The Secret Garden: The Stories We’re Told Become the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Good evening and salutations from a basement out here in central Minnesota. I hope this missive finds you all doing well, feeling hearty and hale.

Lovely weather today. Spent a great deal of time outdoors working on the backyard. We moved into the house last September, and with a jam-packed autumn, never really got to do much with yard before the snows fell. Since the the thaw, we’ve raked as many of the dead leaves down out of the woods as possible, gathered up downed branches, sowed shade loving grass seed, set up the hammock and a baby swing, and even hung a few bird feeders (our feathered friends still seem wary of this free food…our only takers are a pair of chickadees and a woodpecker of sorts).

Today, my goal was to limb our trees of dead branches as well as clear a path at the back of the property for a forthcoming fence. This gave me the opportunity to try out my first chainsaw (had a giftcard to Home Depot so I ordered a 10 in., 18 volt Ryobi). After the sawing and piling, I went to work on transplanting some bulbs from the front yard to the back. I haven’t identified these plants yet, but there were a rogue line of them growing flush against the house, throwing all kinds of moisture under the siding. Alp and I planted them around an oak in the back. Hopefully they take and thrive in their new home.

Synchronicity must’ve been hard at work as my time in the woods today coincided with our family finishing Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden yesterday afternoon. We’d been churning through the story of Mary, Dickon, and Colin and the transformative magic of their garden as our family read aloud back these past couple months. I’d never read the novel before and had only seen the 90s version of the film once, so there were many elements I’d forgotten or just weren’t aware of.

The Secret Garden - Wikipedia

While there are many lovely moments throughout story, what repeatedly rings true (for me at least) is that we all have the ability to change, or rewrite, our personal stories regardless of who we’ve been up to that moment. This is evident in the intertwining narratives of both Mary and her cousin, Colin, but for now I’ll focus solely on Colin. Prior to discovering and working in the secret garden, his existence is lonely and disagreeable, his repugnant behavior toward others reflecting who he is on the insider. But we learn that these behaviors developed as a result of abandonment.

Colin’s mother died in childbirth, and his father resented him for it, leaving his rearing to servants and nurses. From an early age Colin was smaller and weaker, and while in the care of those looking after him, was subjected to comments and stories about how sickly he was and how he wouldn’t live very long. And the boy started to believe these comments and stories, and eventually just gave up. He confined himself to his room, making a tomb of sorts, throwing fits and lashing out at those who cared for him, because in his mind what did it matter?

But his cousin, Mary, tells him a different story about who he is, and Colin begins to change. He goes outside, into the secret garden and begins to work and run and laugh and play with animals. He calls it Magic, and it is. He’s transformed.

This made me think about the stories we’re told from an early age about ourselves, and how quickly we adopt those stories and make them our own. It’s made me realize how cautious we need to be about not putting labels and stories on kids, because it doesn’t take long for them to own them and carry on the tale.

Best close for now, folks. Hope you all had a grand weekend. Happy early “May the Fourth Be With You.”

Be well.

-Purdy

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