We are on the burgeoning of Spring. Each day brings a delightful surprise to something bursting into bloom and a whiff of warmer weather. The cold air still underlies each day. I am waiting for the soft air, usually in April, to come and welcome the Spring.
Each year, Spring is one of those times I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I have loved this book ever since I discovered it in Elementary school. It was a book I read over and over and over again until the librarian at my school library forbade me from taking it out so that other people could read it.
My grandmother came to the rescue and purchased me a copy of the story. Unfortunately, she did not present me with a copy illustrated by Tasha Tudor. I was not a nice child and threw a Colin-like tantrum that it wasn’t the right book. I had not only fallen in love with the story, but also the illustrations.
Fortunately, my grandparents lived near Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Ned Hills owned The Dutch Inn. The Dutch Inn was a lovely establishment that catered dinners in the eight-course ‘European’ style dinners. He also had a fabulous gift shop with rooms dedicated to beautiful things. I was particularly in love with the Swiss music boxes and, to my delight, a room devoted to Tasha Tudor.
I found my beloved illustrated book of The Secret Garden on the shelves. It wasn’t long until I saved my money to purchase the book. The discovery of The Dutch Inn began a life-long appreciation and collection of Tasha Tudor books. Mr. Hills had a special friendship with Tasha. Mr. Hills would tell me stories of Tasha’s life and permit me to look at the new watercolors that arrived to be framed and sold at the Inn. I have many, many happy memories of holing myself into a corner of the Tasha Tudor room at the Dutch Inn, reveling in the aura from the beautifully illustrated books. I also have lovely memories of a relatively dark and small room where I was able to view the original paintings by Tasha in total awe.
I digress. With the correctly illustrated copy (in my child’s mind), I savored the book and kept it with me always, and read it frequently. It became a tradition to read the novel in the Spring and if I ever felt ill. It always made me feel better and was a perfect type of bibliotherapy.
Recently, I was talking with a dear friend about this. She mentioned that, of course, this is exactly right. The entire book is about resurrection. I focused primarily on the transformation of the garden, but there is, my friend pointed out, the resurrection of Colin. How could I have missed this all these years? Perhaps the magic of the story fulfilled whatever I needed, and I did not think of themes.
But now, I wonder if The Secret Garden responsible for my love of the Green Man? If The Secret Garden represents birth, death, and rebirth, it makes sense that one of my next great love affairs is to love the Green Man. The Green Man is the very essence of representation of birth, death, and rebirth. I cannot help but wonder where my head was and if I was reading The Secret Garden when I was writing my prose piece about the Green Man, a figure in my dreams.
Frances Hodgson Burnett was a theosophist. Theosophy defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the teachings of a modern movement originating in the U.S. in 1875 and following chiefly Buddhist and Brahmanic theories, especially of pantheistic evolution and reincarnation (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theosophy) These theosophic beliefs are evident in her books The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. I can’t help but now wonder of the influence and link between my love of The Secret Garden and the ongoing insight and search of the Green Man.