3 Decades and counting’ Fine Art Project: The Secret Garden

 In Memento Vivere

I really struggled to name this piece. The idea was fully formed in my head, but I had a really hard time translating it to something physical. In the end it came down to a quote I had written in my quote journal (yeah, that’s a thing).

“She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett


I’ve read the Secret Garden (published in 1911) several times, at different phases of life. It always seems to meansomething different to me. When I was younger, it felt like an expression of the magic of childhood. As a young adult traveling through India I appreciated the contrasts in the book. Now, as an adult, I see the transformation reflected from young Mary in the garden and connect with it on a surprisingly deep level. This book is generally shelved in the children’s section of bookstores, but I really think many adults would benefit from reading this book.

“O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted! To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one can stand! To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to face! To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance! To be indeed a God!” – Walt Whitman

The basic concept behind these photographs is the fight to become who you were meant to be. If I’d been planning this whole series better I would have done this image after the one that I believe represents my personality type, because part of my fight is in overcoming the negative aspects of my personality.

In the Secret Garden, Mary Lennox is a frail child who was spoiled and pampered by servants in India. When her parents pass away, she is sent to live with her uncle in England. When she arrives she is sickly, pathetic, and rude to the staff at the house. Over the course of the book she builds up her strength, both physically and inwardly, by exploring the gardens and struggling with the harsh winds on the moore. Fighting the wind is such a great analogy. The idea of her gaining strength by fighting against actual physical wind is a beautiful illustration of the positive results of a prolonged struggle against a superior force.

I realize I haven’t suffered tragedy the way lots of people have. Nobody close to me has ever died in a tragic way, I’ve never been seriously injured or physically harmed by malicious intent, and despite my past immune deficiencies, I’ve never been seriously ill. But I have gone through some intense spiritual battles, and I’ve witnessed and stood by many people who have struggled against great odds. Some of my greatest battles have been of my own making, struggling against my very personality and sin nature.

So this installment in my birthday series is about celebrating this journey. It is absolutely still ongoing, so it is not an illustration of a war I fought, but rather a struggle that will continue for the rest of my life. It is a reminder to me of the battle for my soul between the forces of darkness and the Kingdom of Heaven, and encouragement that I am an active participant in the fight.

There is a garden inside all of us, and we can choose to grow complacent and let it run wild, or to take responsibility for ourselves… to be diligent in maintaining what is lovely and pruning the rotten parts within us.

The struggle makes us stronger.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

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