Skip to main content

Buy These Books: The Borrowers by Mary Norton & The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This spring when I haven’t been writing, I’ve been in the process of making a new garden, a fairy garden. A garden in miniature because one day something could happen and I might be only 3 inches tall like Homily or Pod or Arriety from The Borrowers by Mary Norton and I’ll be in need of a cozy place to live. The thing is I got to a certain place with this little garden . . . I had the tiny cottage and a miniature gas lamp, a pond that does double duty as a birdbath and a winding path to the door. There is even a bench to rest on and dream, but then I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out how to flow the miniature garden into the surrounding larger, big person-sized garden. But here’s what’s funny . . . usually the garden is where I go when I’m stuck on some aspect of writing. Since I work organically (I mean green without a synopsis!) I sometimes can’t feel where I’m being led and need a space between me and the story to sort of let things breathe, preferably a green space, a space where I can stick my hands in the dirt or my nose in a flower or finger a bumblebee. I count on this activity to loosen my mind. As Ben Weatherstaff explained to Mary in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett “In th’ flower gardens out there things will be stirrin’ down below in th’ dark.” It’s as if he is talking about my subconscious. When I garden, I know things are getting stirred on levels I am unaware of.

I imagined this approach would always work for me and as I neared the end of the current novel, when I hit a snag and couldn’t quite see how it should come together, I went outdoors to my tiny new garden and found I was just as stuck there. It has never happened before, that I am circling the last ten or so pages of a project and circling a corresponding ten feet of earth in the garden! Thankfully, there’s been a breakthrough on both projects and really all was not lost because when the writing hit a dead end and the garden hit a dead end, I curled up on my gigantic-person bench in the delicate shade of a newly-leafed oak tree with two of my all-time favorite books: The Secret Garden and The Borrowers and I think it was something in rereading those stories for the hundredth time along with something in the spring breeze and in the delighted song of all the birds that hang out with me here . . . something in all that magic, in all that exuberance, is what loosened the knot in my head. I think my love of reading and writing, gardening and creating was born with the love of these books and others like them. I just want to suggest, if you haven’t looked at them in a while, try to make the time. I can nearly guarantee you’ll be richer for it. They’re gold for the soul!


Mylène said…
Hurrah, Barbara!

I still love The Secret Garden after all these years, although the little girl in me (and the grown feminist literary critic) still chafes at the way the story ultimately abandons its (fascinating) young heroine in favor of its young hero. Sigh.
Unknown said…
This was such a delight to read. Congratulations on your breakthroughs on both fronts. Isn't it wonderful how all sorts of creative play can feed our own evolving stories?
You'll have to take a picture of your secret garden and post it for us, unless it's too intimate to do so. :)

Beautiful post. You're right; The Secret Garden is one of those rare books that entertains even as it nourishes.
Barbara Sissel said…
Thank you, everyone. I will post a picture a little later in the spring when the garden has settled a bit more into what it is....

Popular posts from this blog

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Did you love it or hate it?

Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ

APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES by Paul Neilan is only good if you enjoy things like laughter

The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.