Helen Keller suffered a debilitating illness at the age of only nineteen months and was left blind and deaf. Her efforts to communicate afterwards are mostly unsuccesful at first and she cannot contemplate the new experience of "silence and darkness that surrounded" her. Helen's recollections of the outdoors, " a luminous sky, trees and flowers" are the things she remembers clinging to as the unexplained illness, probably meningitis or Scarlet Fever, "could not wholly blot out" these memories.
Helen feels comfortable in her "old-fashioned garden" which is "the paradise of my childhood." She can find her own way around and she knows the location of the old summer house from the smell and the feel of the familiar vines. Helen is prone to temper tantrums as a result of ineffective communication attempts and finds solace in the garden, cooling down in the soothing, cool grass. Before Ann Sullivan arrives, this is her only outlet.
The garden remains instrumental in Helen's development. Ann Sullivan's methods exposed Helen to many experiences and Helen's fond memories of the outdoors ensured ‘‘it was a joy to learn the secrets of nature.’’ Helen has goals and aspirations, and her "tree of paradise" allows her to believe "fair thoughts and dream(ing) bright dreams.’’