A Bit Of Earth

I’ve just finished re-reading one of my favorite books, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  In the book, ten year old Mary Lennox goes to live with her uncle after both her parents die of cholera.  One day when her uncle asks her what she would like to be happy, she stuns him by asking for “a bit of earth.”

Mary has learned the power and magic and enjoyment of working in the garden and watching things grow.  She discovers the neglected secret garden and, with the help of a few others, works to clean it up and help it come back to life.

The story’s other protagonist, Colin Craven, her cousin, transforms from an invalid to a healthy young man by spending time in the garden and growing strong enough to help make it flourish.  The author’s thrilling parallel between the growth of these young children and the garden they love is both beautiful and inspiring.

The B&B that I now own with my husband is on over an acre of land.  I’ve never lived anywhere with this much space and this much yard to tend!  Though we have help with the mowing and trimming of the grass, I have taken on the task of planting and tending to the beds which we are working to fill with flowers and color.  I try to spend some time each morning before it gets too hot planting or weeding or watering somewhere on the property.

Like Mary Lennox, I have come to love working with “a bit of earth” and I have thrived and grown stronger right along with all the plants I am tending.  Though I’ve always enjoyed growing things, I’ve never had a project this large.  Even when I lived in a small apartment I managed to have some window boxes of flowers.  It just feels good to put your hands in the dirt and help things blossom.

I know we are all busy helping our students and colleagues blossom and grow, but I hope you’ll consider spending some time tending nature.  Even one potted plant can be good for your soul.

I also want to mention that the other big theme of “The Secret Garden” is that the way one thinks creates one’s experience.  The things you think about, you become.  When Colin stops thinking that he is weak and going to die, and instead focuses on getting outdoors and moving and breathing and getting exercise and LIVING, then he begins to get better and grow stronger.  I encourage you to also pay attention to what you are thinking about all day.  Do you think about grudges and bad news, or do you think about what’s possible and where you want your life to go?  What you think about, you become.

Tend to your life, and tend to your garden.  Both will grow and become more beautiful.

(The picture is from the wonderful Broadway musical “The Secret Garden” which is full of soaring music and great performances.  Check it out on YouTube.)

Tim Hinton

May 12, 2024

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