Serendipity and The Secret Garden

Friends, tomorrow is June. June! Which means the students I didn't teach these past months are celebrating their freedom, the crab apple blossoms I blinked and missed this year are ripening into fruit, the thunderstorms I lovethe big and juicy onesare crackling on the horizon, and I must sneak in one more post before spring turns to summer, if only to share a few green-season quotes with you from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. Quite by chance, it was the first book I read after Elliot was born, and I can't imagine I'll ever forget that serendipitous match. I read this story of Mary and Colin and Dickon when I was a young girl, of course, but I had forgotten how much truth swirls off every page. There were grand intentions of writing an essay about it, or at least a poem, and sharing that with you all, but instead I have become a master at the art of clipping small fingernails and mining out ticklish spots between the delicious rolls of my son's squishy skin. A fair and easy trade.

I hope these words nourish your spirit and inspire you to step outside and savor somethingthe wind on your face, the pebble in your sandal, the perfection of clouds at dusk rippled with light.



"She flew downstairs in her stocking feet and put on her shoes in the hall. She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it. She ran around the shrubs and paths towards the secret garden."   (Chapter 15)
"The wind swept in soft big breaths down from the moor and was strange with a wild clear scented sweetness. Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in, and his big eyes looked as if it were they which were listening—listening, instead of his ears."  (Chapter 20)
"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."   (Chapter 21)
"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."   (Chapter 27)


  1. Emily:

    Your post makes me want to read THE SECRET GARDEN. My daughter loved it when she was growing up.

    I love the "tender solemn dawn-time". Also, "...the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches."

    I have this view each evening from our library, and it is always a magical time of day for me.

    Elliot is blessed to have a sensitive, loving mother like you.



    1. You should read it, Rich! It's a lovely story. Full of big and little truths. And the view from your library does indeed sound magical!

  2. Lovely post, enjoy your weekend! :-)

  3. A wonderful book! Thank you for sharing.
    There are days when time releases me from regular chores and duties and I feel this same excitement as Mary, to run and be set loose in the garden. Pure joy!

    1. Leonora, I had the same thought! As I underlined this passage, I wrote in the margins: "How I feel in springtime." I do actually go a bit crazy when spring finally arrives. Color!

  4. I've never read "The Secret Garden", but you've made me want to do so. Lovely words, and perfect descriptions of certain times, certain experiences.

    I did have to smile at the line about roses and thistles. I couldn't help but think, "Yes, but they both have thorns." Luckily, thorn-pricks aren't fatal.

    Enjoy this beginning of summer!

    1. Oh, you should read it, Linda. There are so many other lovely quotes that I didn't include here. Just a great overall story.

      And I thought the same thing about that last passage. I was reading somewhere earlier this week about the interplay between happiness and sadness, and how of course you can't really have one without the other. One of the reasons why a rose is such an apt metaphor for certain experiences, I think.


  5. "The Secret Garden" is nearly a rite of passage for some. So beautifully written, so full of life, but not nearly as interesting, inviting, or delicious as the words you string together when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

    "but instead I have become a master at the art of clipping small fingernails and mining out ticklish spots between the delicious rolls of my son's squishy skin. A fair and easy trade." What could be better!

  6. I have been reading Kurt Vonnegut for months, and although I LOVE his writing, I needed a change after the 7th straight book. This is the change! Thanks for the great quotes.

    1. Perfect! I hope you let me know what you think of it.


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