Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hope, Love, and Magic

"To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live." 
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Few books about children captivate me the way The Secret Garden does- maybe because few books so carefully capture the carefree love of adolescence. If you've never read it, you've missed out on the enchanting tale of a young girl who no one really loves being given the chance at a new start, and finding that life actually agrees with her when she discovers all that is really important in it. I warn you now, the rest of this entry is filled with small spoilers, so if you haven't read it and you think you might like to, stop reading now. 

The story starts long before Mary's time when a man named Archibald meets a woman named Lily, and they fall in love- they begin their life in a big house on the moors of England, with a brand new baby boy, and a garden with roses and other beautiful flowers and plants that mirrors only the beauty of Lily's life, attitude, and her most intriguing feature- her eyes. 

But when Lily dies in an accident in the garden, Archibald Craven starts to lock doors- the door to the garden that she once loved, the door to his own heart, and the door to his baby son, whose eyes are so like his mothers, that Archibald can only even look at him when he sleeps. 

10 years later, an outbreak in India causes the death of relations of Craven's, leaving behind only their own progeny, a little girl who no one has ever taken the time to get to know, who has never been outside, and who is very disagreeable and dislikable. And her own sour mood is the canvas on which the plot is inscribed- the story of her transformation, as well as the transformation of her cousin when she discovers him in the room where Craven has kept him. The story also revolves around another young boy, whose heart is so pure, and intent is so good, that the children believe him to be an angel.

I won't say more on it - if you want more of it, read the story, but I will say this- over and over and over again, the author brings in magic. The children believe that the "magic" is the cause of all their good fortune. Magic is how Mary ends up in the garden, despite it's unattainable state- it is how Dicken, the good hearted boy, attracts the animals and plants that seem to blossom in his presence. It is how Colin, the locked away child, learns how to live like a normal boy instead of an invalid. The magic is credited to all of the changes in the children's lives.

Let me give you my take on the magic that these children find based on how they are:

Mary, a little girl whose parents spent no time with her, who was raised by nannies commissioned to give her anything she required or requested, and who knows nothing of friendship, finds the magic after being introduced to some of the house people, and learning about who they are and where they come from. First with the maids, then with the gardener, and then with his friend the robin, she begins to see that she may want other people in her life- that she may like to hear them and what they have to say.

Colin, her cousin, has known all his life that he had no mother. His father refuses to be in the same room with him when he is awake. He has the guilt of a child who doesn't know what he's done wrong, and he is certain that he will eventually die, a fate that he has been waiting for all of his young life. He finds the magic when he discovers he has a cousin- a girl who will be his friend and set him straight, not just because she has to because of her job, but because she actually wants to know him. And then, he meets Dickon, and he sees something to aspire to- someone who believes that everything is possible. And suddenly, with the magic, everything becomes possible.

And finally, there is Dickon, who knew the magic was there all along. Dickon comes from a large family of brothers and sisters, and a mother who is a wise woman, and a wonderful care taker. Dickon never feels disliked or unaccepted. He doesn't struggle as the others do with the feelings of cold silence or loneliness. He believes in the magic all the time, because he has always know the magic, for as long as he's been alive.

Have you guessed my theory? The magic... it's love.

Love is what brings the three children together. Love is what creates the air of hope and purity- not romantic love, not forced love, but natural, unrelenting love that the children begin to feel for one another. They are just little ones playing in a garden, nurturing the earth. But they become a small family, a tight knit band of people who are changing daily. They begin to want to know each other, and then other people as well. They are honest with each other, and the share secrets and dreams and hopes and fears and thoughts. They are the embodiment of unconditional love.

The Secret Garden has made it's way into my heart because it reminds me of childhood. It reminds me of a time when things were simple and possible. It reminds me of late summer evenings sprinkled with fireflies, of early fall mornings gazing out the window at the trees, of fire lit evenings praying for snow, and of smiling spring afternoons, feeling the breeze sweep through the air with a severe speed. It reminds me of the times when if I was given my bit of earth, I could make something grow. I knew my fair share of Dickon's and Colin's, and Mary's too, and I have been all three to others- we all played a different role in everyone's own garden story. But we all knew how to love then- we all knew how to make magic.

However, before you lose hope, or think that maybe I have, let me tell you this one last piece of the story. Archibald Craven comes back into the end of the story. He has run away from his home, trying to separate himself from the memories of his past by secluding himself from his future. But one morning, he wakens to find a strange feeling of comfort. It's feeling that he doesn't understand, that he doesn't know why he is feeling, but he recognizes it. And it changes him too, despite the fact that he is so far from the magic. It seems that the magic is without borders. And the magic infest this man of great pain and dislike in a very simple way- in hope for the future.

Life is never without loss, sorrow, and disappointment. It impedes our chance to love one another as best we can- as children. But if we truly search for love, even just a little bit, within our hearts, it will find us. We can hope for it always, because it will come back for us when we need it most.

If we give in to the child-like magic that surrounds us, we can feel love again as if we would live forever, as if the whole world were possible, as if love would never leave.

One final thought- if God is love, and God is unconditional, and God is everywhere, then how easy is it to love if we just follow Him? He is the great example, the greatest source of love in my life... and when I really pay attention, He reminds me that I will live forever. That everything is possible, and that love, true love, never left me, and need never leave you- not even for a second. 

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