The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Today I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I read this book when I was a kid, but I did not really remember much about it other than I really enjoyed it.  Now I see why I enjoyed it so much.

Today was also notable as it was my first day back to work after taking a brief hiatus from working (since October).  I took the time off to really think about what I wanted in life and to reflect on where I was, where I want to be, and how I was going to get there.  The new job is a step in that direction, and I am really excited about it.

Reading The Secret Garden made me think about my life – where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going.  It also made me think about my trip to England last summer with my eldest.  We went to celebrate their high school graduation.  On this trip, we took a private guided tour of the Cotswolds.  We left Bath with the tour guide (a wonderful man named Jules from the company Around and About Bath), and spent over 8 hours exploring the English countryside, getting a bit of a history lesson, and eventually arrived in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It was a lovely trip (if you ever get the chance, do it – Jules was AMAZING!!!!), and we learned a lot.

One of the highlights of the trips was touring gardens at a couple of estates.  One was a rather odd location that I would never have found without our knowledgeable guide, but it was peaceful, beautiful, and fun.  This place was named Snowshill Manor, and the house was an eclectic collection of the former owners possessions.  He had collections of spinning wheels, ships, bicycles, and all sorts of other random odds and ends.  The gardens and manor home were nestled in beautiful green hills in the English countryside.

The other gardens that we toured were stunning designed gardens.  Jules left us to wander the grounds on our own.  It was stunning, and it made me want to return to gardening when we returned to the United States.  After Jules left us in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we wandered out to the home of Anne Hathaway (not the actress, Shakespeare’s wife) and, again, found ourselves in beautiful gardens.

As we continued our tour of England, we were able to see a few more garden paradises.  I realized that I wanted something like that at home, and I started to think about planning out a garden at home.  We’d recently had our deck replaced (the previous one was falling down), and no one had really done anything to the yard since we moved in.

It took several more months before I started working in the garden.  I had too many things to do at work, and I was traveling a lot for work.  I often worked 60-80 hour weeks and would get home exhausted and barely able to be there for my family.  I was so hyper-focused on work that I could not think of doing anything else.  My insomnia was also hitting pretty hard in those days.  The most I could do outside of work was to attempt to escape into a book when I could.

As I started thinking about quitting my job, I started contemplating spending time out in my garden that is not really a garden yet.  My eldest and I spent some time cleaning it up – most of this after I finally had the courage to quit my job.  We pulled out old plants.  I won a particularly difficult battle with a small tree that needed to be removed – the stump removal was a victory accomplished while my eldest hid inside the house.  We pulled up the old border work (which I now will saw into smaller pieces to build up the tiered beds rather than letting the hill wash away the fertile soil and ruin the garden).  We built a raised bed from scratch, bought new furniture and a potting bench and built all of that, and purchased many planters and plants that are now on the deck.

I now need to fill the raised bed with soil and get the plants started there.  I need to clear the weeds out of the old beds and reinvigorate them with fresh soil and compost.  I also am planning to plant vegetables, fruit, and flowers.  I have mapped out my dream garden and am excited to get back to work.  Fortunately, I live in a climate/zone where we can get started very soon!!!

After reading The Secret Garden, I am reenergized to start my garden.  I want to include some roses and wildflowers, and I am contemplating planting a hydrangea or two.  I want it to be a magical place like the garden explored by the children.  I want it to be a place where the magic of the world brings me back to life after years of depression and lack of direction in my life.  Reading The Secret Garden at this time in my life was well-timed.

I find myself thinking more and more that adults need to read at least a few children’s or young adult books each year.  I have a dear friend who recently told me he does not read fiction.  I have made a couple of suggestions to him, and I am hopeful that I will get him to read more and more for pleasure instead of always reading things related to work.  I do not know if I could convince him to read a children’s book.  I think something like the magic of The Secret Garden would do him a world of good if his mind were open to the experience.

The creativity and joy of children is something we should all aspire to.  Why do we feel that we need to leave these things behind in order to be a “mature adult”?  Perhaps the best adults are the ones that are able to carry this childish joy, creativity, and zeal for life into adulthood.

I am off to contemplate which book will be next in my TBR pile.  Today might be a two-book day after all.  Tomorrow, I return to the new job and begin my training.  Wish me luck, and happy reading!

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