The garden gates of Melleray Farmstead

Garden gates of Melleray Farmstead

St. Basil’s Gate

The garden gates at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins, have in their design a nod to our inspiration from monks and monasteries. No, we’re not monks — we’re a small family with a unique small business — but our lives have brought us through twists and turns to an appreciation of the monk’s essential response to the aspect of divinity in the world. We try to remember this wisdom as we live our lives. In the garden, then, there are four big garden gates, each with a monastic patron saint.

  • Brendan, an early Irish Catholic voyager and a founder of many monasteries
  • Benedict, an Italian monk who wrote the most famous rule for monastic communities
  • Basil, a father of monasticism in Orthodox Christianity
  • Buddha, the prime mover for the Asian form of monasticism

Garden gates and garden prayers

Each gate has a petition corresponding to its patron. (See box to the right.) As you pass, you say the little prayer and it helps you stay on the path. Our path here is life, or, as Buddha might have put it, right life — the whole “eightfold path” of Buddhism. Right life, through the garden gates of Melleray Farmstead.

  • St. Brendan, keep my adventure.
  • St. Benedict, keep my work and prayer.
  • St. Basil, keep my hospitality.
  • St. Buddha, keep my mindfulness.
garden gates at Melleray Farmstead

north, south, east, west, center, circle, cross

The layout of the garden, too, speaks to longing. In the aerial view, left, the garden gates face the cardinal directions north, south, east, west. The four directions symbolize our inclusiveness of the wisdom from all world monastic traditions. At the center there is a deep well encircled by a rose garden and a grape trellis which, in connection with the well’s depths of water, symbolize fertility, St. Mary, and the feminine principle. The womb of life. The “rose window” at the center, seen in white, also marks a sacred place, like the windows of the magnificent cathedrals of Europe. May light enter into darkness. The larger round path, or meditation circle, symbolizes, as all circles do, eternity and wholeness. No beginning and no end, the wheel of time and of life itself. Finally, the cardinal cross touches the center — the axis mundi — and stretches out its arms to infinity to include and gather all peoples into an embrace.

The principal architect of all this — from the garden gates to the symbolic layout — was one of the original two “old monks” who took up residence at Melleray Farmstead in 2007: Don Byrne the Elder. For thirty years, after all, he was a professor of religion. A deep cogitator, even longer.