the garden keepers
The story of how six stone animals: a stone pig, a stone owl statue, a hedgehog statue, a stone bunny, a concrete turtle and a stone frog, all make their way across the forest and discover their purpose as The Garden Keepers. You can follow our story here and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It was another beautiful day in the garden, and Pacino the Pig, Hamilton the Hedgehog and Orenthal the Owl were out on a walk around their garden. “Now Hamilton,” said Orenthal, “You rarely speak, and I believe there must always be some fascinating thought keeping you occupied. Please do tell us what’s on your mind today.”
Surprised at the sudden attention, Hamilton blushed. “Well,” began Hamilton, “Before I came to this garden in the spring, I used to live in the next village over, in the garden of a man who was a fire lookout. I lived there with three other friends: Tank, Frodo and Basil. We used to call ourselves The Forest Keepers, and we helped the man look for fires and tend to his garden. It was fun to play in the fire tower, especially on the Harvest Moon. On that night, we would stay up late celebrating our vegetable harvest.”
“That sounds like a wonderful event!” said Pacino. “The tomatoes are ripe, and the full moon is two days from now. Do you think your friends will be celebrating?”
“Well,” continued Hamilton, “after a while, it was too difficult for the fire lookout to make it up all those stairs, and he decided to retire.
“He loaded us into his truck along with some other belongings to bring us here, to his granddaughter’s house. On the forest road, he hit a huge bump that sent Basil, Frodo and Tank flying into the woods. I watched them get further away, but I was too scared to jump out of the truck. I was the only one who made it here.”
“Absolutely horrifying!” exclaimed Orenthal. “You simply must share your thoughts with us more often my dear Hamilton. It does no good to keep these things bottled up.”
“I keep thinking,” said Hamilton, “That they must have followed the road back to the garden. They must have had a good summer with all the rain, and they’ll be celebrating the harvest in a few days. Oh I do hope they made out all right on their own.”
“We’ll just have to go to this party to see for ourselves,” announced Pacino.
“I know the fire tower you speak of,” said Orenthal. “It is the highest peak in all the surrounding villages, and I have seen it often from a distance while flying about.”
“An adventure!” said Pacino, delighted. “It has been my dream to seek out the delicious mushrooms that grow on the higher mountains. Perhaps I can bring some to the party!” Pacino gave Hamilton a big hug before running off to raid the kitchen fridge for the journey.
Hamilton was touched. Since arriving at the garden, he had never asked a favor of his new friends. He was truly fortunate to have them as companions.
Meanwhile, Basil the bunny sculpture, Frodo the concrete frog and Tank the concrete turtle sculpture were also thinking of Hamilton. “Can you believe it’s almost the tomato harvest celebration?” asked Basil. “I can hardly wait.”
“It won’t be the same without Hamilton” said Tank. “I sure hope he made it down the rest of that bumpy road.”
“No worries,” said Frodo, “I’m sure Hamilton is taking care of the garden of the lookout’s granddaughter.”
“It was a long walk back up the forest road from where we got dropped off,” remembered Tank.
“I thought it’d take us all week to return,” said Basil. “The plants were drooping by the time we got back to our garden.”
“Hamilton would freak out on the size of the tomatoes he planted,” said Frodo.
The next morning, Pacino, Orenthal and Hamilton began their travels. Orenthal directed his companions by flying to the next branch overhead and waiting for them to catch up. For lunch, Pacino unpacked asiago toasted sandwiches stuffed with spiced salami, chicken, olives, artichokes, tomatoes and pepperoncini drizzled in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The sandwich, which he called De Luca Delight, left the three quite full.
“I believe I’ll be taking my afternoon nap now,” said Pacino.
“There’s hardly time for an afternoon nap,” countered Orenthal. “We must keep a good pace to reach our halfway point by nightfall.”
Hours later, Pacino was lagging behind Hamilton and Orenthal. He was not used to all this exercise. He was just about to give up, when a big grey cloud rolled over, unleashing its rain. “Come, come,” said Orenthal, spreading his wings. Hamilton and Pacino drew close together under Orenthal’s watertight feathers as the storm raged. The dry creek bed next to the huddled animals quickly began to fill up with water, and suddenly Pacino realized that his food sack was sinking to the bottom.
“Quick!” yelled Pacino, slipping in the mud as he scrambled to follow the sack.
“Leave it!” commanded Orenthal, “We must get to higher ground quickly.”
Orenthal flew a safe distance from the water, and the others followed to take shelter under his wings again. As lightening raged around them, the exhausted trio settled into a deep sleep that lasted through the night.
The next morning, Basil was busy preparing for the feast. She was hopping to and fro, preparing a bonfire and making lists.
“Skewers would be fun to cook over the bonfire, don’t you think, Frodo? We could have tomatoes and onions and squash…”
“I think I should start up the stairs now so I can make it by sunset,” said Tank. “One step at a time, I’ll get there.”
“You could try a walking stick for support,” offered Frodo.
“Oh no,” laughed Tank, “I’ll be fine.”
Tank slowly worked his way up the steps. He was very unsteady, balancing precariously on his back legs at the edge of each step before shifting his weight forward and falling onto the flat surface. At the fifth step, when he didn’t quite lean forward enough, he toppled backward. Tank pulled quickly into his shell and bounced all the way back down to the grass.
“Easy, Tank,” said Frodo. “Let me hold your hand up the stairs.”
“You’ll be with me all day,” said Tank, “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“There’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the day walking with my best friend,” said Frodo. “Like you said, we’ll just take it one step at a time.”
Pacino, Hamilton and Orenthal were glad to wake up to no rain.
“Today we must make far better time if we are to arrive at the tower tonight,” said Orenthal. “Let’s get a good start this morning.”
“Look, look!” exclaimed Pacino, “The mushrooms have popped up from the rain! Here’s one here...and one here! Do you see them all, Hamilton?” Pacino stuffed his bag and grinned from ear to ear.
“I’ll take the bag for you,” offered Orenthal. “It doesn’t behoove us for the slowest to carry the most weight.”
The three continued along through the forest all day until, at long last, they saw the fire tower in the distance. Hamilton saw a big pile of wood in the fire pit on the way up the hill. Did he dare to believe that it was his friends who put it there? The hill was steep, but Hamilton raced up to the tower as fast as his little legs would carry him.
Hamilton ascended the last step as if in a dream. They were all there: Frodo, Basil and Tank, all of whom jumped for joy at the sight of their friend. They immediately surrounded Hamilton to give hugs and rub against his pokey quills.
“Make way!” said Pacino bursting up the stairs, “There’s a new hugger in the group.”
Hamilton introduced Basil, Frodo and Tank to Pacino and Orenthal.
“We’re so glad that you made it safely to the granddaughter’s garden” said Basil, “and we’re glad you have friends that live with you.”
“I’m very fortunate,” said Hamilton, smiling.
The evening light began to glow over the landscape, and for the first time Pacino and Orenthal gazed out at the mesmerizing scene.
“Do you remember, Hamilton, what fun we used to have in this tower?” asked Tank.
“Oh, yes”, said Hamilton. “Then I used to think that my role was very important.”
“What do you mean, man?” asked Frodo. “Don’t you believe in your importance now?”
Hamilton blushed and lowered his eyes. “It’s just that, well, we used to talk about being The Forest Keepers. Now that there’s no fire lookout, there’s no way we can protect the Earth around us.
There was silence for a moment, then Frodo spoke up. “Hamilton, helping the fire lookout was a very important job, but there are other ways of managing the forest that are just as important. We are each very small, and together our contributions make a big difference in the health of our forest. We manage our garden and the earth around us the best we can, living consciously and not taking more resources than we need. Don’t you see, Hamilton, your simple lifestyle keeps our forest vibrant and healthy.”
Hamilton couldn’t believe his ears. “Is that how you keep the forest healthy, too, Basil, by tending to the garden and being conscious of your interactions?”
“Indeed,” said Basil. “We each do our small part, even though there are just three of us now.”
“No,” said Orenthal, “Now we are six”.
The six watched the sunset in the distance, cherishing their friendship and dreaming of ways they could better their environment.
Back on the ground, the bonfire commenced. Pacino and Basil made juicy shish kebabs with all vegetables from the garden and mushrooms from the forest.
“I never would have thought to make a whole meal of only vegetables and mushrooms,” said Pacino. “The flavors are earthy and surprisingly hearty. I could get on board with this self-sustaining garden concept. Besides, I think they’re catching on to the refrigerator raids. I’ll just need to add a few more ingredients to the garden.” Pacino began furiously scribbling down all the herbs and vegetables that came to mind. “Of course, you three will share your recipes, won’t you?” Pacino asked, nodding toward Basil, Tank and Frodo.
“Right now?” asked Tank.
“Why when we get back of course, when you’re settled in your new garden,” answered Pacino.
“Precisely,” said Orenthal. “The six of us could make a thriving garden quite efficiently. It’s the only sensible thing to do.”
“And leave the garden we’ve worked so hard to cultivate?” gasped Basil. “If we don’t keep it up, it will just return to the wild, as if we had never done any work to it.”
“Our purpose here is finished,” said Frodo. “It’s time for us to be with the lookout’s granddaughter now.”
“I’m ready,” smiled Tank. “Let’s head back with them tomorrow.”
“You’re both right,” agreed Basil reluctantly, “But you’re not going anywhere, Tank, unless you let us help you along the journey.”
“I would be happy to carry you by the shell as I fly,” proposed Orenthal.
“That would suit me just fine,” agreed Tank.
After the meal, Orenthal snuck away to pursue his nightly passion–stargazing. With his star map, he liked to quiz himself on the memorization of the star names. He pronounced them carefully. “Shaula, Antares, Dschubba..”
“Dshubba?” asked Frodo, who had been hopping close enough to hear the recitation.
“Look,” exclaimed Orenthal, “Do you see Scorpio on the horizon?”
“Far out,” said Frodo.
“Sixteen light years to the closest star in the constellation,” said Orenthal. “Perhaps you would like to look at my map?”
“It’s a wonderful map,” replied Frodo, “But I prefer to lay back and soak in the magnitude of it all while I gaze in wonder.”
“Less to wonder about when you have a map,” thought Orenthal, but he lay back with Frodo to appreciate the vast expanse. The cosmos revealed more and more stars as Frodo drifted off to sleep and Orenthal gazed late into the night.
In the morning Frodo, Basil, Tank, Orenthal, Pacino and Hamilton all decided to make their way to the granddaughter’s garden. Tank experienced the thrill of his life while flying with Orenthal. He had never been so fast or moved so smoothly. In fact, he felt it was much safer than stumbling about on the ground. They all laughed and shared stories along the way, and the woods were full of wonders to appreciate.
When they arrived at the granddaughter’s house, Tank, Basil and Frodo were very pleased at their new home. “It’s just like I imagined her garden would be,” smiled Frodo.
Just then, the granddaughter drove up in her car with her husband, and the animals froze still by the walkway.
“Look,” pointed her husband, as they passed the carrots. “We have some new animals in our garden.”
The granddaughter stopped, kneeled down and carefully picked up Basil. “They’re the ones that Grandfather thought he lost! He must have finally found them.”
The six little animals made a garden more splendid than any of them had ever seen. Frodo spent his mornings stretching and began leading his friends in routines to keep them limber. Tank went on frequent walks, with the aid of a new walking stick. He was still slow, but his body became much more capable.
Basil took time each day to watch the clouds that rolled over the vegetable patch, and by slowing down she began to notice more of the Earth’s beauty. Orenthal added “gazing in wonder” to his nightly astronomy studies. Pacino changed his cooking in a way that was healthier for him and better for the environment, and Hamilton freely shared his thoughts with the others.