Friday, June 11, 2010

The Secret Garden

"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes." from The Secret Garden by France Hodgson Burnett. 

I am involved with a secret garden of my own so Burnett's story is very much on my mind. A favourite from my childhood, I delighted in reading it to my daughter about six years back. Seeing the small shoots of just-planted things, the broad back of newly dug earth, the sweep of light where there was none, birds grabbing the insects and worms is such a thrill, and yet I spend little time in my own garden. There is something about a secret garden, a neglected place ... you can hear the earth sighing as you break it open.  



4 comments:

Gondal-girl said...

I loved this book too as a child, the metaphor of a secret garden is alluring isn't it. I bought it for the Pixie when I was pregnant ( a lovely Walker edition), we will read it together one day...lovely quote by the way, I didn't remember it having such lovely writing...

Elisabeth said...

I loved the secret Garden too with all its magical qualities.

Reading this section again, especially the fantasy of living forever puts me in mind of another equally magical children's book, Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. Babbitt's story goes in the opposite direction, though. It seeks to dispel fantasies about the desirability of wanting to live forever.

The story is lovely, about a young girl who stumbles upon a stream that offers everlasting life and is protected from the consequences of drinking from it by the Tuck family.

The Tucks, mother, father and two sons have by accident drunk water from the spring and are condemned to everlasting life, which of course is not as good as the evil character in the book imagines it to be. The Tuck’s have concealed the stream, but Winnie the heroine who runs away from home because of her awful parents finds it by accident. The Tucks kidnap Winnie in order to keep the stream secret and to protect her from the evil character, who realises that Winnie knows the whereabouts of the stream. He wants to bottle the water and sell to gullible, vain people for profit. Of course the story all ends with a happy ever after.

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

I love how you've ended this post - the breaking open of ground is so emotive - I can smell the earth ...

Mary McCallum said...

You know, GG, I didn't remember the writing to be such a lovely thing either. Reading it to my daughter I was more aware of having to keep up a Yorkshire accent for certain of the characters - tired and after an evening glass of wine it wasn't always an easy thing - but once started I couldn't stop!
Elizabeth - I don't know Tuck Everlasting, but how interesting. A kind of King Midas tale crossed with Achilles? Must look it up.
Kay, yes - the earth (-: