Paradise – a place, a feeling, an idea open to individual interpretation. You likely have your own sense of what paradise is, but I was surprised to learn that the word’s roots are found in Greek and Iranian origins that literally mean a walled park. Many will remember the beloved children’s book The Secret Garden with some nostalgia. As children we wanted so much to find such a place. A place to hide, but more important, a place to call our own, and though we didn’t know it as children, a place to be healed and to flourish. In the book, the garden becomes a place where a very broken family at the center of the story is regenerated, much as the garden itself is brought back to its glory by the children.
There is a lovely text by hymn-writer Isaac Watts that speaks to this very same topic:
Christ hath a garden walled around,
A Paradise of fruitful ground,
Chosen by love and fenced by grace
From out the world’s wide wilderness.
Like trees of spice his servants stand,
There planted by his mighty hand;
By Eden’s gracious streams, that flow
To feed their beauty where they grow.
Awake, O wind of heav’n and bear
Their sweetest perfume through the air:
Stir up, O south, the boughs that bloom,
Till the beloved Master come:
That he may come, and linger yet
Among the trees that he hath set;
That he may evermore be seen
To walk amid the springing green.
These words are most successfully set to the English folk tune O waly waly:
It is telling that the ability to reconnect with people happens within The Secret Garden’s walled space. Not in the large manor house, not out on the moors or in the city, but within a confined area of beauty. Not so different from what can happen at church….a walled space of great beauty where regeneration of the spirit might eventually make us able to connect more deeply with those outside of the garden’s walls. A first step to creating paradise here on earth?