The morning hours passed quickly and Frodo went inside to fetch some more tea and a snack to keep them going Ďtill lunchtime. He brought out Samís journal and they sat together opening the pages at random and Sam would share his memories, bringing to life the words on the page. Sam watched Frodo turn the pages and reverently trace his fingers over the words and picture that filled the pages.
And suddenly he knew!
He gently lifted the journal from Frodoís hands and placed it down on the blanket. He took Frodoís hands within his own and turned the palms upwards. He traced the calloused ridges with his thumbs and caressed each dirt engrained finger. Gone were the soft, elegant scholarís hands, ink stains now replaced by the calloused badges of loving toil. He drew the hands up until they cupped his cheeks and he pressed a kiss into each palm. Only then did he raise his eyes to lock with those of his dearest friend. Tears of joy and blessing spilled down his wrinkled cheeks. He tilted his head forward until their foreheads touched.
There were no words that could begin to express the deep well of his feelings and he did not try, words were unnecessary between them.
Love said what words could not.
Shireling. March 2004
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