The Garden of Avalon

apple tree

"...the island-valley of Avilion,
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea."
-- Tennyson

     Journeying past the Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame, you catch a glimpse of an island through the mists across the channel, your eyes straining to just make out a large grey standing stone at the very center of the island, pointing like a long commanding finger to the sky. Arriving finally at the shore, you are surprised by a tall robed figure waiting patiently by a small coracle, who beckons you with a gesture into the vessel. The salty smell of the sea is sharp in your nostrils as you cross the channel; the cry of seabirds overhead and the gentle rocking of the waves lull you into quiet, peaceful contemplation.
     The coracle thumps lightly against the beach, and you look up questioningly to see a stone hut on the edge of the beach, and that great standing stone surrounded by a lush green meadow dotted with smaller stone markers arranged in concentric circles. The meadow is ringed with ancient but well-kept apple trees, and in the distance you see a river snaking through the trees. Nearby, to your right along the narrow beach, is the mouth of a cave, a great stone archway leading deep into a grassy hillside...and you realize that you have arrived at a place that stands on the edge of both Worlds, touching both and yet belonging completely to neither...

     A dark old woman emerges from the stone hut, nods respectfully to the robed figure as he helps you out of the coracle, and then brings her gaze to bear on you. You shift uncomfortably, for it feels as though she can see directly into your heart -- but then you see the gentle smile in her eyes before she speaks:

     "Welcome to the Island of Avalon." She pauses, and the name rings like music in your ears, but your confusion must be obvious, for the smile spreads from her eyes to rest of her face as she explains, "In times past, families lived and died together. It was not unusual for the family cemetery to be out back somewhere behind the house .... or at the local churchyard just down the road. It was a simple matter of going to 'visit,' to leave a gift, light a candle or just make a remembrance of some kind. Today, we live in a much different world." Her eyes sadden a bit before she goes on, "Many times people live far from their ancestral lands and families. Getting home to mark the passing of another year with flowers and candles on the graves of our family, friends, and animal companions is not always possible. In service to the members of our community, we have created The Garden of Avalon, where those of us who have loved ones on the other side of the Veil can leave their names, dates, and an epitaph on several different types of headstones or memorial markers. Throughout the year, especially at Samhain, members can leave flowers, candles, flags, cakes and ale, or just a message when they need to talk to their loved ones. We would be pleased if you would think of this place as your sacred ancestral grounds, and visit your loved ones here often. Feel free to explore the Isle of Apples, and stay as long as you like."

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