“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Times are turbulent, and I was deeply craving a sense of peace. I dragged the bright orange yoga mat I’ve had since college out onto my patio. The weather was perfect―sunny, breezy, warm. I placed it in the shade under a bright blue sky, and I could hear the sound of the wind in the trees and the laughter of my children on the other side of my patio door as they watched a movie.
I needed a few moments of peace, a breath of fresh air. I turned on Yoga with Adriene, my preferred home yoga practice. But somewhere mid-yoga flow, I found myself distracted. My eyes darted around the fenced concrete enclosure of my patio. Patio furniture, a grill, and a brand new garden made up the space. I’d even gotten fake grass to cover the area for a little color and softness. I tried to turn my attention back to my breath.
But something was missing. I shifted from Warrior I into Warrior II. I was still breathing, but I wasn’t paying attention. My eyes darted around the space. I felt anxious, not the peaceful and relaxed state I normally sink into with yoga.
Of course, nothing is normal about life lately. Everything has changed, and it’s no wonder that I felt anxious during something that used to bring a sense of calm. Instead of relaxing into the flow, I was formulating a plan.
I had this desperate need to take control of my own sense of well-being. I needed to be able to relax, and I couldn’t do that as long as I had in my head the idea of how my patio should look versus how it looked at that moment. So often, we do this with life, too — unable to find peace because we can’t reconcile what we want with what we have.
Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I decided that I still had choices I could make. I hit pause on the video with a murmured apology to Adriene and started dragging every single thing off my patio and out the back gate. Filled with purpose, I cleared the space and swept it out. Then, I started putting my plan into motion.
I dragged pots back in, placing my new home garden around the perimeter of two sides where I knew they’d get the best light. I rolled the grill back in and organized my supplies below it. Then I brought back the lawn furniture. One by one, I re-organized my space until it suited me. Then I sat back down on my yoga mat and visited my happy place.
Okay, so what I really did was head over to Amazon and to start adding things to my cart. I thought quickly. What did I need for this space to make it feel more Zen? What could I afford to do to my environment to make it my own personal secret garden?
Fake ivy, I added it to my cart. It could cover one long concrete wall. Another wall, I left empty because I know my children will fill it soon enough with chalk art. I had an idea of adding empty frames to the space for their artistic endeavors. I also added a wind chime, a bird feeder, and an amusing welcome mat that read, “Unless you have tacos, tequila, Girl Scout cookies, or my Amazon package, GO AWAY.” I needed fairy lights and mosquito repellent. I already had an umbrella for shade. I started thinking of how this would all come together.
When I had that picture in my mind and the items in my cart purchased and scheduled to be shipped, I got back on my yoga mat. I hit play. I got right back into the yoga flow somehow more at peace. By the time I reached savasana, a soft smile was on my face and the peace I’d been looking for returned.
The Secret Garden is probably one of my all-time favorite books. Since I read it as a child, I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a secret garden of my own. Of course, I don’t exactly have a green thumb, and right now, I have a concrete enclosure at my apartment.
I could keep dreaming of some future private garden, or I could determine to create my own where I am now.
I’m probably not very good at it. I’ve already over-planted in my pots and will have to transplant into new, larger pots. I alternate over-watering with forgetting to water at all. I’m learning.
And maybe I’d rather have real grass and ivy, but I’m making the best of my current situation. I remind myself that many a stage performance or movie has created a sense of magic without relying entirely on what’s real. I don’t mind an illusion if the finished product is a walled-in garden all my own where I can sit and read while sipping a glass of wine.
We work with what we have, and that’s never been more apparent than it is now when our lives are limited to where we live. I could sit here and focus on all that I’m missing or dream of what will one day be. Sometimes, that’s exactly what I do. But on other days, I want to live my life right now. I want to source some peace in this moment, not some hazy distant future one.
So, I look around at what I have to work with, and I make it work for me.
When I’m done, I probably won’t have anything close to what I once read in the book. But I will have a tiny oasis meant for reading and watching my children create art. I will create a place where I can do yoga surrounded by the fruit, vegetables, and herbs I’ve planted and continue to nurture. During the day, I’ll have a shady place to relax. At night, I’ll have twinkly lights overhead while the wind runs through the deep notes of my wind-chime.
Years ago, I read a book called The Bliss Principle. It was a little gem of a book that I picked up on a whim because the author, Kellye Davis, was signing books at a bookstore. In it, Davis writes about creating a sacred space and centering our lives around bliss.
What I read came back to me when I was shifting around patio furniture in the name of peace. It seemed like such a small thing, but it matters that we create environments that encourage comfort, peace, and joy. It’s why I’ve embraced the idea of hygge in my life, or the Scandinavian lifestyle that focuses on being cozy.
Maybe creating sacred spaces where we feel good isn’t a small thing after all.
Doing something to make ourselves feel better about the spaces we inhabit is a way of empowerment in these troubling times. Although I can’t control when this shelter in place will end, I can make my home as cozy and comfortable as possible while I’m spending so much time in it. I can make cups of tea, read good books, and sit in a secret garden all my own. I can be surrounded by beautiful growing things while my children draw masterpieces in chalk meant to be washed away by the rain.
“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Crystal is the author of the Heart of Madison series, a contemporary romance series that includes Left on Main & Right on Walton, as well as a poetry collection entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Order your copy today: https://linktr.ee/Crystaljackson