I doubt that most nine-year-olds can understand the concept of meditation, much less employ it, but that's when Miss Porter introduces her girls to the meditation garden. At about the third week, when everyone has had a chance to become familiar with the cabins, dining hall and classroom lodge, and each other, the third year girls are called together, paired up and led through the back door of the lodge into the garden. Outside the lodge, it's just the flower garden, with red roses and bronze fountains and pink peonys. At the far side of the garden is a white gazebo. We are told to be very quiet, so quiet that the bees dancing among the roses sound like thundering buzz monsters. It's hard, but when Miss Porter deems we are quiet enough, she leads us into the gazebo.
The gazebo is four white trellis corners supporting a copper roof and four arched openings. There's room at each corner for a marble bench where one can sit and enjoy the wisteria blossoms that cascade from the trellis and roof rails. The floor is made of four huge squares of white marble, so old that the edges have been nibbled away by time. From each of the three openings ahead of us extend a white collonade paved with white stone chips and flanked with blooming flowers. The collonades extend around hundred feet where they meet with another gazebo.
Miss Porter tells us that for this first time we must stay with our partner as we wander the garden. After this first visit, we may visit the garden anytime we wish on our own. It takes a while to get acclimated to the garden, but that is not our purpose today. Today, it is the garden that must acclimate to us.
Salvia, my partner for this excursion, and I bolt for the next gazebo. We find it is exactly like the one we just left. We look past the colonades to see perfectly square plots of manicured grass surrounded by beds of flowers bordering colonades with gazebos at each corner. After exploring five or six gazebos, we decide that the garden extends in every direction forever.
Our predicament might have been disturbing to some, but Salvia was introduced to labyrinths and mazes in school this past year. The trick, she explains, is that where there is an entrance, there is always an exit. I'm skeptical, but she closes her eyes, tips her nose up to the roof of the gazebo and sniffs as she turns about. Three quarters of the way around, she opens her eyes, points and says, "This way."
I'm torn. I want to ask for an explanation, but I don't want to show my ignorance. Salvia has a way of making you feel stupid, even when you know something she doesn't. I hold my tongue and follow her all the way to the dining hall where lunch is about to be served.