by the Sage in Sue Blythe

I arrive at the Garden of Unity on the Road to 2020 and Beyond. I walk purposefully to the booth under the live oak tree. The sign says, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
I look through all the shoes and choose the pair that looks most like something my new friend Patty would wear — comfortable gray walking shoes, left and right worn differently because of the limp.
“Where should I walk?” I ask the women tending the shoes.
“Take the path all the way around the Garden of Unity,” she says, “and keep going around the Garden of Interdependence. You’ll know when it’s been a mile.”
So I start walking, feeling the limp as I walk toward the gate, aware of the stroke that caused it. As I step onto the path that encircles the Garden, I feel gratitude for the gift of healing that allows me to walk this path at all. A little way down the road I feel awash in a flood of my deep love for my children — the little ones I nurtured and protected for when they were too little to take care of themselves, and the grown-up ones who cared for me in my time of need. I walk slowly, bathed in gratefulness, soaking in the beauty of the woods surrounding the Garden of Unity.
I come to the fork in the road, and remember to keep going around the Garden of Interdependence. The afternoon sun lights up the Spanish moss in the live oaks and washes me with a wave of loving gratitude for my dear mom who cared for me when I was little, and who needed me to care for her as she neared the end of her life’s journey. I say a little prayer for her sweet soul, grateful that we had that time together as mature women, as friends, as travelers side by side on the Road of Life.
The path is starting to feel long, my limp is getting heavier, and I wonder when I’ll get back to where my walk began. I’m aware of my own frailty as at last I limp through the gate to the Garden of Unity. I return slowly to the booth with the sign and all the shoes. I take Patty’s shoes off and hand them back to the woman. She asks, “How was your walk?”
“I understand Patty much better,” I reply, feeling a close connection to my long-distance friend. “And I understand myself too,” I add, knowing that the cycle of life is playing itself out in my own life, much like Patty’s.
And I wake up, refreshed, connected, and ready for the new day.