Meditation Garden

On February 7, 2006, we were witness to a movement of spirit. We call them “Highground Moments”. These moments feel like revelations and hint at a power far beyond our own.

The journey to this particular moment began over three years ago winding its way through the lives of seemingly unrelated people separated by geography, personal expectations, time, and occupation. Their individual paths, like woven threads, form an intricate pattern. They may never know the role they played in this story when seven doves ascend toward the sky from the crossroads of the Meditation Garden on The Highground; yet, each preformed their roles with unerring accuracy and timing.

We will begin the story of this journey at The Highground with the failure of a project built on good intentions. A small building, once our gift shop, was going to be moved to another part of the grounds to serve as a shelter. After weeks of planning and a full day of hard work, the building crashed to the ground. All that remained of the building and the plan were footings on a large open grassy area west of the plaza. A second plan was implemented and a picnic shelter was built upon the existing footings. From the picnic shelter, you could see the outline of the Mourning Dove Effigy Mound just beyond the rolling hills. Visitors were expected to find it a good place for reflection. But it stood alone, uninviting and isolated. Suggestions by visitors, who thought our mission of healing would be best served by the addition of a meditation garden, began to take hold. A committee of landscapers, nursery owners, horticulturalists, and master gardeners contributed their ideas and, with help from an architectural landscaper, plans were drawn for a four “room” Meditation Garden. Our isolated picnic shelter became the centerpiece of the garden. Truckloads of black earth and a bobcat changed the grassy plateau into swirls and pathways. The picnic-turned-meditation shelter took on a greater purpose. With the lighting and sprinkler systems in place and the pathways drawn and ready, the garden lacked a formal entrance, a means of welcoming visitors to the garden. The entry point was there at the junction of the pathways in front on the meditation shelter waiting for us to recognize it. But what would welcome and encourage people to wander, reflect and meditate in the garden?

Early in 2005, a design contest was held calling for a signature sculpture. Although she had never visited the park, UW-Eau Claire art student Anne Jensen submitted a design “for the experience”. Her design, chosen by a panel of judges because they thought it reflected our mission of healing and would encourage visitors to reflect and meditate within the rooms of the garden, depicted 6 birds flying upwards through a large sphere. She explained the birds were meant to represent WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm and Iraq. When asked what the bird represented, she wasn’t sure. It was after she had walked the grounds that she chose doves and turned to the task of finding someone to build her sculpture.

On September 26, 2005, Sgt. Andrew Wallace was killed serving in Iraq. In October 2005, his mother Janie Brockman and other members of his family visited the park and talked to the director at that time, Kirk Rodman, about ways to honor Andrew. One of the options, Kirk told them, was to sponsor the Dove Signature Sculpture. Janie mentioned there had been doves at Andrew’s funeral, but didn’t elaborate. Later, Janie agreed to write a story for the newsletter about the seven doves released at Andrew’s funeral. In the meantime, welder David Hallingstad agreed to help Anne build her sculpture. On February 7, 2006, just 10 days before the sculpture was to be placed on its base, David called The Highground with a change he felt was necessary. Anne’s design specified six doves, but “there was a hole in the center that didn’t look right.” It was just the right size for a dove, the seventh.

On February 24, 2006, Janie and Andrew’s family, Anne and David, set the base of the Ascension of Doves sculpture in the Meditation Garden. Seven Doves. Welcome Home, Andrew.