Secret Garden Book Review and Words of Hope

One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live… surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
There are so so many beautiful and insightful quotes from this lovely book, I’m sure I’ll be sharing them as the quarantine goes on… it is day 4 for me and while I have a few hours free right now and feel like I should be doing some dissertation work, my heart just compelled me to express myself otherwise. The above quote truly exemplifies how even in an unprecedented, seemingly bleak time… you still have control over what you give attention to, what you cultivate, and what you allow to take root inside yourself. Usually, I have been ruled by fear… even before this virus outbreak, and I’m trying to make a conscious effort to not let fear run my life anymore. I have been so bogged down with work lately that this quarantine in some ways has forced me to pause and recognize how finite life is and the connection between everyone and every being in this world. I hope to be even more present on here now than I have been… and especially when my dissertation is done, likely with only about 3 ish more hours of work.
Anyway, on to The Secret Garden. I am going to try to convey the best that I can the feelings and thoughts I have about this story, that in many ways kept me alive and shaped my childhood. It’s amazing to me that I didn’t read the book until more recently, but instead I was introduced to the story via this movie (1993)
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and I couldn’t even estimate how many times I’ve watched it. Mary has always resonated with me… and I’ve always escaped into nature when I was feeling alone and contrary, which is quite often. The presence of nature, personified by Dickon, never abandoned me, judged me, hurt me, or let me down… and it’s something that I’ll never forget– being in gardens when I was younger with the flowers and bushes all much taller than I was.
*** Spoiler Alert ***
The Secret Garden is one of my favorite books of all time… and there are some differences between the movie that I was first exposed to and the book from which the movie was based. I tend to like the book better, because it does not have any romantic allusions between the three characters and Mary in the book finds the key to the secret garden due to the robin, not her snooping through the house. My one critique of the book is that I feel like the story begins being about Mary and then ends being about Colin, without much closure for Mary. In the film that I grew to love, Mary does have a sort of freak out at the end in which she seems jealous of Colin and his father’s reunification, which I always felt some sort of alignment with, because I’m not close with my own family and feel uncomfortable around other people’s family. I just feel like … I was disappointed that Mary got lost in the end of the book for me, but I was really excited to get to have the insight of Colin’s Dad and his view of things, which didn’t happen in the movie.
There is so much to say about this story and it symbolizes so much for me. For me, the garden represents life, spirituality, the essence of who you are… and even if you neglect it for a very long time and parts of it die off, it never completely dies. With some time and attention you can nurture it back to thriving. I think for me, I resonate with Mary so much because if you grew up not having connection modeled for you, of course you would grow to hate everything and everyone– how could you not? I was in that space for so so long in my life, but through nature and moving through it, she was able to not only enjoy people, but enjoy getting to know herself too. Colin to me is the epitome of how you can really trap yourself within your own thoughts. There was never anything wrong with him physically, but partly due to how people treated him, and partly due to his own mindset, he created an awful reality that didn’t have to be. I also feel like I’ve done that too. It’s so hard to see outside of the reality you create sometimes when toxic people feed into it. It’s so fortunate that Mary stumbled upon him and woke him up. That’s what spring time feels like to me… waking up. And for whatever reason this year, despite the situation with the virus, I feel like I’m waking up so much more, in new ways. The world is still alive. You are too. And the garden symbolizes that– it’s the natural flow of life and light that is accessible to everyone who are only open to receiving it. I hope you all can find some of that energy, despite the current state of affairs in the world. I’ve been forcing myself to go on walks and it has helped immensely. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about the book at some point, but I wanted to finally sit down and try to articulate some of it.
Go outside.
Be well.
Natalie

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