A Local Pilgrimage

By Forrest Moore and Jane Coulter

Re- entry into the world after a period of solitude we are discovering that much of life is beyond our control. What we can control are simple actions such as carving time out of our normal day for a small pilgrimage.  A spiritual journey, especially in a beautiful natural setting, allows for un-cluttered thinking that doesn’t happen in the midst of daily routines. 
   Consider taking a small pilgrimage to the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden, the jewel in the crown of Mill Mountain. It is a wonderful place to enjoy a short or long walk. Once there, allow your eyes to drift from one garden treasure to another, inviting reflection and contemplation as you follow meandering paths that allow your consciousness to expand and deepen. 
   A little history. Over 50 years ago, the City of Roanoke asked Mill Mountain Garden Club to “do something on the mountain.”  The club accepted the challenge and worked with city leaders to plan and create a wildflower garden.  In 1971 the master plan was approved and the club was ready to dig in and hit the ground running to change 2 ½ acres of blighted and neglected land into a wildflower garden and restored natural habitat.  
   Fast forward to 2020, a restoration of the wildflower garden provided necessary updates to the gardens’ natural spaces: re-imagined pathways that are ADA compliant, many new stone garden features, a new cascading pond, children specific gardens, expanded eastern and western mountain views and a commitment to native plantings.
   This task was accomplished thanks to Asheville, NC, landscape designer and Roanoke (and St. John’s ) native, Art Garst. Yes! Son of Ann Garst and brother of John. He, along with members of Mill Mountain Garden Club, has implemented a four-season garden design where visitors can follow meandering trails, sit on beautiful stone benches to listen to the meditative sound of moving water, or reflect on the surrounding beauty of the garden’s infusion of native plants.  Spring wakens the heart and soul with a burst of blooming trees, ephemerals and other wildflowers like trillium, columbine, and mayapple.  Summer colors dazzle as they buzz with pollinators visiting coneflower, rudebekia, Larkspur, rhododendron, and wild azalea. Fall is set ablaze by the changing colors of the tree canopy. Winter days are brightened by the purest sunlight dancing through trees and warming the garden floor. 
   It is an honor and privilege for Mill Mountain Garden Club  to tend and provide the gift of a wildflower garden to local and travelling visitors. Roanoke is blessed to have a mountain in the midst of the city providing easy access for a small pilgrimage.  Pilgrims can walk from the base of the mountain up the “old road” or follow one of many hiking trails that lead to the top of Mill Mountain or….. simply take the scenic drive up the mountain and park in the Discovery Center parking lot. 
   As you wander the paths of the garden, discover the awe of God’s creation. Intertwine your steps with prayer. Be mindful of each moment.  Practice the discipline of gratitude. Look for the grace that can shine through the most seemingly mundane as sunshine dapples and dances through the garden’s canopy. The journey of life is a pilgrimage, a seeking of the divine in moments both ordinary and extraordinary.  We hope you will find those moments in the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden! 
   For more information go to millmountaingc.org and click the “in the community” link.

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