The natural order of life is for people to grow, evolve, and have the ability to adapt to change. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is really about the transformative power of finding “passion” which gives meaning to life. The author’s writing is very vivid, and the words jump off the pages and transport readers into the story where they become a participant versus a passive observer.
First published in 1911, The Secret Garden is a story about 10-year old Mary Lennox, a self-absorbed, sour and sickly girl who becomes an orphan when a cholera epidemic kills her parents and the staff at their home in India. Mary is sent to Misselthwaite Manor in the United Kingdom to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven who is still grieving 10 years after his wife’s death. Shortly after Mary’s arrival, Archibald leaves on a journey to heal his aching and grieving heart.
At the Manor, chambermaid Martha is the only one who has time for Mary, and she regales the child with tales about living on the moor. Martha also talks about her brother Dickon Sowerby, a spirited lad with a kind disposition, who has a “green thumb” and the unique ability to charm animals. After hearing about Dickon, Mary is fascinated and wants to meet him.
One day while exploring the grounds at the Manor, Mary finds the key to the Secret Garden which she has heard about. Everyone is banned from entering the garden, but Mary who has always been accustomed to getting her own way, enters the garden. Her transformation begins immediately. Later, she meets Dickon and shares her secret with him. Together they sneak into the Garden each day and work hard at restoration by pruning and planting new flowers. Doing something that she cares about, Mary gets stronger and her sickness starts to disappear. Because her life now has meaning, she becomes a nicer person and her sourly nature starts to fade.
One night while in her bedroom, she hears weeping and decides to investigate. She discovers her 10 year cousin Colin Craven who is confined to his bedroom because he refuses to go outside. Colin is convinced that he has a disability and is going to die very soon. “Mary stood near the door with her candle in her hand, holding her breath. Then she crept across the room, and as she drew nearer the light attracted the boy’s attention and he turned his head on his pillow and stared at her, his grey eyes opening so wide that they seemed immense. ‘Who are you?” he said at last in a half-frightened whisper. ‘Are you a ghost?’ ‘No, I am not,” Mary answered, her own whisper sounding half-frightened. ‘Are you One?’… ‘No,’ he replied after waiting a moment or so. ‘I am Colin.’ ‘Who is Colin?’ she faltered. ‘I am Colin Craven. Who are you?’ ‘I am Mary Lennox. Mr. Craven is my uncle.’ ‘He is my father,’ said the boy. ‘Your father!’ gasped Mary. ‘No one ever told me he had a boy! Why didn’t they?’”
Like any other relationship, this one has its ups and downs, but the two cousins develop a bond. When Mary feels that she can trust Colin she tells him about the Garden. Together Mary, Colin and Dickon go to the Garden each day to work.
As the story unfolds, the transformative power of the Garden spreads to Mary and Colin, and, as the Garden comes to life, so do Mary and Colin. Both regain their strength and health and Colin no longer needs his wheelchair. Not only is their health restored through the transformation, but they learn the importance of appreciation and showing consideration for others. What seemed impossible now becomes possible.
Five Great Ideas
- “You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever…”
- “The beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”
- Make life meaningful by doing work that you are passionate about. Live each day as if it were your last
- Everyone wants to be liked, appreciated and wanted. People also want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves
- To receive compassion you have to be compassionate and to earn respect you have to respect others
Though The Secret Garden is a children’s book, everyone will benefit from reading it. Living a meaningful life brings joy, and people learn to live rather than merely exist. In 2009, what are five things you could do to add meaning to your life and work? And, how can you grow and evolve into the multiple roles you play both at home and at work? I recommend The Secret Garden. When you read the Secret Garden, read it with the view of applying the concepts to your life.
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Excerpt from January/February 2009 Ambeck Edge http://www.ambeck.com/newsletters/nl_200902.html
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