A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.~Proverbs 17:17 NKJV
Abbott Cotton Martin never knew an enemy; everyone was a friend.
To this day, people still talk about “Abbo”–an English professor at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1899 to 1974. In fact, Abbo’s garden will likely live on as long as the university exists. Sewanee was founded on a mountaintop, where two springs (Tremlett and ATO) come together to nourish the ravine they form. ATO meanders for a mile and then cascades as a waterfall over the plateau to the valley below.
One spring day in 1929, Abbo saw a crocus volunteering beauty to this shrub-filled ravine. Abbo could not stop thinking about this flower. The winter had been especially severe, so to see this little flower lift its head above the snow captured his attention. He envisioned the ravine as a manicured garden filled with thousands of plants that bloomed.
But Abbo’s plans would take place over time, and not without a struggle. Patience plus friendships equal a legacy. That’s what I’ve learned from Abbo. He had a dream, and he would not let it die. He did this by cultivating flowers–and friendships.
Abbo obtained permission from the university to plant more flowers, bushes, and trees and to create a walking trail. But before he could plant anything, he needed to clear the brush. This was a daunting task, so he asked students to help him. Then, help came from German POWs being held at nearby Camp Forrest and from community members. Of course, to Abbott, the new volunteer force were all friends. Everyone was his friend.
Abbo set a goal to cultivate “every flowering plant which would grow in our latitude” (https://new.sewanee.edu/files/resources/v7-n3.pdf ) with full knowledge he could never realize this dream on his own. Year after year, he continued his work, with volunteers and funds coming from various places. In 1964 the garden was renamed The Abbott Cotton Martin Ravine Garden and fondly nicknamed, Abbo’s Alley, in his honor.
By 1969, Abbo was declining in health. Would his dream garden die with him? No. The garden continued through various gardeners volunteering their labor until in 1990, the Friends of Abbo’s Alley fueled the work. To this day, gardeners have improved the ravine and added various sculptures, gazebos, and bridges–along with thousands of bulb flowers including Abbo’s favorite, the daffodil, and a plethora of landscape cultivars. It is a peaceful place, dreamy with colors and fragrances, which provides a respite for residents of the mountain.
More important than Abbo’s legendary garden was his goal of bringing people together to achieve a common goal. He applied the principle found in Psalm 133, “Behold how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1 NKJV)! He knew the power of friendships and the hand of God who puts people together.
Dreams aren’t built in a day, or for one day. When God is in them, they are meant to grow, improve, and provide nourishment to the soul. When friends come together and pursue objectives, we can expect the results to be as beautiful and as lasting as Abbo’s Alley.
Have you met someone who recruited friends, working patiently to realize a God-sized dream? How have they provided inspiration to do the same?
Lord God, thank You for the inspiration Abbo provides to set goals too big for me to accomplish on my own. Thank You that You have a plan and a purpose for every friendship and for the teamwork You hand provides. May the works You accomplish through us last for generations to come, making an impact on the Kingdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Copyright 2021: Abbo’s Alley: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
Published: August 2021: Inspire a Fire: Senior Editor Martin Wiles; Executive Editor Cindy Sproles