Monday, July 05, 2010

The Secret Garden

When I was a little girl - around 7 or 8 - my mother read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett aloud to my sister and me over the course of several weeks.

It quickly became one of my favorite novels and has remained so 30 years later. Partly because it's a sweet little story but also because I have the loveliest memories of that first reading curled up in my twin bed with Mom in the middle and Jenni and I on either side.

22 years ago, my mom and I moved to Cheyenne. I was chock full o' teen angst and I hated this new place and my new school. But the house she chose - the one in which she still lives - nearly made up for all my putridity.

The house, situated on the corner of the busiest intersection in town, is a little brick cottage in the oldest neighborhood with a nice sized backyard surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence.

If you didn't know to look for it, you likely wouldn't notice it and, if you did happen to notice it, you wouldn't think twice about it or wonder about the people who lived there.

The backyard wasn't much to look at when we first moved in. There were old lilac bushes lining the fence and some plum trees but the previous owners hadn't done much in the way of landscaping.

Over the years though, my mother, who loves to garden, has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours tending to that yard and has transformed it into a magical place with Aspen trees, wild roses, lilies from her father's garden at her childhood home in Virginia, tulips, iris, begonias, and any number of other plants of various colors. About the only foliage that remains from the previous owners are the plum trees which insist on blooming and producing fruit nearly every year.

There is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi - patron saint of animals - watching over the place where we scattered the ashes of one beloved dog, Joan. There is a bird bath and a bird house and robins recently built a little nest in which to hatch their spring babies.

It is my most favorite place in the world.

It is magic.

When I talk about my mom's backyard and tell people it's a magic place, most are skeptical.

However, I know not one person - family or friend - who has spent time in that backyard and not come away feeling like they've been touched by a special place.

It is a sanctuary. It is safe.

It is secret.

Sitting out there on a picture perfect summer evening, you hear the heavy sounds of traffic idling at the stop light in front of the house. Occasional music blares from a car stereo or a Harley or big truck rumbles past.

And yet it doesn't detract from the wonder of it. In fact, if anything, the city sounds enhance the secret loveliness of it all.

As an adult, I relish the nights I steal away from Denver and head north to that garden to sit in the company of my mom, drinking wine, giggling like school girls, and talking about anything and everything from the 2nd amendment to her creepy neighbor.

And if I ever had a friend in crisis who needed retreat, I would pack them up and whisk them away to that garden, hand them a book, a sweater, and a glass of wine and just let them be long enough to feel the magic working.

It works.

That's a guarantee.


Anonymous said...

I love The Secret Garden too! And your mom's garden sounds lovely, I'd like to see that sometime...

Betsy Taggart said...

Thank you. This was lovely . . . .

Kristin said...

Sounds like a little slice of heaven! I know that for me, there is definitely healing "magic" & therapeutic value in being surrounded by nature. How wonderful that your mom has created such a sanctuary!