The Story Behind the Design of the Meditation Garden in Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Rome, Georgia

On October 14, 2016, I presented this brief story for the dedication of the new meditation garden. I have been asked for a transcript of it a number of times, so I will post it here. I hope it makes you feel good.–John P. Schulz

speaking-in-the-garden

Speaking in the garden (Photo by Tony Pope)

Thanks to the Federated Garden clubs,
Specifically our sponsor, The Thistle Garden Club of Rome, Georgia
Lisa Smith, The Visitor’s and Convention Center,
Mike and Leeta McDougald, whose fence started the project,

And thanks to a large number of people who became excited about this garden and provided the love, labor, and sweat that went into its development.

I was asked to design a garden. Not particularly a memorial garden. Not particularly a meditation garden or any other type of garden—just a garden.
But the seed was planted and the design germinated and began to grow.

Let me give you a little background on the design.
I moved to Rome forty years ago. I wanted to grow flowers.
I fell in love with the city and the people here who were very kind and welcoming. I have enjoyed living here and I wanted to give back to the community as I was able.

When I moved to Rome, my son Paul was seven years old.
He was a big boy, and his mother had taught him a poem.

“I met a little elf man once
Down where the lilies blow
I asked him why he was so small
And why he did not grow

He cocked his head,
And with his eye
He looked me through and through.
“I’m quite as big for me,” he said
as you are big for you.”–(John Kendrick Bangs)

I loved that poem. It spoke of identity and self-acceptance.

One day while I was planting things in the greenhouse, Paul came in and said, “Dad, the elf man is sad. He wants a garden.”

What does a parent do when the elf man wants a garden?

We got a big saucer and built an elf man garden. It had rocks and hills and little pathways for the elf man to walk on.
It had trees and bushes and a mirror for a lake.
I liked watching the little boy walk with his fingers down the path in the elf man garden. Later, when his young friends visited, they did the same. The elf man garden was a hit and over the years, we planted many more of these fantasy gardens.

Many years passed during which I designed and planted a lot of gardens in Rome and around the Southeast.
A lot of gardens.
My mind was constantly working on interesting design elements. The people of our wonderful town encouraged my endeavors and allowed me to make a living in this manner.

My brother Tom once said, “If you want to be an artist, first you must call yourself an artist.” So I did. I began to call myself a landscape artist. This allowed me to visualize in a different way.

For a number of years, I had thought that it would be interesting to design and build a garden in Rome, Georgia that encompassed the theme of seven hills and three rivers.

seven-hills

The seven hills and three rivers in Rome, Georgia. Art work by John Robert Schulz

And then, right around my seventieth birthday, Lisa Smith gave me a wonderful gift. She asked me to design a garden for Myrtle Hill Cemetery. My instructions were simply, “to design a garden with a fence and benches.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for the concept of the hills and rivers to present itself. I had to do it. I had all sorts of resources, two of which were Stan Rogers and Jody Gonzalez who work for the city and, more specifically, take care of the cemetery. Stan and Jody gave their all to help with the garden project. They were excited.

I made a scaled drawing, got approval, and painted lines on the ground. We discussed procedures and came up with ideas. A rock walkway would represent the river. Berms would serve for the seven hills. The garden would include sitting rocks and interesting plants.

In January of this year, My son Paul wanted to see what I was doing. We walked up to the site and looked at the lines painted on the ground. I painted him an air picture with my hands. Paul liked the plan.

He said, “Damn, Dad. You’re going to do a giant elf man garden.”
And that’s when a bit of fantasy came in to make the garden real.

garden-nov-15-2015-email

We started with piles of dirt, strategically placed. These would build the “seven hills”

We picked out large sitting rocks and had them delivered.
Stan had piles of soil placed in the proper places.
The project was started.

And then Paul died from a heart attack the first part of March. He was 47 years old.

A bit of fantasy makes the garden real. Art work by John Robert Schulz

A bit of fantasy makes the garden real. Art work by John Robert Schulz

We continued to work on the project after that sad event and the garden took on a new identity in my mind.
The garden became my refuge.
It became a place of peace and solace for me.
I found that there is always a cool and shady place to sit and think in this garden site.

stan-rogers-and-john-discuss-sitting-stone-placement

Discussing sitting stone placement with Stan Rogers

I wanted a garden that would be simple and that would grow and thrive without becoming over-grown. I wanted a garden that would be peaceful and thought-provoking without being complicated. I wanted simplicity.

One day while we were planting, my long time friend and helper, Santos, looked up from his work. He looked around with a smile and then asked, “Hey, Juan, do you have to be a member of a club to be in this garden?”

santos-planting

Santos gets the Japanese maples “faced” just right.

I laughed and replied, “No, Santos, this garden is here for everyone.”

But then I thought,
“You are already a member of the club, Santos.
The club is made up of those who have lost a loved one
Or of those who just need to work something out.
The club is joined by those of us who search for peace
Or for a feeling of belonging.”
Or serenity.

I hope that all of you
At some time or another
Will find time to enjoy this garden
And, perhaps to find something that you are looking for in your mind.

come-to-the-garden-and-relax-your-soul

The meditation garden changes daily. You may find someone you know or someone you knew. You may find a part of yourself.

meditation-garden-october-23

There’s always a bit of warm sun and another bit of cool shade. A gentle, restful breeze will caress your mind.

Artist Statement, Myrtle Hill Meditation Garden

“A garden has four dimensions. As with any other work of art, the garden may be defined by height, depth, and width. The fourth dimension is the passage of time, as the garden changes with growth, the seasons, and even loss at times. Just as the rivers converge and flow through the seven hills, our lives merge and travel through time, and joy, and sorrow.
This meditation garden is designed to be experienced from the inside out. Enjoy the flowers. Close your eyes; feel the shady breeze. Find a touch of fantasy.”–John P. Schulz, Landscape Artist

Copper Troughs and Cancer Reports

I’ll start with the trough. My beautiful friend Lisa Landry owns and operates a delightful home décor shop on Broad Street in Rome, Georgia. She called me a couple of weeks ago and told me that she was preparing to move the shop to a location one block down and across the street.

The first thing she asked me about was a tree to go inside. It’s a neat idea and I have that one under control. The second thing was a water feature. We talked about all sorts of looks and then settled on using a water trough. Lisa looked at picture after picture until she found this one

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

The problem is that I know what the feature will look like and we have a lion’s head to put on the brick wall for the water to come out of—we just don’t have the trough, Can you help us find one? Email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net, leave a comment on the blog, or find me on face book—John Paul Schulz (Rome, Georgia). Thanks in advance.

I wrote an article about Living and Giving the Christmas of 2011. CLICK HERE to see it. I’ll do another article on the shop after the move. I’m sure it will be amazing.

And on to the cancer report. For background, I have been fighting cancer for several years. I had a laryngectomy (voice box removal) in September, 2012 A few months later I was fixed up with a button in my throat that I could push when I wanted to talk. It’s pretty cool.

I am writing this on March 16, 2014, and a year ago I was going through radiation and chemo treatments for recurring tumors on my shoulder. Everything was tolerable and I got through it but it takes a long time to get over those treatments. I’m doing well but still recovering a year later.

On January 28 of this year Dekie and I went to Emory in downtown Atlanta for a CT scan. I got the scan and we had a wonderful snow adventure in the form of an eleven hour trip home.  (Click HERE to see the article about the trip).

I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but we got a call that same afternoon from the doctor’s office that there was a lymph node abnormality in the scan and that I would need to get a PET scan the next week. That sort of information is a little bit scary, but my reaction, as always, was “Oh, well. I’ll do whatever has to be done.”  The following week I had the PET scan and got the dreaded call that I would have to schedule for a complicated biopsy.

At this point I just accepted the fact that I would have to go through more chemo. Dekie and I started adjusting our spring plans around possible treatments. Another snow storm in the Atlanta area postponed the biopsy until March 12, and last week I went in for a “trans-tracheal ultra-sound guided biopsy.” It was a bit complicated. They put me out for a while.

The day before the biopsy, my friend at the bank said, “I sure do hope it comes out all right.” I told her that I was mentally prepared for bad results.

She said, “John, that’s not your usual positive approach.” I explained that I figured if I set my mind on good results and they were bad, I had lost something somehow but if I accepted that they would be bad, then either I would be right if they were or totally elated if they weren’t.

After the biopsy I was told that I would be notified in a few days. I had already accepted the possibility of chemo treatments.

And, Friday afternoon the phone rang. It was the doctor’s office.

“Mr. Schulz,” the voice said, “I have some good news. The report came back negative. You are clear of cancer. Congratulations.”

I could barely say, “Thank you.” Tears ran down my face. I am still going through the mental process of accepting the fact that the results were indeed good and that I do not have to take the treatments.

I have almost finished an inspirational book about cancer treatments and accepting them with humor, optimism, and a positive attitude. The proposed title is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days

–An inspirational approach to reducing fear by facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

A thank you and a love story

A big event in my life is rapidly approaching. For this week’s article I have decided to share my “thank you” to the Rome Area Writers group.  I have been a member of this group for over four years and they have helped me in many ways. Their motto is, “Writers helping writers.” This piece was written for my reading at the April 14 meeting.  I hope you will like it.  It is also a love story.

John Schulz, Dekie Hicks, and Speck the coon hound

John Schulz, Dekie Hicks, and Speck the coon hound

 Thank You Rome Area Writers

 This month’s prompt, I believe, is “why do I write?”  I have thought about this and the only answer I can come up with is that I often get little movies going on in my head and they develop over a period of time to a point that becomes interesting and I feel a need to tell about them.  So I sit down at my computer which has evolved from a word processor which evolved from an IBM Selectric which evolved from an Underwood manual.  I love the computer because of the back space feature which lets me delete and start over.

 The movies develop while I am writing and the changes rapidly turn the story into something I never thought of.  I love the mutability.  I love the way the story develops as I write it. I love the way I can think about it later and think, “I should of put a coon dog in there” and then go add it to the story.  It gives me a feeling of power, also.  Fiction is wonderful.  If I don’t like the way someone is behaving, I can change them or kill them off.

 It kind of reminds me of a John Prine line

“We talked all night ‘til you said something neither of us knew”But all of that is not my message tonight.

My message is to say thank you to RAW.

And to tell you that I will probably miss the next meeting.

 A little over four years ago, I was living by myself, changing my lifestyle into I knew not what.  I had decided a year before to spend some time writing that book that I had always wanted to write.  I had made a lot of changes in my life and I was casting about, looking for direction.  I had exorcised a lot of unwanted people, places, and habits. I was looking for a start on something different.  All I really had going for me was my landscaping and my book.  I had even gone so far as to throw the tv out the window. 

 I maintain the flower beds in the library garden in Rome, Ga, and one day while I was there, I saw a sign that read “Rome Area Writers meets Thursday.”  So I thought that would be fun.  I showed up Thursday and found nothing—no meeting—nothing.  So I researched it and found that the meetings were on the second Thursday and I had gotten the third.  I was ready the next month.

 I went to the meeting and enjoyed it so I joined.  I remember being extremely nervous about my first reading and saying something like, “I’ve never done this before” but it went well and the nice people made me feel good about myself and about my writing.  So I kept up the writing and the readings.  It felt good.

 But I was looking for an editor and thought, “what better place to find an editor?”

And I found one, too.  I met with her and we made a financial arrangement.  I will never forget the first editorial discussion when I showed up to find my manuscript red lined all over the place with some big yellow magic marker lines thrown in for color, interest and contrast.  It was worse than any graded paper I ever got back while majoring in English at the University of Georgia.  I was a broken man.

 The editor pointed out lots of flaws and things that needed changing.

I said, “But I like it that way”

She looked me straight in the eye and said,

“You ain’t Faulkner”

And of course, she was right.

 So I listened to the editor and made the changes and went through many more editing sessions.  It got easier and easier.  My work was turning into a book and I was excited.  I looked forward to second Thursdays at which I shared my progress and at which I received lots of helpful reaction. 

 I had explored many self publishing options and checked out companies like Authorhouse, X libris, and Trafford.  I decided they were rip offs.  I have always had a good talent for spotting a scam. I did more research and then more research and figured out that I needed to do it myself.  So the editor and I set up Wheredepony Press and began a learning process.  The learning process turned into a two year endeavor. The book was published. The book, Requiem for a Redneck received excellent reviews and won a first place award from the Independent Publishers Book Awards for “Best Southern Fiction.”  We were validated.

 Somewhere during all of the editing and publishing I had fallen in love with the editor.  I had started out to write a book and had ended up with a book and a partner.  I had found the direction that I had been looking for.

 One of those movies that goes on in my head still has me pausing in front of the sign that reads “Rome Area Writers meets Thursday night”

 That sign made a lot of difference for me.  I met wonderful, helpful people and entered into a new dimension.  I am happy for that.  That’s what I wish to thank you for.

 And next month’s meeting?  I don’t think I will be here because the meeting is on Thursday night and I will be preparing for a wedding which will be on the following Saturday, May 14.

 The editor and I will tie the knot.

Thank you, Dekie Hicks for giving me direction

And Thank you, Rome Area Writers.

 Thank you, Dear Johntheplantman Readers for all of the support you have given.  This site has become popular way beyond my expectations.

 John P. Schulz

 

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If you would like a consultation with John Schulz, Landscape Artist, in your yard,

Please contact me by email

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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