Your Secret Garden

What are you growing inside you?

Garden scene with orange roses in foreground, and yellow roses climbing an arch.
A day of roses in the garden at Evergreen

Everyone has a secret garden.


I recently watched the 2020 film The Secret Garden, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel of the same name. A hundred and twenty years later the book is still a children’s classic. This is because of its universal themes, like the healing power of nature and the importance of feeling loved. In the story, the garden blooms in response to the attention given to it by Mary and Colin, and, reciprocally, they are healed in the life-giving atmosphere of the garden.


There are countless gardens in the world: the extraordinary Dubai Miracle Garden; humble windowsill gardens; symmetrical herb gardens, sweet cottage gardens, Japanese pebble gardens, the small garden at Evergreen where I live, and the garden that grows inside each of us — our own secret garden.


It’s a secret garden because it’s invisible to others. Only we know what we’ve planted there. Only we know what may bloom.


Think back to your childhood. Can you recall the garden you spent time in? Mine had a silver birch tree, a compost heap, one burgundy camellia bush, an almond tree and flower beds full of phlox, stocks, and petunias. In the heat of summer the air was redolent with sweet, heady perfumes.


The garden of my childhood took a lot of work and a lot of vision. I remember watching my mother plant flimsy green seedlings in the flower box on the front verandah. ‘How long will they take to turn into flowers?’ my 8-year-old self asked. She leaned back to observe her work and replied, ‘Oh, about twelve weeks.’ To me that seemed like forever. ‘It doesn’t seem worth it,’ I said. She smiled and said, ‘It’s always worth it.’


Over the next twelve weeks I watched her water them and talk to them and touch them lightly with her fingers. They grew and grew, and in the summer they bloomed. She was right. Her efforts were worth the result.


In this age of speeding bullet communication and instant gratification, we can forget that personal projects like physical gardens, and the secret garden inside ourselves, take time to grow and bloom. We want to be instantly successful, immediately famous, highly qualified right now.


Today I read in a Facebook group I belong to that one of the members has enrolled in an open university creative writing course. It will take her six years to complete. That’s her secret garden. Her Facebook friends can’t do the course for her. They won’t know what’s growing inside her. They won’t be there when she’s planting tiny creative seeds, one by one. They can only guess about the hours of weeding, cultivating, and feeding she may be doing. In six years (which can sound like forever!) her secret garden will bloom, and we’ll benefit. In the meantime, it’s up to her.


Secret gardens take a lot of work and a lot of vision.


Your secret garden is a wonderful place to spend time. It’s an investment in yourself which will eventually change the world for the better.


What are you growing in yours?


With love, Marlane


Original version published in Medium.com/change-your-mind


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