The Secret Garden
Until now I haven’t done much to publicise The Mud site. I've let it grow organically, and it has wriggled its way upwards in gentle anfractuous pulses, a bit like the wild grape vine outside my bathroom. This is the same grapevine that was dismissed by both Dudu and Celal as being a waste of space, because it was wild and would never bear fruit. Today that same vine is bulging with sweet, globules of purple. Well it would. It’s next to my composting toilet.
Back to The Mud. This spring, I decided it was make or break time for www.themudhome.com. The site has germinated, it has pushed its virtual head through the soil, grown leaves and branches, and a fairly stout trunk. But it’s time for it to bear a little fruit too. Lord knows, I've watered it enough. So I took inspiration from the grapevine. Last month I decided to throw a little manure on. Flippin’ ‘eck! As we say back home.
The Mud website has burgeoned. And naturally, all sorts of other life is attracted. I’m blessed with flocks of happy emails, the buzzings of would-be natural builders and freedom seekers all greeting me from far and near. It’s a good feeling to see the fruit you planted enjoyed by others, to hear people say they had never considered building without cement until they saw your house, to have your books and posts devoured like succulent grapes, to connect with like-minded souls. I had no idea there were so many!
Quite naturally too, those in the vicinity would like to visit, to see The Mud in the flesh. And it pains me to turn Mud searchers down, it really does. I have been delving into nooks of my mind this month, trying to feel out just why I can’t have visitors. I then something happened. And I got it. I really got it.
I was clearing out my shed a few weeks ago when I came across a box full of books. I pulled apart the floppy cardboard flaps, and there on the top was the well-known children’s story, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Pulling it out, I read the first page, and couldn't put it down.
Just in case you haven’t read it, The Secret Garden concerns a contrary little girl (horrid even) called Mary Lennox who has been orphaned in India. Mary is shipped back to Yorkshire to live in a dark manor with a hunchback uncle, his sick child called Colin, and a locked secret garden. What more could she want, eh? To cut a long story short, Mary sniffs out the key to the secret garden and breaks in. She begins tending the crocuses and messing about in the earth which is full of Magic. Yet the garden remains a secret (shh!). Eventually she tells Dickon, a local boy who has a way with animals and is a bit Magic himself. The two children attempt to bring the garden back to life, and the therapeutic effect of the endeavour renders Mary much less horrid than she was. Eventually, she also lets sick Colin into the secret. Both of them are healed by The Secret Garden. Colin even begins walking.
Naturally, I was enthralled by the tale because it mirrored so closely my own experience here on the land; the healing properties of tending the Earth, the connection with animals, the Magic. Yet most significant of all, the story highlighted a point I’d unwittingly passed over in my own experience. The importance of the secret element in the garden. How primal it must be for each of us to have a space of our own, a place outside eyes can’t pierce, a corner of the earth we can be explore our souls, and damn it, do what the hell we like!
This need is incredibly universal. Even my dog doesn’t want to share her kennel, and sniffs at me irritably when I try to get in it. (Now, you may rightly ask why I was trying to get in my dog’s kennel in the first place. Honestly, I just wondered what she’d do.) Children make dens, husbands construct man caves, authors hide away in purpose-built writing rooms, Celal had his wooden hut, my granddad had a garden shed in which he’d sit upon an upturned bucket.
We all harbour this yearning for privacy, because society is officious, judgemental and staid. It’s like a nagging parent, or a bossy warden, incessantly restricting the expression our true selves. We all need a secret garden where we can play without the outside world interfering. For some it might be about the freedom to chuck motorbike parts all over the carpet, for others it could be about not having to make cup of tea for anyone, or not having to wax your legs, for others it might be about making love unabashed in the forest on a whim, or watering the plants naked, for others it could be a space where the phone never rings, or the boss can’t bother you, perhaps it’s a child's cubby hole in which you create a magic world, a safe place where the adult world can’t ridicule your imagination.
The Mud is no different. While I have willingly published a virtual window into my world, The Mud reality must remain in the dark, because this is my own private playground. And I get it. It’s the secrecy which allows my creativity to roam. It’s the intimacy of the place which brings me and it alive. If the Mud became public, it would kill it. I would run a mile, pull down my site, and probably never write another thing.
So Mud friends enjoy the fruits my secret garden pushes forth. Take what you want of them. I’m pretty generous with my free information, I think. But sorry, the garden will remain locked. Concealed. Unseen. It must. Or it will die.
Atulya K Bingham
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