23 July, 2008

The Great Good Thing

One of the best moments of vacation is the realization that the day ahead is deep and wide. When this coincides with a warm breeze through an open window, a comfy chair with an equally comfy foot-rest, and a good book - then heaven and earth intersect for a while.

While staying with friends, on our recent family vacation, I browsed their bookshelves for something to read. I had consumed all the books that I had brought with me and so I was trolling for, oh - something... There on the shelve was a 1911 printing of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett. (First published in 1910 it was already in a second printing.) I was startled to find such a thick volume, 374 pages. I have read The Secret Garden, or so I thought. As I began to scan the opening pages, I found that the sanitized, truncated versions that I have read are no where near the real thing. This was real and gritty. A narrative of a neglected child who only survives through universal grace.

The transformative power of Nature, self-reliance, social and economic class structures - this book has it all. A very 1900 turn-of-the-century novel indeed. Towards the end of the story, Dickon, the country boy who befriends Mary and Colin, talks about "The Great Good Thing." He is attempting to describe how he views his life and the world around him. The connections that are possible between people and the natural world are expressed in a life-affirming, yet non-sentimental, way. A very 2000 turn-of-the-century novel indeed. If you would like to think about "good things" then lean into your own comfy chair, put your feet up and read the original Secret Garden.

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