Posts Tagged: the secret garden

rounding on fifty and asking questions

I came across a bunch of thought provoking questions, which I thought would be great way to reflect via some blog posts during this week leading up to the aforementioned LANDMARK BIRTHDAY.  Some of the questions are “meaning of life” kinds of things, others get you probing who you are and what makes you do the things you do.  Some are very simple – although I do believe a simple and fast answer to a seemingly simple question can bring sometimes astounding and often deep answers. 

Mostly I just think it will be a fun way to check into who this gal has become as she rounds 50, and maybe (hopefully) illustrate some of the things I’ve actually learned over these 50 years. 

(I’m not going to tag you as one would do in your standard meme; but I would love to hear your answers to any of the questions – whether in the comments or on your own blogs.  If you're so inclined – tag yourself!)


What does love feel like?



What made you smile this week?

  • Seeing the face of my niece as she carried my flaming birthday cake while everyone sang.  Nobody loves a birthday cake as much as Elaine and the various pictures of her smiling at her own birthday cakes over the course of her life are a testament to that.  If you saw Elaine’s birthday cake smile, you’d smile too.  (Elaine’s birthday cake smile – beautiful thing number 30.)
  • Seeing my bathroom scale register another notch below last time – even after the excesses of the pre-birthday party.  And I'm not just talkin' cake. 
  • The rapt look on the faces of some tiny kids sitting on the floor of a bookstore next to their dad as he read stories to them.  (A dad taking time out of a shopping trip to plunk himself down on the floor and read to his tiny kids – beautiful thing number 31.)
  • Hearing the voice of my cousin Ian over the telephone receiver.  (The familiar and not-heard-in-a-long-time voice of a loved one – beautiful thing number 32.)
  • Trying on the new nightie I had to buy because I’m sharing a hotel room with some family members this weekend and it wouldn’t do to sleep in the absence of bed clothes as I do at home.  Despite that my use for a nightie is limited to when not sleeping at home, or around the house after I’ve gotten up, I didn’t by the 40% off one as I was first inclined, instead I bought the gorgeously pretty one, the one that feels so soft and natural, and loved the minute I first saw it.  As I laid in bed this morning and admired the thing hanging on its hook, I smiled again, glad that I was able to buy myself this birthday present that was not the least bit practical but made me happy.  (My new nightie – even more beautiful for all its impracticalness – beautiful thing number 33.)


What are your favourite simple pleasures?

Hanging laundry on the line.  Clean sheets.  Open windows.  That first sip of coffee.  Walking.  The smell of dirt in spring.  Rainy days.  Lilacs. The smell of the woods.  Barbeques.


What is your fondest memory from the past three years?

It has to be this party.


What book has had the greatest influence on your life?

If I had to narrow it down to one, I think it would be The Secret Garden.  Certainly the first time I encountered that story I wouldn’t have known of the lessons inherent in it:  that in the natural world one finds healing and true meaning in our existence; and that nurturing things/people outside yourself brings is what brings true happiness and fulfillment; and that beauty invites spiritual awareness and growth. 

But now, having read that story a number of times over my lifetime, it's clear that my perspective and understanding of all these things is a major force in how I view the world, and how take meaning from my life and what’s happened in it.  Occasionally, in my denseness, I need to re-visit these lessons – but they are lessons that I know deep within me.  That story, The Secret Garden, beautiful thing number 34.


I'm finding beauty, are you?

hanging out with fifteen (or so) characters

My friend Lisa did this list over at her blog That's Why today: "what fifteen characters have stuck with you throughout your life?"  Like Lisa, I sort of think of these meme thingys as "lazy blogging" – but on the other hand, writerly types, particularly fiction writerly types, who give some thought as to what makes a character influential, can open the door to some potential writerly insight.  Me – I'm not a fiction writer - I did it for fun.  And probably to avoid finishing the piece on authenticity to which I alluded the other day, and which some of my kind friends say they are interested in reading.  Let's just say that thought process is not complete. 

So here's the prompt:  Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. As do most of these meme things, the instruction is to tag at least fifteen friends, including the one who tagged you, to do same and you can all sit in the cyber story circle with glasses of cyber (or not cyber) scotch and cyber cheese dip and share.  Instead of tagging, I'm going to suggest that if you're reading this – whether on my blog or on my facebook, and you want to be tagged – consider yourself tagged. 

  1. Owen Meany – conviction, purpose, understanding, faithful, wise, wierd, heroic. AND A CHARACTER WHO ALWAYS TALKS LIKE THIS TENDS TO STAY WITH YOU.
  2. All of Fred Astaire’s characters.  Because they could always win over the girl despite the goofy grin.  If you can dance like that, anything is possible, and when Fred is in my living room, I’m in heaven.
  3. Cathy and Heathcliffe.  I get feeling overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking about those two – what a couple of bundles.  But man, Emily Bronte could sure weave a tale – spending that time with Cathy and Heathcliffe was one intense experience.
  4. Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain, one of my very favourite books as a kid.  I wanted to be like him – independent, resourceful, adventurous.  And he had the best hideaway fort you could ever imagine – I always wanted my own place like that.  
  5. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster – the poor, hideous, vengeful, doomed shmuck.  The fruitlessness of his search is compelling and devastating. (And Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein!  Dare you to think about him without a smirk.)
  6. Hana, from The English Patient.  Such a complicated devotion, hers.  But she was so captivating – she wasn’t a wussy, but Ondaatje created her with such tenderness.  I was always disappointed to have to go back in time to Almasy and Katherine.  Hana’s scenes were reduced in the movie version, and that was a shame.
  7. Phillip, Dinah, Jack, Lucy Ann from Enid Blyton’s Adventure series, more favourite childhood characters.  Especially Jack – he was the coolest and had the cocky parrot, Kiki.  These kids were adventurous, resourceful, independent.  Like Sam Gribley – I wanted to be like them.  But my mom would never let me take a rowboat, some tinned food and a warm jacket and go away on an adventure for a week or two.  She was funny that way.
  8. Dickon Sowerby – The Secret Garden.  Even when I was a little girl I wanted him to be my boyfriend.  His wild, outdoorsy ways and his Zen-like demeanour and ability to grow a garden, even as a little kid, are still admirable qualities to me.  I've still not found my Dickon.  More of the adventurous, capable, independent.  I’m seeing a pattern here.
  9. Rosasharn Joad – Her evolution over the course of the Grapes of Wrath – and her act at the end of the book and what it symbolized – no book ever caused me to sob like that.  And it was pouring rain at the end of the story, during that scene, and it was pouring rain in my real world, on a Sunday morning.  I’ll never forget it; they had to mop me off the floor.
  10. Mary Poppins – I’m just like she describes herself – “practically perfect in every way.”  Well, and my daughter watched that movie pretty much every day of her Jr. Kindergarten year – ol’ Mary P is member of the family.
  11. Jan Brady.  I think I identified with her because she wasn’t all perfect and haughty like Marsha Marsha Marsha.  And we both had tinsel teeth at the same time.
  12. Clare Randall from the Outlander series.  Kind of like Sam Gribley and Dickon and the Adventure Series kids – capable and adventurous.  Oh but her fella, Jamie Fraser – big, lusty, handsome, brave, strong Scot in a kilt who is great in the sack.  Need any more reasons?
  13. The Little Tramp.  That face and that body could tell a dozen stories at the same time.  Thank goodness Charlie Chaplin was born in the time of film.
  14. Professor Snape.  Partly because the movie version’s Alan Rickman, who is one of my main men, could steal a scene just lurking in the corner.  But also because I stuck by that jerk Snape through the whole series, I swore up and down he was on the good side.  Rickman or no, I think he was the most interesting and complex character of the entire story.
  15. The Scarecrow.  Loyal, brave, funny and smart.  I would say he was the hot one of the three, wouldn’t you?

The fun part of this process for me was discovering the recurring themes and traits around my characters, especially the "adventurous, capable, resourseful, indpendent" sorts.  As this relates to my childhood favourites, I like what that says about me as a kid.  Me as an adult?  Well a certain friend of mine will probably repeat what he's said to me numerous times over the past months:  you need a vacation.

What are your most memorable characters – and what do they say about you?  I'd love to know.