The Selfish Gardener – A Short Story for Spring

There once was a selfish gardener determined to keep the bounty of his garden to himself. So, he did anything to keep the animals and insects away.

“Pests, all of them!” he scowled. “Why, the birds come and eat my precious berries and fruit, leaving their droppings all around the garden. The bees pester me—I can’t even walk around without fear of getting stung. I don’t trust caterpillars—who knows what they’ll eat, maybe my tomatoes or prized dahlias! Those frogs keep me awake at night with their bellowing. The moles and gophers destroy my lawn. I’ve never seen a good bug, ever! And God help a neighbor’s cat or dog who gets in. Undesirables, all of them!”

For these reasons, the selfish gardener set traps, sprayed insecticide, squished bugs between his fingers, shot BB’s at the birds, and secured a very tight fence line to keep other animals out. Consequently, his garden was quite lovely but very quiet — nothing moved except the slight rustle of wind through the plants.

One day, the selfish gardener fell sick and had to be hospitalized. He frantically worried who was going to keep the undesirables out of his garden. Then, he closed his eyes and in a dream all the animals and insects of the world came to his bedside. He looked into their eyes and only saw the reflection of his prone body. They nestled in close to him, but did not judge the poor man, for they just wanted to see him, touch him, smell and lick him. They simply wanted to know why he was the way he was, looking rather harmless just lying there. So, they began to pray for his recovery. The patient lay very still asleep, taking in the animals’ compassion, and this is what sparked a response in his heart.

A miracle!” The doctors proclaimed when the old gardener suddenly awoke from his coma. In a day’s time he went home with a change of heart, and he had a plan.

The gardener put on his finest clothes and hat and rushed out into the very center of the garden. He raised his hands up high in a gesture for all to come and share in his bounty of food and beauty. The animals and insects and wildlife gathered along the fence. But now none of them dared enter for fear of the new scarecrow they saw standing in the middle of the garden.

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Copyright 2011, C. Forrest McDowell, PhD


About C. Forrest McDowell, PhD

I am blessed to be a co-steward for over 30 years of the beautiful 22-acre Cortesia Sanctuary outside Eugene, Oregon, with my partner, Tricia Clark-McDowell. My lifelong interests in wellness care, psychology, nature, music composition & performance, writing, and meditation fuel my celebration for life. My form of service is founded upon the elemental practice of kindness and reverence for life. Of course, to understand the value of deep respect for life, we also have to accept irreverence as part of human nature and to know that it can be very disruptive and destructive to peace, safety, beauty, joy and love.
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