Without a map after graduation, I have no place to go but the garden
Every new year, we dream of a place to tick off our bucket list. But since we were forced to root ourselves at home, because of the pandemic, we revisit some forgotten corners in the house instead—like the garden.
In our garden lie my childhood memories. As I write this, I realize they are the fondest ones I have, like how I used to pick bougainvillea leaves and imagine them as paper bills, pebbles as coins.
On summer break, my cousins and I would poke a six-foot-tall bamboo stick at the aratiles tree, to snatch cherry-like fruits using the tiny hook attached at its tip. My younger sister would watch out for the falling fruits and let each piece fall on her shirt. We ate them raw, but we would also crush the juice to make ice candies on a sunny afternoon.
Life went on. Love letters, research papers, and college application forms came before I realized it.
As I grew up, the garden did, too. It started to shed leaves and loose healthy soil. Wires that are used to hang our clothes stood instead of flowering plants. It was not until last year, during the pandemic, that I spent time again in our little garden.
When I came back home, before the lockdown, I was surprised to see a goat grazing in the grass. I learned that my father had planted seeds like sili, lucban, and papaya months before. Rows of eggplants blossomed and so did the roses. The next morning, we had tortang talong for breakfast on a plate of piping hot rice.
Like the eggplants in our yard, a season passed in my life. I graduated from college and celebrated in front of computer screens wearing pajamas. When my barkada planned a slumber party a year ago, it was not what I imagined it to be. The growing pains of entering adulthood—unemployment and family expectations—soon filled my days.
Without a map after graduation, I have no place to go but the garden.
“As long as you have a garden, you have a future,” wrote Frances Hodgson Burnett. “And as long as you have a future, you are alive.” I always remember these lines from The Secret Garden, a classic tale that continues to plant wonder and enlightenment in our lives today.
The heroine of the novel, Mary Lennox, is a child who lost her parents to the cholera outbreak. She was sent to live at the Misselthwaite Manor, her uncle’s house. Her rude and selfish nature displeased people around her at first, but as soon as she spent time outdoors, little Mary grew into a lovely and caring child.
With the help of a robin, Mary discovered the key to an abandoned garden. Her fascination with plants and animals started when she met Dickon Sowerby. It was not long before she found out about her cousin, Colin Craven, a sickly child in a wheelchair living in the same house as hers.
The friendship among the three children bloomed when they began sneaking out to the garden. Colin, who believed he suffered from spinal deformation, was able to stand for the first time in his life. Together, they planted seeds that brought the garden back to life.
The Secret Garden tells us of the restorative powers of nature over the ailments not just of the body, but also of the soul. It’s one of the well-loved children’s stories in the world because it captures the elements that give life meaning—a human’s ability to nurture oneself and other people, and of course, nature.
The struggles and challenges we’ve been through the past year—anxiety, pandemic, typhoons, loss of a loved one— made us crave desperately for spaces teeming with life. When we fall into days of grief and isolation, we turn to plants for comfort and healing.
There’s nothing quite like waking up to sun-dappled trees, the smell of wild grass, and the din of crickets. Birds flew outside our house. Strands of thin light came from the sky.
“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles,” Burnett wrote.
There, in our garden, I wander around and sit with my thoughts. Sometimes I forget, there’s a secret garden inside all of us. It’s a place untouched by death, untouched by life’s troubles, a place where we can freely gaze at the sky and listen to the lullaby of trees. It’s a place where our hopes, dreams, and memories are.
I hope like Mary Lennox and Colin Cavern we get back up every time life knocks us down. Along the way, may we find people who can hold our hands when we can’t get ourselves to stand. And from there we begin anew, to hop on new adventures at home like making ice candies on a sunny afternoon.
Originally published in www.thediarist.ph: ‘As long as you have a garden, you have a future’ – The Diarist.ph