I lived in a house on a hill that butted up to a patch of forest and a hill. It seemed huge to me then; we called it a mountain, and I was sure I could get lost in those woods, even though they were probably only a few miles square.
I liked to go into the woods with a book or a notebook and read or make up stories. Sometimes both. My favorite place had a couple of trees surrounding a circular-ish clearing. It was flat and horizontal, instead of ascending as most of the rest of the hill.
I liked to sit at the foot of one of the trees. Roots formed a nice seat. I’d take off my shoes and rest my feet on the cool ground. Light would dapple in through the leaves. It was bright enough to read, but never so bright that it got hot.
I loved it there, and it felt secret, even though it probably wasn’t. I seldom saw other people in the woods. It was just me, the music of leaves and birdsong, and the characters in my head.
The Secret Garden, by Francis Hodges Burnett, resonated with me because I felt the same way that Mary did. When she discovered the garden, it was like waking up for her. Being in my woods did the same for me.
I loved the garden in this story, though when I first read it as a kid, I didn’t appreciate all the metaphors in it. This book also taught me that people can change. Both Mary and Colin are ill-tempered, sour children. But the power of the Magic in the garden changed them. No adult intervened to teach them lessons. They had to learn for themselves how to be better versions of themselves.
The idea that people can change blossomed in my brain, and it was a lesson I never forgot. People can change themselves, if they want to. They have to invite Magic into their lives, and only then can they accomplish wonderful things.
We’re all connected: to nature, to one another, to magic, to love. We just have to be willing to open ourselves up, put in the work, be aware of what’s around us.
Did you ever have a “secret” place?
“Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett