By Erin Wooldridge
"Swish, swish, swish." The extensive branches of the tall cypress whisper in my ear. I remove myself from the small wooden bench beneath the tree and slowly begin to make my way forward. My anticipation grows with every step as I begin to recognize the smell; the smell of love; the smell of roses.
Finally, it is in sight with its aura of relaxation and utter beauty. I stop, and without looking down, know exactly where I am standing. Below me rests the familiar stone that I have adored with longing eyes so many times before. The words, "The Rose Garden," are neatly chiseled in the stone beneath my planted feet. I instinctively smile as the words dance upon my lips. "The Rose Garden," I say. I really am here. I take the step past the stone and find myself immediately floating on the rainbow sea which I have been waiting to sail all year long. Red, orange, yellow, magenta, and pink roses decorate my vision and add another stamp to my inviting memory. Each is flawless, allowing nothing to tamper with my undying expectations. Remnants of sprinkler water adorn each petal of each rose, magnifying the roses’ beauty, and causing them to glitter at every angle. The feeling I have been waiting for begins to tingle at the back of my mind. It creeps slowly through my body and eventually takes over. Peace now has control.
This feeling hibernates within me all year until awoken by "The Rose Garden;" the garden which holds my soul. Each year, upon entering the garden, I am captivated by emotion which has been held hostage all year by responsibility. Finally I am able to set myself free. I am able to mindlessly roam the expanses of the garden breathing only the aroma of love, feasting my eyes on every delicate flower, and allowing the sun to rest its head on my shoulder. I can feel again! I become unaware of time although it continues to pass. Outside the garden, every minute brings me closer to the end.
Suddenly, it is time to leave. The whirl of emotion swimming through my mind, and limbs slowly fades, and freedom, emotion, and life, sink back into the depths of my removed soul. I bend slightly to capture one last whiff of one last rose. I gently cradle the final rose in my hand and feel its smooth petals graze my fingers. I inhale the last breath of freedom, and slowly back away. Hollowness shades the pavement in front of me but in the back of my mind I know I will soon return to "My Rose Garden." I will return to claim all that I have left behind.
Editor’s Note: Erin Wooldridge is a resident of Makawao, Maui, Hawaii. She has just graduated from King Kekaulike High School in Makawao summa cum laude and valedictorian. She will be attending the University of California at Santa Barbara in the fall in pursuit of a degree in journalism. Since she was a small girl she has been spending part of each summer with relatives here in the San Gabriel Valley and in the Rose Garden at The Huntington. The above is her story.