The Secrets Garden: Axis Mundi

Watching the Season 2 premiere, I see again a major theme returning from Season 1: secrets, secret-keeping and truth-telling.

Police Chief Kevin Garvey and his family spend Season 1 navigating the post-Sudden Departure world. Those “leftover” in idyllic Mapleton must decide whether to face what they are keeping secret from each other and themselves: their losses, their mistakes, their hidden guilt. Kevin is burdened with what he cannot admit or accept about his marriage and children, his fears and his spiraling violence. But we’ve seen in The Leftovers world that what is denied will return; what is buried will be unearthed.

In the Season 2 premiere, we travel to Jarden, Texas, a new Eden—jardin is Spanish for “garden”—in Miracle National Park. No one was taken from here Oct. 14, and now it’s a holy place to which pilgrims travel from around the world, looking for hope and safety.

The episode is titled “Axis Mundi.” By definition, an Axis Mundi is a world-center, where people go to encounter the gods, hear from oracles and find healing and transcendence. But there is spiritual gravity in such place: The Buddha’s Bodhi Tree, the Navajo Canyon de Chelly, Mount Sinai, Jesus’ dying hill in Jerusalem are “thin spaces,” to use the Celtic term, and the energy in thin spaces both energizes the soul and strips away attachment and illusion. Flawed human beings can’t stay in Eden. The earth under Jarden is quaking, as it did with the Adam-less Eve in the episode’s prologue. And things are already disappearing: children—and swimming holes.

We meet the Murphy family—they, too, have secrets. A buried bird in a ribbon-tied box. A daughter, named Evie, running naked through the forest. A son stealing away to a nighttime meeting. John, the family patriarch (and town fire chief?), pursues secrets with a vengeance. He obsessively searches his home for a cricket; he sets a childhood friend’s house on fire to flush out a lie; he readily confesses a part of his life that most people would be too ashamed to tell. He’s an avenger, like the angel in Genesis who guards the gates of Eden with a sword of fire. (So then...why do I feel as if John’s hiding the biggest secrets of anyone?)

And now the reconstituted Garveys—Kevin, his daughter Jill, his beloved Nora, and her foundling baby Lily—have traveled 2,000 miles to start over, here where everyone is safe. The teaser for episode 2, “A Matter of Geography,” shows Kevin confessing his sins. That looks to me to be a possible sign of hope. But we’ll see whether Kevin and his family will find peace—or, like our first parents, be expelled from whatever kind of Eden this is.

In Genesis, when Adam and Eve see that their nakedness has been revealed, and they cover themselves to mask their shame, God finds them and asks, “Why are you hiding?”

I have a feeling that here in Jarden everyone will hear something similar.

A resident of Austin, Texas, Dr. Rick Diamond writes and teaches about postmodern culture and spirituality. He’s also a pastor and blogger.