A mysterious garden hidden behind a high brick wall, a key stashed away in a forgotten room, and a young, bored and curious girl set the stage for an exciting and engaging story. My favorite childhood novel was Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. I think at the time I was drawn in by the mystery of the secret and my fascination with wild, unkempt English gardens. That must explain the state of my own yard today!

secret garden naiwe great books

My mother was an avid member of the local Garden Club and even involved me in some of the youth flower arranging competitions. I think these activities nurtured in me a love of growing things, as I always had flowers on my windowsill while I was growing up. Nonetheless, I dreamed of the day when I, too, would have a large expanse of garden to till and plant and watch with joy as the beautiful mass of color burst into life with the warm winds of spring.

Alas, by the time I had such space to enjoy, the responsibilities of every day life had crept in to steal my time and prevent my enjoyment of reckless abandon in the garden. So, while I love The Secret Garden I think I also envy Mary Lennox, who has the time and space to toil endlessly in the garden and then to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

She is also able to lure her chronically ill cousin Colin out of doors and he discovers the healing power of the garden. I can relate to that power -  there is no quicker way for me to release tension and feel utterly relaxed than for me to spend a few minutes puttering in my garden.  A case of the blues can be cured rather quickly by a few minutes in the sunshine and a freshly picked bouquet of flowers.

There were life lessons to be learned from the story as well.  People are not always as they first appear, keeping secrets can be detrimental to the healing of the soul; and in gardens, as in life, hard work  leads to more beauty whereas neglect and apathy eat away at the soul.

As the gardener reminds the children, “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”  What a perfect philosophy for life : focus on nurturing the beautiful aspects of your life and there will be little room for the pain.

This post was written for the Great Books Week Blog Tour

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