You’re alive—and it matters.
I read “The Secret Garden” by Francis Hodgson Burnett when I was about 10 years old. Recently, my son was getting ready for a camping trip with his classmates that involved a 10-hour drive. I was thinking of how to keep him occupied for the long trip and remembered this book from my childhood. I looked it up, curious if it would be interesting to him. I was surprised to find that this classic, published in 1911, has some very “new age” themes about dysfunction, healing, and nature’s magic. And I wondered at how its message may have been percolating in my consciousness my whole life, the story dripping through my veins like an IV placed by a spirit nurse.
The main characters, Mary and Colin, are children cut off from their family and their community—the village, the human ecology of love—and who experience severe physical and emotional sickness as a result. Like any living thing that gets neglected, they cannot healthily grow. Without love, tending, and inclusion, they become stunted outside and twisted within, the mirror of the locked-up secret garden at Misselthwaite Manor, where orphaned Mary is sent to live, and where Colin is shut away as the family’s dark secret. Mary knew nothing of hardship and was spoiled until her parents died; Colin was equally spoiled and secluded from society due to apparent illness. Though it was normal for the time, we clearly see that being sheltered helped neither of them. Isolation isn’t safety. And it’s far from the best way to grow.
When the soul of nature enters their world in the form of an animal-loving boy named Dickon, everything changes. Like an Angel of the moors here to lead them to healing, he shows them true abundance, present in the patterns of nature all around the English countryside. Dickon lives and breathes as an extension of the earth itself, and he brings them to eye level with what each small creature needs to thrive. He teaches them about growth, cycles, and the interconnectedness of all life, as he engages them in the wonders of the garden and forest.
The lesson is not abstract. Dickon teaches them through living matter. He shows them that they, too, are creatures alive and full of love. Mary and Colin begin to open as buds open. They reach for life and new understanding as branches reach for sun. They prune ideas that are no longer necessary, seeing how those ideas can be harmful. They attend to what is, as it is. And as they witness their own flourishing, their spirits lift with hope.
We too are made of matter. We live in an ecology, with cycles. We experience birth and death—our own, and others’. We go through changes of relationships and health. We have marriages and miscarriages. Nature allows for everything. It encompasses decay and resurrection. Seeds are often found in rot.
When we suffer a loss or a trauma, we can look to this living model for our own next steps. We start with a seed: whatever is most important in our hearts. We build a system of love and nourishment to support it. We prune what isn’t necessary. We do the work ourselves; we help others. We speak love as our seed starts to sprout. We dare to hope for growth. And we say thank you for each new chance, each new cycle—to our Angels, ourselves, and to the earth that loves and holds us all.
I wonder if my son will enjoy or appreciate this book. I think I’ll read it again myself. I’m curious if it will start a new cycle, how the healing message will reach me on a different and maybe deeper level, now 35 years later.
A while back, after a hard year, I attended a workshop where the facilitator asked us what makes us feel alive. Most people talked about their children and hobbies. I love those things too. But my reply was, “like a bird, when I’m flying and am forced to fly through a really bad storm... I come out of it and find I’m still flying, I am alive. I’ve made it.” I am stronger for all of my experiences, and I am still flying. You are too.
Plant your seed, your most important thing, and build a loving ecosystem around it. Water it, fertilize it, sing to it every day. Dare to hope for healing and growth. A window and sunshine—everything you need is here. Make the changes to evolve into who you want to be. You are the seed. You are an Angel Being. Oh, and your Angel says, “You’re welcome.”
Namaste and blessings.