Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett – Susan’s Newsletter Aug. 2007 & Feb. 2008



The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Susan’s Thursday Note August 23, 2007
followed by February 28, 2008 Note

Good morning!   I may throw all of you off for the next week, but I’m going with tea this morning instead of coffee!  Ahhhhhhhhh.   Not sure if I should just do the entire note to all of you backwards now!  It’s absolutely beautiful outside because of the rain last night.   The rainbow and the yellow sky at dusk last night were stunning.   I hope that you had a similar view from your back yard, and that the beauty of that view will give you the extra lift you need to get past these last few oppressive days of heat.

This week a shipment was delivered to our front door at home.   This rarely occurs, and adds a new dimension to the word excitement from Camden when we drive up.   The box was labeled as shipped from The Folio Society out of England.   Inside were three beautiful books ordered by my husband for me.   Hardcover copies printed on fine woven paper, beautiful illustrations, quarter-bound in cloth, each in their own slip-cover box.   The books were The Secret Garden, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables.   I don’t even want to put them on my bookshelves because then I won’t be able to walk by and see how beautiful they are and feel them.   I slipped under my favorite quilt and began The Secret Garden (by Frances Hodgson Burnett) first and I am going to type for you my favorite few lines from the first 100 pages, hoping they will give you a slight smile this week, just the enjoyment of words on a page, and pictures in your head of another time, another world.   (Setting if you’re unfamiliar to this book…English mansion; little Mary Lennox, orphan, spoiled, self-centered lonely little girl just arriving at her uncle’s empty mansion after the death of her parents; finding of a garden on the estate that had been locked up for 10 years following the death of the mistress of the home, the first 100 pages finding Mary meeting a few servants, and wandering the gardens alone…

At that moment a very good thing was happening to her.   Four good things had happened to her, in fact, since she came to Misselthwaite Manor.   She had felt as if she had understood a robin and that he had understood her; she had run in the wind until her blood had grown warm; she had been healthily hungry for the first time in her life; and she had found out what it was to be sorry for some one.   She was getting on…

Martha (Mary’s servant – another poor little child) looked reflective again.   ‘How does tha’ like thysel’?’ she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.   Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over.   ‘Not at all – really,’ she answered.   ‘But I never thought of that before.’ Martha grinned a little as if at some homely recollection.   ‘Mother said that to me once,’ she said.   ‘She was at her wash-tub an’ I was in a bad temper an’ talkin’ ill of folk, an’ she turns round on me an’ says: “Tha’ young vixon, tha’!  There tha’ stands sayin’ tha’ doesn’t like this one an’ tha’ doesn’t like that one.   How does tha’ like thysel’?  It made me laugh an’ it brought me to my senses in a minute.

And from my reading last night – a conversation with Dicken, Martha’s brother, who speaks to animals, loves the earth, and is helping Mary in their secret garden that no one else is yet aware that they’ve found…   ‘Eh!’ he said, and as he crumbled the rich black soil she saw he was sniffing up the scent of it, ‘there doesn’t seem to be no need for no one to be contrary when there’s flowers an’ such like, an’ such lots o’ friendly wild things runnin’ about makin’ homes for themselves, or building’ nests an’ singin’ an’ whislin’, does there?’ Mary, kneeling by him holding the seeds, looked at him and stopped frowning.   ‘Dickon,’ she said, ‘You are as nice as Martha said you were.   I like you, and you make the fifth person.   I never thought I should like five people.’ Dickon sat up on his heels as Martha did when she was polishing the grate.   He did look funny and delightful, Mary thought, with his round blue eyes and red cheeks and happy looking turned-up nose.   ‘Only five folk as tha’ likes?’ he said.   ‘Who is th’ other four?’ ‘Your mother and Martha,’ Mary checked them off on her fingers, ‘and the robin and Ben Weatherstaff (gardener)’ Dickon laughed so that he was obliged to stifle the sound by putting his arm over his mouth…   Then Mary did a strange thing.   She leaned forward and asked him a question she had never dreamed of asking anyone before.   And she tried to ask it in Yorkshire because that was his language, and in Indai a native was always pleased if you knew his speech.   ‘Does tha’ like me?’ she said.   ‘Eh!’ he answered heartily, ‘that I does.   I likes thee wonderful, and’ so does th’ robin, I do believe!’ ‘That’s two, then,’ said Mary.   ‘That’s two for me.’ And then they began to work harder than ever and more joyfully…

Those are the little bits I’ve underlined so far in this new treasure on my table.   I desire so much for all of you to find the joy and pleasure and nourishment that only books around your home can bring to you.   No matter my mood, books solidify my thoughts, add to the joy of the day, or provide me the tonic I need to snap out of “contrariness” as Mary is described.   I hope that you will just keep trying to find your niche – you will all of a sudden find a book that is “so you” – that you will say, “Oh, yes!!!   That is what I’m thinking!” Have a great week – Camden starts kindergarten next Monday, so this is quite an exciting time in our lives.   Where is that self-help section for moms?!?!??!  (smile!) Go take on your day!   Thank you for your business and your support of our little store in Aurora!   Susan

February 28, 2008 Newsletter
The Secret Garden

I highly encourage you all to try to read to the end today – I think you’ll really get a lot for either yourself or your friends from what I wrote about!!  I don’t know how to make it shorter!!  (smile)

Hi all of you!!  I can picture you all right now stumbling around your houses waiting for your coffee to brew…This is such a different Thursday morning than last week when I was whining about the extreme cold.  What a crazy week.  On Tuesday my car door was frozen shut from the ice storm, now it’s going to be in the 50’s today.  What is the deal with that?!?!? I think that means SPRING is around the corner!!!!!  So, ha to our Narnia white witch of last week!!!!  (grin!)…now if those birds would begin singing for us we’d know we’d arrived! 

I have been asked often – how do I read?  When do I read?  How do I discipline myself to get through books when I’m busy?  I don’t have a set answer, but was just asked that again yesterday by someone that walked right past the books saying, “I don’t have time to read.” What I wanted to shake & tell her was, “You don’t have time NOT to read.” For in books I find a break in routine.  I am able to find authors that think like me (even though I didn’t realize I was thinking certain ideas before reading their thoughts).  I am able to find validation to what I am experiencing in life (being a mother, wife, friend, and self).  I don’t try to find one book at a time to read.  I probably have about 40 books unfinished on my bookshelf pages folded down where I left off.  I don’t believe that if I begin a book I have to finish it.  If it isn’t what I am needing right then, or I can’t get into a novel then I don’t make myself.  Time is too short to read what isn’t interesting to me, or isn’t getting through to me, or that is upsetting me if I don’t have the energy to be upset.  But I do make it an effort to TRY.  To not just automatically turn on the television to escape my tiredness, but to instead pick up a book (often a light light book that I’ve already read 10 times) when I’m really tired.  I am immediately transported into a world that is familiar to me and gives me the emotion that I am seeking.  I mark my books all the time.  I first put the date right in the cover when I begin a book.  Then I underline anything I want to & date the margin.  I have automatic flashbacks to specific events that way, knowing personally what that date was, without having to put private information down.  I can open a book and be given the same comfort 10 years later or one week later that I was the day of the reading by just flipping to what I had underlined and seeing my notations and the dates.  Shows where I was and gives me encouragement to where I now am, or helps me to retry and reset my goals if I might be in the same place!!!

Another way that I learn what to read is from a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that we’ve mentioned before.  Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.  I am trying to discipline myself in my conversations to make them into something that is worth the time for me and who I am talking about.  When I got my haircut this week the conversation went on and on about nothing I’d think about later.  I then remembered this quote and asked, “What have you read lately?” The discussion at our seat and then the two next to us were then all turned toward books and ideas and encouragement to each other.  This wasn’t me being “above the heads” of anyone I was with, for I am as normal as anyone on the street wanting to talk about only the latest gossip.  But I have tried to learn from this quote and apply it daily to what I try to talk about since life is so fleeting and busy.  When I do have a conversation with a friend why not say, “What are you reading? Anything I should read?” You’d be amazed at the ideas you’ll get that way.  But you have to take it a step further.  You have to write down what they told you.  Then you have to get the book.  That is showing respect to who you asked, validating that if they suggested you read it, you really do look into whether you should or not.  You will no longer have the excuse, “I don’t know what to read.” It is up to you to seek what to read and the main way is by asking those you respect and then taking their suggestion literally.  Not just buying the next magazine at the grocery store.  That is like TV – you will not take much from it.  AND you have a girl that owns a local bookstore that doesn’t make you keep any book you don’t like – you can return anything.  I’m not out anything because I can return the book.  So START – you have no excuse.  I am busy.  That can’t be my excuse.  Even if I only read 15 minutes before falling asleep that gives me over an hour a week of uninterrupted thinking.  And then when I am asleep I have something worth thinking about in my head. 

I finished The Secret Garden last night.  I had referred to this book months ago.  See!  It took me months to make it through a short book!  I have to write for you part of the final chapter.  If you don’t know the story a woman died in childbirth.  Her husband became so sour and depressed (a very rich man) and left the estate for the child to live alone as he traveled overseas.  Here is the end of the book… 

While the secret garden was coming alive and two children were coming alive with it, there was a man wandering about certain far away beautiful places…  (Switzerland)..and he was a man who for ten years had kept his mind filled with dark and heart-broken thinking.  He had not been courageous; he had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones.  He had wandered by blue lakes and thought them; he had lain on mountain-sides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming about him and flower breaths filling all the air and he had thought them.  A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him when he had been happy and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through.  He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties.  When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sign of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom…He was a tall man with a drawn face and crooked shoulders,…(then he ended up on a walk and sat by a beautiful stream…) As he sat gazing into the clear running of the water, he gradually felt his mind and body both grow quiet, as quiet as the valley itself.  He sat and gazed at the water…the forget-me-nots…He found himself looking as he remembered he had looked at such things years ago.  He was actually thinking tenderly how lovely it was and what wonders of blue…He did not know that just that simple thought was slowly filling his mind – filling and filling it until other things were softly pushed aside.  It was as if a sweet clear spring had begun to rise in a stagnant pool and had risen and risen until at last it swept the dark water away…the valley seemed to grow quieter and quieter as he sat and stared at the bright delicate blueness.  He did not know how long he sat there or what was happening to him, but at last he moved as if he were awakening and got up and stood on the moss carpet, drawing a long, deep, soft breath and wondering at himself.  Something seemed to have been unbound and released in him, very quietly…”What is it?” he said, almost in a whisper, “I almost feel as if – I were alive!”

The final thoughts of his depressed, bed-ridden son that cried for 10 years of his life before the awakening time in the garden…So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people…he was a hysterical, half crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring, and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it.  When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily though his veins and strength poured into him like a flood.  His scientific experiment was quite practical and simple and there was nothing weird about it at all.  Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it about by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one.  Two things cannot be in one place.  Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.

I should’ve split this into two weeks, but I wanted to respond to “how do you find time to read & know what to read?” and also what I read that I’ve thought on this week.  What the father  in The Secret Garden experienced is the final outbreak of letting his grief be behind him.  Sometimes a specific day when of all the sudden you realize you feel again.  Sometimes it’s over time.  But I know that the process truly is a process that takes time.  For him ten years of intense pain before he felt his first release from the grip of having unpredictable pain brought into his life.  For others it may be shorter or longer.  But as the son thought about, it is also a conscious decision to let our minds not be discouraged, but to find replacements for our thoughts of what is worth thinking about.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” If you made it this far – I hope my thoughts help you or your friends in whatever you are thinking about or going through.  Listen for the birds – they’ve got to show up soon & they’ll be singing for US!  May you have a great transition into spring.  Don’t ever forget to look up – the peace that passes even your understanding will come.  Thank you for letting me in your world again today.  Go make yourself proud in your decisions.  Susan

Latin for this week:
Homo doctus in semper divitias habet.  – A learned person always has wealth within. 

Work cited:
Burnett, Frances H.  The Secret Garden.  Ed.  Robin Lawrie.  New York: Puffin, 2008.



Product Overview

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined. With a heartwarming introduction by Sophie Dahl, “The Secret Garden” is one of the twelve best-loved classic stories being launched in the newly-branded Puffin Classics series in March 2008.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (March 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141321067
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces

Recommended in Susan’s August 23, 2007 Newsletter