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The Secret Garden: Chapters 4, 5 and 6 
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Tom wrote:
Quote:
I could use a Mary now as I am now dealing with (I believe) a case of the hysterics:

Quote:
I don't know and I don't care," said the nurse. "Hysterics and temper are half what ails him."


A hypochondriacal aunt has laid down to die, and I don't see any way to get her up.


:hmm: It sounds like an upsetting situation for everyone involved, Tom. I'm sorry you're having to struggle with it.

Are you sure you want a Mary like the one in the book, though? Didn't she scream abuse at Colin and even slap or threaten to slap him or something? Surely your poor aunt is not to be treated like that! I'm glad you haven't got a Mary to "get her up!" :D

The element in the story that seems applicable is the notion that when sunlight, fresh air, love, beauty, and the opportunity to contribute to and share in life are introduced, people sometimes feel more like living, healing, growing strong...or at least they have a nicer, more loving and comfortable environment around them in their last days. In other words, bringing some life, love, beauty and interest into an ailing person's life couldn't hurt, whether she's "hysterical" (not one of my favorite words due to its anti-feminist history) or actually preparing to die (always a real possibility with the elderly, even when they seem otherwise hale and hearty).

I am very grateful that I was able to see the tender, loving care my mother gave to her mother in the last year or so of her life. There was this beautiful sense of a powerful connection of nurturance having come full circle. Has your aunt spent much of her life caring for others? Or was that an opportunity for growth and fulfillment she missed? Some kinds of service to others or care for others can turn out to be the most valuable parts of a life. And sometimes it can be important for an older woman to take a break from it and learn how to receive. I have no idea whatsoever if any of this has anything to do with what's going on for your aunt. It's impossible to have any perspective from so far away, of course. There might be any number of things going on. Is she willing to talk about how she feels and what she believes is happening with the story of her life now? Does she have someone who listens? And do you and the other people in her support system have enough support and energy to care for yourselves and each other?


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Fri Jan 09, 2009 7:37 pm
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GentleReader9 wrote:
Are you sure you want a Mary like the one in the book, though? Didn't she scream abuse at Colin and even slap or threaten to slap him or something? Surely your poor aunt is not to be treated like that! I'm glad you haven't got a Mary to "get her up!"


Years ago my aunt's interest in life shrank to a hypochondriacal concern for her body. It was not unusual for her to go to a doctor every day of the week. Her supposed loss of health became her sole concern, and she imagined one non-existent disease after the other.

Mary insisted on truth:

Quote:
She flew along the corridor and the nearer she got to the screams the higher her temper mounted. She felt quite wicked by the time she reached the door. She slapped it open with her hand and ran across the room to the four-posted bed.

"You stop!" she almost shouted. "You stop! I hate you! Everybody hates you! I wish everybody would run out of the house and let you scream yourself to death! You will scream yourself to death in a minute, and I wish you would!"
. . .
"I felt the lump -- I felt it," choked out Colin. "I knew I should. I shall have a hunch on my back and then I shall die," and he began to writhe
again and turned on his face and sobbed and wailed but he didn't scream.

"You didn't feel a lump!" contradicted Mary fiercely. "If you did it was only a hysterical lump. Hysterics makes lumps. There's nothing the matter with your horrid back -- nothing but hysterics! Turn over and let me look at it!"


Yes, I need a Mary and her reality therapy.

Tom



Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:35 pm
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Hello Everyone

I am sorry I haven't replied very promptly to your posts. I have just been reading through them.

My cousin Charlie died just before Christmas, and, bless him, he's been lying in state until yesterday, Friday, waiting for his funeral. He wasn't married and had no children. His three brothers and sister emigrated with his parents to the USA in the late 1940's but Charlie couldn't go because he had a heart problem and in those days, you were only allowed to emigrate to the USA if you were completely healthy. So he was left with our grandad and Auntie Jennie in the North East of England, Durham, (where I was born btw). His many cousins over here are all now either passed on or too ill or old to travel, so I felt it was up to me to go and show our respect at his funeral. I am so glad that my husband and I went because it was a very small gathering.

It has been lovely to see my folks who live up there in the frozen north and we were made to feel very welcome. But that is why I haven't been around here for a day or two.

Tom, I do think that old people are inclined to become absorbed with their physical health. I have enjoyed spending time with my lovely Auntie Florrie in Durham this weekend. She is 85 and quite frail, but we enjoyed talking to one another about the family and she is not self-pitying at all but still told me about her aches and pains and about the various pills she takes and what they were meant to remedy. However, Auntie Florrie is loved and cared for by her daughter and grandchildren. I think she feels 'treasured'. And so she is frail but bright and talkative. Sometimes old people know when they are ready to go........and I think it is kindest to accept their decision. It is after all their right.

I'm just going to post this and then look back at the other posts and reply to those.

Pen


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Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:22 pm
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Giselle:

The path in the pic with my grandson, is just a pathway, not a road, but it has been paved with flat paving stones to make it more accessible and safe because that is a very popular area for school trips and sightseeing. Really dramatic scenery and rock formations. So they have laid pavements to make it an easier walk and more accessible to wheelchairs.

Many houses in North West England had/have stone paving floors and we have friends who, when they married and bought their old cottage, turned over the worn paving stones in their kitchen to the smooth side, then varnished them with ships' deck varnish (maritime) to make a beautiful kitchen floor. My own cottage, when I was a little girl was built in 1801 and had stone paving upstairs (would you believe it?). The stairs in our tiny four roomed cottage were just big boulders of stone and every step was different, a steep narrow one, then a shallow wide one etc. It was a quarryman's self-built cottage. There was a small stone quarry on the moors nearby you see.

Gentlereader: lovely to be back in touch again.

Wrt to Martha and Mary. One was concerned with much serving and did the cooking and bustling about and housework. The other sat at Jesus' feet and listened to him. Hmmmmmm.........Well, I know there is a time for bustling about and a time for sitting quietly and listening.......but I do understand both tendencies. :cry:


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Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:44 pm
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Thanks for your interesting discussion of paving stones, Penelope. I'm very interested in the way traditional architecture is preserved in places with old buildings. I found Europe fascinating because of its old buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures.

Thanks also for your thoughtful and interesting reflections on the aging and your encouragement to us to consider that elders have the right to decide when they are wrapping up their days with us and we can, make our love "more strong," as Shakespeare put it to his dark lady, "to love that well which [we] must leave ere long."

About Martha and Mary, I recall as you do that Martha was the worker in the kitchen and Mary was reflective at the feet of her Teacher. Martha reproached Mary or complained that she was not working as she should be and Jesus told Martha, "Mary hath chosen the better part." or something like that. (I don't have my Bible with me at this computer). There's also a really interesting group of paintings on the theme of Martha and Mary by Vermeer, Velasquez, Caravaggio, Peter Breughel the Younger, and probably other painters, too. I read a short story or essay by someone a few years ago about this painting by Velasquez and I remember it was really thought-provoking, but I forget who wrote it.

The whole topic is fascinating to me because it brings in the question about the spiritual path of action or service or dharma versus the spiritual paths of devotion/wisdom or bhakti/jnana. The contemplative path is praised more highly than the path of action by Jesus in the story, but what's going on in The Secret Garden? It seems Mary works almost as hard in the garden as Martha does in the house, and it is the Yorkshire wisdom of Martha and her family that Mary learns and transmits to Colin through the garden. Is the author trying to make a synthesis or new statement about the interdependent value and relationship of these paths or am I just reading too much into the name thing?


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Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:24 pm
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Unfortunately, during our recent eclipse some topics were apparently truncated. So I repost this from GR9:

"About Martha and Mary, I recall as you do that Martha was the worker in the kitchen and Mary was reflective at the feet of her Teacher. Martha reproached Mary or complained that she was not working as she should be and Jesus told Martha, "Mary hath chosen the better part." or something like that. (I don't have my Bible with me at this computer). There's also a really interesting group of paintings on the theme of Martha and Mary by Vermeer, Velasquez, Caravaggio, Peter Breughel the Younger, and probably other painters, too. I read a short story or essay by someone a few years ago about this painting by Velasquez and I remember it was really thought-provoking, but I forget who wrote it.

The whole topic is fascinating to me because it brings in the question about the spiritual path of action or service or dharma versus the spiritual paths of devotion/wisdom or bhakti/jnana. The contemplative path is praised more highly than the path of action by Jesus in the story, but what's going on in The Secret Garden? It seems Mary works almost as hard in the garden as Martha does in the house, and it is the Yorkshire wisdom of Martha and her family that Mary learns and transmits to Colin through the garden. Is the author trying to make a synthesis or new statement about the interdependent value and relationship of these paths or am I just reading too much into the name thing?"

Quote:
Luke 10:38-42 (King James Version)
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


But note: if Mary and Martha, then 'Master' Colin is a Christ figure who is to reconcile science and religion:

Quote:
The great scientific discoveries I am going to make," he went on, "will be about Magic. Magic is a great thing and scarcely any one knows anything about it except a few people in old books -- and Mary a little, because she was born in India where there are fakirs. I believe Dickon knows some Magic, but perhaps he doesn't know he knows it. He charms animals and people. I would never have let him come to see me if he had not been an animal charmer -- which is a boy charmer, too, because a boy is an animal. I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us -- like electricity and horses and steam.


Colin aims to make us more aware of environing spiritual forces.

Tom



Sun Jan 11, 2009 7:47 pm
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Penelope

I know you answered my earlier post about the stone pathway but your reply has disappeared into the ether .. oh well, maybe it will be back. Great information, thank you. I think its really cool that you lived in a stone cottage with stairs made of stone blocks. I love the irregularity of stone, it makes the predictability of stairs or some other common thing just a bit less so. I don't know if Britain still has "quarrymen" in the traditional sense or perhaps they have gone the way of the milkman? Have you read Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett), lots of stone quarrying and stone masonry. Points to the old traditions of stone as a material of choice and the skill involved in working with it.



Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:59 pm
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Thankyou giselle. The book by Ken Follett is not the sort of book I would normally choose and so I will look out a copy and read it, since that is what, I feel, these forums are all about.

Tom, I am absolutely intrigued by your thoughts regarding Martha and Mary. I have a natural bias towards the spiritual and often think that people don't give it sufficient consideration (especially in this day and age) being distracted by the corporal/physical. On the other hand I know that I am inclined to become so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good. As you say, it is important to give equal energy to both matters, perhaps, (because both matters matter :shock: ).


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He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

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Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:23 am
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Penelope wrote:
Tom, I am absolutely intrigued by your thoughts regarding Martha and Mary. I have a natural bias towards the spiritual and often think that people don't give it sufficient consideration (especially in this day and age) being distracted by the corporal/physical. On the other hand I know that I am inclined to become so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good. As you say, it is important to give equal energy to both matters, perhaps, (because both matters matter).


I am indebted to the alert and religiously educated GR9 for the Martha-Mary connection, and I suspect the reconciliation of matter and spirit is the hidden unity behind the book. Colin says:

"I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us -- like electricity and horses and steam."

The word scientific occurs 15 times in The Secret Garden. If reconciling science and spirituality was Frances Burnett's goal (We can't know for sure because her papers are still kept secret) then I can understand why she was a frustrated person, because I have found insights into this topic almost impossible to convey to other. Plus, while in my lofty abstraction from the material plane I just scorched the oatmeal.

Tom



Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:42 am
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