A Secret Garden


“Mary Lennox had heard a great deal about Magic in her Ayah’s stories, and she always said that what happened almost at that moment was Magic.

One of the nice little gusts of wind rushed down the walk, and it was a stronger one than the rest. It was strong enough to wave the branches of the trees, and it was more than strong enough to sway the trailing sprays of untrimmed ivy hanging from the wall. Mary had stepped close to the robin, and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails, and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it–a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.” The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

As a child, one of my favorite books was The Secret Garden. I would sit close to my book shelf, or on my knees huddled up close to it, as though, with my little body, I was walling in my own secret garden, and discovering secrets right along with the main character in the story. I loved the secret part, well, more to the point, I loved the discovering of secrets, and special places to go and be alone. I loved the idea that this marvelous place, which had been locked away because of someone’s pain and sorrow, was being enjoyed and revitalized again! No longer was the garden going to waste!

Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place she had ever seen in her life.

“How still it is!” she whispered. “How still!”

Then she waited a moment and listened at the stillness. The robin, who had flown to his treetop, was still as all the rest. He did not even flutter his wings; he sat without stirring, and looked at Mary.

“No wonder it is still,” she whispered again. “I am the first person who has spoken in here for ten years.”

She moved away from the door, stepping as softly as if she were afraid of awakening some one. She was glad that there was grass under her feet and that her steps made no sounds. She walked under one of the fairy-like gray arches between the trees and looked up at the sprays and tendrils which formed them. “I wonder if they are all quite dead,” she said. “Is it all a quite dead garden? I wish it wasn’t.”

I have always loved gardens. There is something really akin to magic in the way a shriveled, dried-up seed can go into the ground, and over time, with care, sunshine, and proper watering, up from the soil spring wondrous things to eat and smell, and look at, and climb, and build things out of eventually! Some seeds take more care than others, naturally, like the more delicate, specialized ones. The rarer the plant we hope to cultivate, the more attention we will need to give while we are raising our little seedlings. Try as we might, some climates just won’t allow us to grow all the things we would love to grow. I live in Washington State. It is a wonderful place to grow many things. Unfortunately, bananas, oranges, avocados, mangoes, and other tropical fruits need much more heat and sun than this climate can provide. Therefore, if my heart was absolutely set on growing these kinds of plants, I would need to move to a place that would allow for them to flourish.

“Mary was an odd, determined little person, and now she had something interesting to be determined about, she was very much absorbed, indeed. She worked and dug and pulled up weeds steadily, only becoming more pleased with her work every hour instead of tiring of it. It seemed to her like a fascinating sort of play. She found many more of the sprouting pale green points than she had ever hoped to find. They seemed to be starting up everywhere and each day she was sure she found tiny new ones, some so tiny that they barely peeped above the earth. There were so many that she remembered what Martha had said about the ‘snowdrops by the thousands,’ and about bulbs spreading and making new ones. These had been left to themselves for ten years and perhaps they had spread, like the snowdrops, into thousands. She wondered how long it would be before they showed that they were flowers.”

Several years ago, my heart had a kind of spring. There had been a different plan. It wasn’t supposed to end up this way. I had been in the line for “Happily Ever After”, hadn’t I? How, then, did I end up here?? I was a bitter, angry, defensive single mom of four small children. Smiles and jokes on the outside, I had also spent a lot of time and effort power-stuffing my pain in a closet in some forgotten room in my heart. Bewildered and betrayed, I had locked people out of my life; and locked away my hopes and dreams as well. My soul curled up in a little shivering ball and I felt all alone. It was in this silence that I began to understand something. We all have a secret garden of sorts. What we hide inside the walls depends entirely on the specific person we are; and maybe even more, it depends on the specific person we are trying to forget we are.

“Look along th’ twigs an’ branches an’ if tha’ see a bit of a brown lump swelling here an’ there, watch it after th’ warm rain an’ see what happens.” He stopped suddenly and looked curiously at her eager face. “Why does tha’ care so much about roses an’ such, all of a sudden?” he demanded.

Mistress Mary felt her face grow red. She was almost afraid to answer.

“I–I want to play that–that I have a garden of my own,” she stammered. “I–there is nothing for me to do. I have nothing–and no one.”

“Well,” said Ben Weatherstaff slowly, as he watched her, “that’s true. Tha’ hasn’t.”

He said it in such an odd way that Mary wondered if he was actually a little sorry for her. She had never felt sorry for herself; she had only felt tired and cross, because she disliked people and things so much. But now the world seemed to be changing and getting nicer. If no one found out about the secret garden, she should enjoy herself always.

But even a secret garden cannot stay hidden forever. More than this, it should not stay hidden. The best thing in the world for us to do when we have spent a little too long grieving and licking our wounds, deep though they may have been, is to open the windows and doors and let in some sunshine and fresh air. It is important for us to allow the spring to come. It is unseemly for us to allow winter to rein forever in our hearts. There is too much to be done, getting ready for the new life of plans and dreams, the seedlings of hope to be letting our ground stay fallow and unused forever.

“Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room. ‘A bit of earth,’ he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind. ‘You can have as much earth as you want,’ he said. ‘You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,’ with something like a smile, ‘take it, child, and make it come alive.’ “

In a way, I had to give myself permission on the inside of myself, to let my hopes and dreams see the sun again and breathe a little. Great tragedies in our lives have a way of making us want to close all the shutters and stay inside. Our nerves are still jangling from the recent blows we have suffered. Tears still stain our cheeks, and our emotions are yet very raw. There comes a time for us all, nonetheless, when we have to step over the threshold and get on with it. A dead end of sorrow is not our destiny. Deep as the wounds are that we have most assuredly suffered, we must not let that be the end of it. You see, jaded and confused as we are in our suffering, we have never been alone.

“The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet blue and flaming scarlet and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together–lilies which were white or white and ruby. He remembered well when the first of them had been planted that just at this season of the year their late glories should reveal themselves. Late roses climbed and hung and clustered and the sunshine deepening the hue of the yellowing trees made one feel that one, stood in an embowered temple of gold. The newcomer stood silent just as the children had done when they came into its grayness. He looked round and round.

‘I thought it would be dead,’ he said.

‘Mary thought so at first,’ said Colin. ‘But it came alive.’ “

There is hope, you see, for even the most dried-out, lifeless hopes and dreams. There is no reason to keep the secrets of your ultimate fairytale dreams and castle-in-the-sky wishes locked away, forgotten. Your garden was planted by Someone other than you. His desire is that He can walk with you there in the cool of the day, pointing out this blushing flower over here, that enchanting tendril of vine over there, and show you a new perspective and wonders at every turn. This secret garden belongs to you, but the world as well. With the treasures inside of these walls, you could quite possibly feed the souls of many.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
    you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30: 1-12

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