Friday, March 25, 2011

On "The Secret Garden"

One of the things I do appreciate about being back in Norway is spring. In Tokyo, it was already spring by my standards when I arrived. During the two months I spent there we had both cool and warm weather - even snow - but nothing even close to the dramatic process that is Norwegian spring. Without the melting snow, the "ad hoc" creeks in the middle of the road, the return of migrant birds and sunshine after what feels like an incredibly long absence - Tokyo spring just didn't feel like spring. 

Because of my lack of spring mood, I also didn't indulge in one of my annual spring activities - reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was my favourite book as a child, and I've continued reading it every spring. The timing is essential. It cannot be too early, since a return to winter after I've started reading it will always put me in a terrible mood. At the same time, I cannot read it too late, as the turn of spring into summer completely ruins the experience. I want the world around me to wake up to spring along with the garden in the book. 

Now I've been given a new opportunity to perform my ritual this year. When I returned to Norway it was winter. In just little over a week, it is definitely spring. The snow is melting faster than I've ever seen. The sun is warming, and my nose is as freckled as it only gets this time of year. I feel the urge to take off my winter coat and boots again, and it won't be long till it's time to look for the first brave flowers. 

This is the perfect timing for reading The Secret Garden

" 'I like you! I like you!' she cried out, pattering down the walk; and she chirped and tried to whistle, which last she did not know how to do in the least. But the robin seemed to be quite satisfied and chirped and whistled back at her. At last he spread his wings and made a darting flight to the top of a tree, where he perched and sang loudly."

"Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row."
"In the course of her digging with her pointed stick Mistress Mary had found herself digging up a sort of white root rather like an onion. She had put it back in its place and patted the earth carefully down on it and just now she wondered if Martha could tell her what it was.

'Martha,' she said, 'what are those white roots that look like onions?'

'They're bulbs,' answered Martha. 'Lots o' spring flowers grow from 'em. Th' very little ones are snowdrops an' crocuses an' th' big ones are narcissuses an' jonquils and daffydowndillys. Th' biggest of all is lilies an' purple flags. Eh! they are nice. Dickon's got a whole lot of 'em planted in our bit o'garden.'"

"It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. Mary Lennox knew they were roses because she had seen a great many roses in India. All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rosebushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept  from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves."

"There was a laurel-hedged walk which curved round the secret garden and ended at a gate which opened into a wood, in the park. She thought she would slip round this walk and look into the wood and see if there were any rabbits hopping about."

"When she had reached the place where the door hid itself under the ivy, she was startled by a curious loud sound. It was the caw-caw of a crow and it came from the top of the wall, and when she looked up, there sat a big, glossy-plumaged blue-black bird, looking down at her very wisely indeed." 

" 'This here one he's called Nut an' this here other one's called Shell.' 
When he said  'Nut' one squirrel leaped onto his right shoulder and when he said 'Shell' the other one leaped on to his left shoulder."

"And the roses - the roses! Rising out of the grass, tangled around the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades - they came alive day by day, hour by hour. Fair fresh leaves, and buds - and buds - tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over their brims and filling the garden air."

All excerpts from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, from The Collected Works of Frances Hodgson Burnett (Kindle edition). All pictures taken by yours truly, on three continents.


TreeX said...

I found a copy of the Secret Garden yesterday, and thought of you :)

Michelle Gregory said...

lovely. i love secret gardens.

Kelly said...

Beautiful photos!! My Danish blogging friend posted a photo of snowdrops this week, too. I don't think we have those delicate little flowers in my part of the world. Our dogwood are in full glory, though, and gorgeous!!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful post Cruella, excellent read and the pics were also good especially the squirrels , we have some in the garden which I feed every day. I even bought a fluffy one from Nashville which I have called "Nashville."

Have a good week-end.

Cruella Collett said...

Joris - :)

Michelle - me too!

Kelly - I don't think they're native in Norway either, but they are fairly common in gardens nowadays. I love them!

Yvonne - I remembered you liked squirrels. I love the ones in this book - tame but not domesticated. Very cute :)

Liza said...

Oh, you make me want to read it again! Lovely pictures!

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

Nice pictures!!!!

I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Creative Blog Award.

Go to and pick up your award.


Cruella Collett said...

Liza - it is a book worth re-reading :)

Deirdra - thank you so much for the lovely award. I am most flattered! :)

Áine Tierney said...

I love all Frances Hogson Burnett novels! (Though I think I've mispelled that middle name!) Love the pics

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