THE GARDEN CLUB
As far back as I can recall, truly for most of my mortal life, I have attended and have been a member of various and sundry Garden Clubs. Because I love Garden Clubs so very much, and intensely believe in them, I am compelled to put to pen my concerns for them in this hi-tech, digital, modern world which we are living in.
The Garden Clubs I have been involved in are of the variety which adheres to an ancient Garden Book. According to this Book, a noble Baron, who lived a long time ago, had a very large and fertile estate. The care and development of this estate was given to 12 gardeners. To these 12 gardeners were entrusted the seed to a very rare and precious flower which the Baron had discovered. This flower was unique and had never been seen before the Barons found it. Legend has it that the seeds to this flower fell to the earth in a meteorite that landed on the Baron’s estate. The Baron saw the brilliant “star” fall. He began the quest to discover where it had landed and recover it. After quite an ordeal, the Baron found the heavenly incubator of the divine seed. He then secretly planted the seed. To his awe and delight, the seed grew! The Baron followed its development eagerly. Each day, he notated the flowering plants growth. Finally the long awaited moment came when its buds opened up to reveal a brilliant, radiant, red blossom! But what was even more exciting was its aroma! The aroma would engulf and embrace ones senses with arms of love and warmth never experienced before! The Baron named the flower Aspira Knonia Aga, or Knonia for short. From this flower, and the original gardeners of the Baron, evolved all the varieties of Garden Clubs that exist in the world today. The Knonia has gone through myriads of change. Each change took it further from its original beauty. Each evolution decreased the potency of its aroma. Now, artificial aroma has to be sprayed on the modern versions of the flower for it to have any smell at all. Now, there exist thousands of varieties of the original Knonia. Many have begun to feel, through time, that the original aroma of the Knonia was only for that time so long ago when the 12 gardeners lived and worked. Some feel the original aroma of the Knonia can be rediscovered and that it is for ours and every generation to enjoy. Different Garden clubs grew up around all the variations of beliefs concerning the Knonia. Needless to say many controversies, much infighting, and many divisions plagued the Garden Clubs.
Now, to turn our attention to my Garden Club. I joined this particular Garden Club some seven years ago. I was searching for a Club close to where I lived and which believed the original aroma of the Knonia Flower could be rediscovered and was for today. I also was interested in a Club that had a well-organized children s Garden Club. To my delight, I found such a local Club and joined it. My children thoroughly enjoyed the children’s Club. Great teaching on gardening techniques, the history of gardening, and the uniqueness of the Knonia abounded. The head gardener of this Club was sincere and quite knowledgeable with a deep desire to help us become great gardeners too. This club had a version of the Knonia that looked and smelled like what I read in the Ancient Garden Book the original flower was like. There were circles of fellow gardeners at this Club who would share the aroma of the Knonia flower with certain members of the club.
I would sit and observe how these circles would gather around a flower and enjoy its beauty and aroma together. Oh, the joy that would shine from their faces as the aroma of the flower would engulf them. I wanted to be part of one of these circles, somehow. I noticed there was a circle that would sing to the flower. Singing to the flower seemed to facilitate the potency of the aroma of the flower. Well, of all things, I had sung in a similar group before. I though this would be a natural fit. For some time my schedule prevented me from being part of this circle. Finally a break in my schedule came. I volunteered to be part of this circle, but there was not a response to my offer of service.
I decided to join the Children’s Garden Club class as an assistant. I loved children and enjoyed seeing them discover the joys of gardening. I labored with the children several years. But, I never was part of a circle with those who trained the children. I just took care of my small circle of kids and then went home. I did so want to be part of a circle of gardeners who would embrace the joys of the Knonia together. But, I also had many pressures outside the Garden Club that weighed me down. These problems began to interfere with my duties at the Children’s Garden club. I decided to make an appointment with a Garden adviser to help me through these stormy times in my life.
I met with the adviser at our appointed time. I tried to concisely and succinctly detail my situation. Doing so was difficult for me. It brought back many hurts and questions. The meeting ended without any advice. The adviser had little time until their next appointment. There was never any follow-up or questions about any changes to my situations.
The years rolled on at that Garden Club, and I felt like I was not yet part of any of their circles. This moved me to reflect on all the experiences I had had with Garden Clubs in my life.
The very first Garden Club in my life met in a small, frame building with two small class rooms at the front of the meeting room which were for circles to meet in. My dad would put me on his solders as we walked to the Club which was only a few blocks away. This particular Club was of the variety that believed the original Knonia with its authentic aroma was for today. They would have long meetings discussing this and enjoying its sweet smell! I fell asleep on the wooden benches many times. I remember attending children’s circles in one of the little rooms. I still have, to this day, a picture with stick on flowers we placed on it as we memorized the names of the flowers. I recall that at the age of six, I went through the initiation service to join the Club. They had their own unique verbiage, at the end of which I got to dip water from the huge water tank at the front of the room and pour this water ever so gently into the pot with the blossoming Knonia plant in it. What joy and excitement filled my heart as I did this! But, as in so many situations, deliberate or incidental things happen within the Club members which cause hurt and pain. I had a speech impediment at that early age. Later I was placed in a speech class at school and was able to overcome the impediment. But not before I was made fun of by the son of the Head Gardener at the Club. This wounded my little heart so much. I did not want to attend that Club any longer. When the head Gardener found out, he made his son apologize. But the wound was still there. Anyway, we moved and it was not convenient for us to attend there any longer.
I did not attend another Garden Club for some time. Then there was Valarie! Valarie was seventh grade and I was fourth grade. She lived next to me and I developed a huge crush on her! I would write her poems, place them in a number ten envelop, attach a red rose from our rose bush, gently place it on her front porch, ring the doorbell, and then run like lightening to hide from her seeing me. Well, one day she looked at me with her deep green eyes and asked me to visit her Garden Club. After what seemed to be an eternity, as I stood there mesmerized by her beauty, I finally acquired the strength to respond and said, “Sure”. Thus began my tenure at this small Southern Garden Club.
I soon found there the love and acceptance I so needed as a child. Every time the doors opened, I was there. I loved the people, the smells, the structure of the building, the programs, the music, the meals we had together, and the family we were. Over the years I grew to be involved in everything there from being janitor to actually facilitating programs. I decided this was what I wanted to do as a life career, be a Garden Club facilitator.
So even from elementary school days, I began to prepare for this. I spent many hours at home each day studying the Garden Book. I attended a special High School to learn the original language of the Garden Book. I also studied music there in order to be able to lead music programs at smaller Garden Clubs. By the time I was sixteen I had outlined and thoroughly studied most every chapter of the Garden Book. The Club was ready to license me even at my young age. I was well on my way to being a Facilitator.
But, despite my love for the Garden Club, there was a fact I began to learn quickly. Members of this, or any Garden Club, are not perfect. They are just people laden with all that being human entails. This was difficult for my idealistic mind and heart to accept. I was falsely accused of a wrong without verifying I had done it because the claim came from the son of one of the leaders of the Garden Club. I saw the Garden Club nearly split over arguing what color the carpet should be in the meeting building. The Club did actually split later over a motion to merge with another Club. It seems when the vote was taken, members came who had not been in years, to turn the motion down. The Club facilitator and half the Club left anyway. The remaining Club was severely weakened. A new, young facilitator and his family came. He worked tirelessly to rebuild the Club. He had a nervous breakdown. I began to learn how each club was blessed and challenged by the humanity of its members.
Then, one of those watershed events happened in my life. My mother was a member of a specific Garden Club that not only believed the original aroma was for today, but also that this original aroma gave members special and unique abilities and gifts. She would take me periodically to meetings where visiting facilitators expounded this belief. One such meeting occurred a bright Sunday afternoon at 2:30. It was held in a large tent with a saw dust floor. Folding wood chairs were arranged around a small platform and an organ. There were about fifteen people waiting for the facilitator. In a few moments a large, rotund gentleman walked slowly down the aisle. He looked the crowd over. It must have been because of the size of the crowd, he decided not to speak, but just to talk to each of us individually, to encourage us. When he spoke with me, my arms automatically flew up in the air and I, without any effort on my part, began to speak in words I had never learned! He told me this was a special gift the aroma from Knonia had given me. That was so overwhelming because I was not thinking about any such thing or pursuing it. It just happened.
I kept this event to myself because the Club I attended and served at did not believe these aromatic special gifts were for today. I held the experience close to my heart and set forth to restudy the matter on my own. After further extensive research and reflection, I came to accept my experience as being valid and true. The aromatic gifts were for today as they were for the past.
I purposely did not advocate this position in respect for my Clubs position on the matter. But, another watershed moment came. I was Facilitating a special youth service one day. I had invited a young musical band to play for this meeting. In between their songs, without my knowledge or permission, they began to talk about how they believed and experienced the aromatic gifts. This brought the issues to the forefront.
Our Club facilitator asked to speak with me in his office Wednesday evening. I attended this meeting with great fear and trepidation. He simple asked if I believed what the young men had talked about. I admitted that I did. Then he asked wouldn’t I be happier at a Club that believed that may. I responded that I was happy where I was. “Fine” was his reply. But things were not fine from that moment on. I was relieved of all my places of service and responsibly at my Club. I was internally ostracized. The pain was overwhelming.
A friend of mine and my mother came to my rescue. This friend had visited my Garden Club but had never joined it. He came to know the power of the Knonia aroma and its gifts at a small country Garden Club. He began attending a Club exploding with growth that was not too far from me. It also turned out to be the variety my mother use to attend. She encouraged me to try this Club out. Between the two of them, and at their instance, I did.
This Club was undergoing tremendous growth. It seems many young people who had turned their back on Garden Clubs, were coming home to them. The atmosphere was electric. The sweet aroma of the original Knonia was truly there. The special aromatic gifts were in operation. I felt so at home. This was also a season when the sweet aroma of the Knonia and its gifts were flowing into the old, traditional Clubs who had lost the aroma. The facilitator of the Club I now attended took these traditional club facilitators under his wings. I remember one special meeting where all these diverse and in congruent clubs met together. It was unbelievable to see all the different forms, functions, opinions,( many of which were completely incompatible) history, and styles of each variety of Garden Club, to lay aside all their divisions and join as one under the umbrella of the sweet aroma and its gifts, in order to see the ultimate Garden Club come. It was awesome and miraculous
I planted my membership there and began to serve in any way I could. It was an exciting time. We were all involved in many and various outreaches to take the Garden Club to the world. Many unexplainable things happened in the process. It felt like the times of the original Knonia were here again!
I began my training to be a facilitator at a local school for that purpose. It was of the variety that had asked me to leave years ago. I decided to attend anyway because of the quality of its training. They allowed me to even do a special research project concerning the history and development of this aromatic renewal. I ended up graduating at the top of the facilitator’s class. I was offered a scholarship for further training, but turned it down out of an earnest desire to get to working in the dirt at Garden Clubs. I had had enough training in theory and desired application.
After graduation, I had a short internship at my Garden Club. I looked with such anticipation on the opportunity to work beside and glean from its facilitator. My expectations were unfulfilled. In addition to this let down, I was engulfed in controversy again over the aromatic gifts. The Club I now attended had 10 specific points all were expected to agree on, especially if you were to be a facilitator. I could not agree with two of them. I was told by an assistant facilitator to just give a tacit approval to the two statements I did not believe and when I got my own Garden Club I could just teach as I pleased. I, in my idealistic honesty, could not do that.
Also, unbeknownst to me, the assistant facilitator who had so advised me, was leading a split in this Garden Club. The head facilitator must have thought I was involved in this, but I was not. The net result was I was again on the outside, looking in.
After preparing most of my life for serving a Garden Club as a facilitator, I seemed cut off from the opportunity to do so. I discovered that there were red lines each variety of Garden Club had concerning their doctrines. If you crossed these lines, you were out. I slipped into a deep emotional valley. I had to take a non-Garden Club job to be able to support my family. Things seemed very bleak.
It was only for a short time I walked in this valley. I still believed in the truth of the Garden Book and the sweet aroma of the Knonia, despite all the imperfections of those around it. A friend, who had experienced some of the same disappointments, contacted me. He had found a new Garden Club that had been started. It met in a High School auditorium because it had no permanent building yet.
The facilitator was a young, charismatic man who actually had graduated from the same Garden School I had attended. He was also part of the variety of Clubs that had asked me to leave when I was a young man. His positions were the same as mine. I found a home!
This Garden Club exploded with growth. Soon we raised enough money to build a meeting building. We had one meeting a week. But, due to the massive influx of attendees, we grew to 5 meeting on Saturdays. I began to find places of service there. I played my guitar and sang, rotating throughout the nursery classes. Soon I was commissioned to lead a small Garden Club group in my home. The vision of this Garden Club was to have hundreds of such small groups scattered all over the metroplex so everyone could be part of this Garden Club movement. I led my group for two years. It had such an unusual assortment of people and needs than I had ever experienced. It reflected the neighborhood we lived in. Many times different people stayed with my family because they had no place else to turn to in their need. In addition, I taught a Garden Study group for those who were from another country. I searched and found the Garden Book in their language. Life was very rich, full, and busy. Our Garden Club was termed a Mega Garden Club and soon gained international attention. The sweet aroma of the Knonia and its gifts was falling like rain all over the world.
But, as always, human nature comes to play. Because of the growth, standardization of Gardening rules was established to make governance easier instead of waiting on the effect of the Knonia’s aroma. Excesses began to evolve around the sweet aroma and its gifts. In some meetings, attendees began to laugh uncontrollably. They would end up rolling literally on the floor. There was little time for gardening instructions or order during these meetings. Some clubs had meetings that were hours long and consisted of pretty much music, gyrations, and uncontrollable physical motion. The truth and sweetness of the Knonia seemed to be lost in the many excesses.
Leaders began to fall one by one. The power and corruption of too much money brought down several. Honest over commitments of time and service by some lead to their fatigue, which resulted in bad decisions being made in many areas of their lives and ministries. Our facilitator fell into the latter group, and soon I was disillusioned again. Our Club was geographically some distance away, so it became easy for me to decide to attend another. The Club dwindled in size until the building had to be foreclosed on. Many hearts were broken again over these events.
My family and I began to attend the Club in my neighborhood I had attended previously. My children seemed to love it. We were planted there and began to attend and serve the Club. My children were engaged in the Youth Gardeners. I sang again in the choir, began to perform in drama gardening presentations, and became the bus facilitator. I scheduled and ran two buses to bring people to the Club meetings who did not have transportation.
It was during our time there I encountered several personal losses. I went through a divorce with my wife of 18 years. My children suffered deeply from this. We turned to the sweet comfort of the aroma to see us through. I took my children on a special trip our Club took. The Club loaded up most of its members on buses and headed to Florida, to experience an intense aromatic manifestation occurring at a Club there. People came from many States to experience the events there. Lines formed for hours as attendees waited to enter the meetings. Some of the events there began to trouble me. As we rode home in the caravan of buses, I continued to ponder all that we had experienced.
We arrived home after many hours of travel. From the time we stepped foot in our meeting hall, excesses began to occur. Some months later, our three head facilitators went again to the Club in Florida. When they returned they told of such unusual happenings, it was hard to take it all in.
Our Club fell into more excess. Many began to leave. I and my children joined these. The governing body over this Club attempted to take it over to remedy the excesses. Due to a threatened law suite, it was decided to let the Club go its own way. The membership fell from thousands to less than 50. Again, human nature with all its frailties and weakness came to play. It is easier to dwell in the arena of extremes than the narrow road of balance. In reflection, I recall human natures raising its ugly head of moral failure at least a dozen times during my two times at this Club. Many attendees carry deep wounds from their experiences there. But, my belief in the Baron, the Garden Book, and the sweet aroma of the Knonia lead me to seek another Club to join.
I had heard good reports about a new Club in the northern part of town. The facilitator was older and wiser, yet very contemporary and passionate. I and my family began to attend there. It too was of the variety that believed in the sweet aroma of the Knonia and its gift being relevant today. But, their focus was very balanced. They also held to the strategy to have hundreds of local small Garden Club classes held in member’s houses all over the metroplex. This Club was also focused on the mission of taking the story of the Knonia to the world. Hundreds of short term trips were available to accomplish this. The question was not whether or not to go, but where to go. I went on one such trip to Russia. It was life changing. This Club, in addition, was engaged with the community and the Arts. Gallery exhibits were held at their meeting house. Many professional level dramas and plays were produced there. This Club was vibrant and exploding with growth. It offered 24/7 use of the meeting building and facilities there. I became involved in the neighborhood classes by hosting a college and career club in my home. I assisted with the music for this class. I was part of the drama team. Then I became the assistant director for education services for the Saturday evening programs. But, problems loomed on the horizon.
The head facilitator was mature in age, but had some health problems. He had a series of significant losses. He lost his son-in-law to brain cancer, his dearly beloved brother to cancer, and suffered a divorce after many years of marriage. This occurred in a short amount of time, right in the middle of our last building campaign and after the announcement of a new mission goal to establish 1000 new Clubs around the world. It all took a severe toll on the facilitator. He announced his retirement. It all seemed strange to me because in not too long a time, this same facilitator started a new Club not far from this one. It was rumored the governing board forced the facilitator out due to his divorce. This same board had a vision of who the new facilitator should be. Having heard this facilitator, I did not agree, nor did many. This new facilitator took over. The attendance dropped by 80% over several years and the beautiful Club facility ended up being sold to a very strong and established Mega Club of the sort that had asked me to leave years ago.
While still at this Club, as already mentioned, I hosted a Club neighborhood class in my home. There was a very talented young couple who attended. They had been asked to lead the music at an old, traditional Club that wanted to bring in new attendees by a contemporary meeting on Sunday nights. This couple asked me to sing and play my guitar with them. The meeting was named Gardening After Dark. It was hoped that people who did not gravitate toward gardening would be attracted to this style of meeting. I gladly agreed to help.
The time at this little Club became cherished to me. I quickly became involved in several aspects of the Club. I served on the steering committee that wrote the strategic plan for the Club. I went on two mission ventures with them to take the Garden Club to other parts of the world. After each meeting, most of the attendees and the facilitators would go out to eat with each other. We would drink, eat, and talk for hours about the many questions we all had about Gardening. Though there were many differences of opinions, we all loved and accepted each other.
There was a sweet aroma of unity and fellowship among us. The special aromatic gifts were not taught there, but the aroma was definitely there.
I often reflected that this was the way Garden Clubs should be. The small size and the heart of the facilitator to be accessible, allowed the sweet aroma to knit us together in love. I came to the opinion that a Club should not be larger than the number of members the facilitator could know and personally visit at least once each year. If a Club grew beyond this, additional assistant facilitators should be added that would be sufficient for them to visit members in their home at least once a year.
I served, taught, sang, played, and labored at this Club for 4 years. But, it too had their struggles. The larger governing body it was a member of was, for the most part, very liberal. It is an observation that liberal Club networks are many times more accepting of people and differences of opinions than conservative Club networks. The liberal Networks seem to be more active in meeting social and physical needs of non-Garden Club people. This Liberal Club network began to make decisions and standards of operations which many of the Clubs in their network could not agree with. The facilitator of our Club was even more conservative than most of its own members. Many members began to leave our Club. The facilitator eventually left and started a Club in the suburbs, of another conservative network. My schedule and life didn’t allow me to go to the new Club. I left but had many cherished memories and friends from my time there.
While at both of the previous Clubs, I went to an artistic Club outreach in an area of town full of bars and music. The venue was called the Blue Door. In it Garden Club musicians, poets, artist, and dancers performed demonstrating their talent and showing that there was room for artistic expressions in Garden Clubs. I thoroughly enjoyed this and agreed with its philosophy. From this encounter I became associated with an outreach Club in the heart of this neighborhood. This Club was of the Aromatic Clubs that believed in and practiced the special gifts. The facilitator was a young man who had overcome many struggles, one which was the demon of drugs. He and the Club had such zeal to help those who frequented this area and would normally never set foot in a traditional Garden Club. I began to visit there. In not too long a time, I was asked to play in their Club band. I agreed. So, for a period of time I was serving at three Clubs. Saturday evening I was the director of Club education for the Club north of downtown. Sunday morning I played in the Club band downtown. Sunday evening I was at the Gardening After Dark Club meeting. Each had their own niche of outreach and methods to take Garden Clubs to all here and around the world.
I ended up eventually just at the downtown Club. I served there. Again I hosted a small Club class in my home. The facilitator there even asked me to be a teacher there. But, I had to agree with the ten tenants of their Club network. As what happened in the past, I could not in honesty do this. I could not accept the position.
Many miracles occurred at this Club. One of notable mention was the gift of a million dollars to buy and establish a larger meeting facility in their area. During the construction phase, I was no longer allowed to be in the band. Attendance of my Club class became more difficult because of the area and safety concerns. I began to attend less and less with little notice of my absence. It was during this time I went through many deep waters in my personal life. It seems the deeper the water, the further I slipped away from all Clubs. So it was here. Eventually I learned that the facilitator of this Club had fallen and confessed such at one of their Club meetings. He left the club and his family ended up in divorce.
I fell into depression, disillusionment, and excess that lasted several years. I conducted myself in ways I never dreamed I would. Despite all I had gone through, I would look up at the skies in the wee hours of the night, after having been out drinking, and say with tears in my eyes that it’s not suppose to be this way.
But, the sweet aroma of the Knonia never left me. I could never be happy until I was restored. It was not one event, but a slow restoration I went through. Part of the process was my having to help care for my grandchildren and daughter. I had to do right for them and be sure they were in a good Garden Club so they could know the sweet aroma of the Knonia.
This brings me back to where I was at the beginning of this narrative. So now I am still at the aromatic Club I mentioned first. I am happy to report that I took the initiative and found a neighborhood Club class that I joined. I finally had the community I desired.
But, on one evening, when my Club didn’t meet, I attended another large Club downtown to listen to a facilitator teach on a chapter within the Garden Book dealing with the conditions the world and Garden Clubs would be in at the end of time. This was a 3 month teaching. While there, the attendees would sing together. On several occasions, the people in front of me would turn around and say that I needed to sing in their Club choir. I politely told them I was not a member of their Club but just visiting to hear this teaching.
It wasn’t too long until I received a phone call from a shepherd in that Club choir asking me to sing with them. I did so love to sing and missed doing it greatly. I agreed because I would be able to juggle my schedule to attend both Clubs. Over the next three years this became nearly impossible because the downtown Club had built a massive new building and the meeting schedules and demands had changed. I still attend both, alternating between the two.
This downtown Garden Club is led by a very articulate and learned facilitator. He propagates the truths of the Garden Book without fear or hesitation. He, nor this club, shies away from taking a stand for truth. There is such a sweet aroma there even though they also don’t adhere to the belief the aromatic gifts are for today. Such great ministry and missions goes from this Club to the whole world! My time with the Club choir has been awesome. I feel so welcomed there! The spirit of community fills the ranks of the choir. I feel so blessed and honored to be able to share in this and play my small part in it.
It is interesting that this downtown Club is of the network that had asked me to leave because of my beliefs about the aromatic gifts when I was a young man and the other club I concurrently attend is of the network similar to the one that would not license me because I did not agree with their 10 tenants. So again, I am caught between two networks of Garden Clubs over these issues.
Having walked down all the many paths and experiences with Garden Clubs mentioned already, the last question that persistently nags at my heart and soul is why can’t all Garden Clubs, especially those that believe in the Baron still being alive, believe in the truth of the Garden Book, and believe in the sweet aroma of the Knonia, why can’t we unite in that sweet aroma of the Knonia and work together, as one in Him, to complete the task given to us by the Baron Himself of turning this dry and barren world into a Garden Club full of the Knonia. Why? The answer is up to us! The future of the world depends on our answer!