Treats And Truths Of Country Living

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Our peaches are ripening! The bumblebees, and a little hand pollinating by feather, have done the trick. An exciting time in the rickety greenhouse on our organic acre in Berwickshire, UK.

These are the treats of country living that are hard to beat, a blessing so much appreciated, especially when one pays such a high price for living in the British countryside, surrounded by vast acres on which synthetic fertilisers, highly toxic sprays and huge machinery are employed to perform every task. It’s the little blessing that gives strength to the next hour.

It has been a journey learning to live in this cold and temperamental climate, living very isolated in a range of ways, learning to understand the lie of the land, to work with the seasons, to make sense out of some vicious hands that have been dealt. The eight years have been incredible in many ways, but they have also been eight of the hardest years of my life, pressed and crushed and shocked by all sorts.

With every squeeze, in every rocking challenge, I always take my focus back to the blessings, back to what is solid, back to what is beautiful, back to what is miraculous, back to what is even fleetingly lovely, back to what is simple and straightforward, back to what is truth, back to what is sustainable, back to what is real and utterly good … Always refocusing, always learning, always getting back up, always moving forward inch by tiny inch …

These peaches are quite symbolic, representing what is still reliable, what is honest, what is wonderful, what tastes and is pure and purely good. Nourishment for the body, nourishment for the soul. The taste of Summer, the taste of health, the taste of joy and delight. The taste of innocence, the taste of simplicity, the taste of hope.

I started this blog / website a few years ago, to record some of my experiences, poetry, recipes and thoughts, now and over the fifty plus years of my interesting life. The blog grows in hiccupy stops and starts, but there is a fair body of collected writing here now.

These peaches form part of the story of the last eight years, and so much more.

 

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Yours mindfully,

Holly x

[This post has been adapted from the original, which appeared on Instagram on 13 July 2017  Link: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWeocXsgLZQ/?taken-by=hollymaxwellboydell ]

A Childhood In Photograph

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I saw this picture yesterday, for the very first time. It was a complete surprise. It came in a little collection, that I had not been expecting. It is a photograph of myself, taken circa 1965, on a journey from Durban to Cape Town. A journey that, in more ways than one, was to totally rock my world.

At first, on looking at this tiny picture of my little self, I felt the numbness experienced after years and years of irregular life pattern. And then the dam in my heart ripped open, my soul cracked painfully, and wide. This picture, part of a little collection of my and my brother’s very early childhood, was placed in my hands by my son, who had conveyed it carefully from Africa, along with other meaningful photographic portraits and treasured dossiers that had been lovingly handed to him to give to me, of our much valued family history.

Simple things that others might take for granted, without their natural presence through my childhood, appearing now they shake my world … towards a more grounded and more beautiful life, I hope. Pain has forced me to lean on God, from a very early age.

I have no grievance about the hand I have been dealt, time and again, only sadness that it needed to be so. I feel gratitude that these treasures are coming to light, although at fifty four it almost feels as though my life has slipped through the gate. To be honest, my adult heart breaks for this little girl.

When your world has been shaken many times, it takes courage to keep one’s head up. I trust that God and his promises are in all of this, and that true grace is firmly intact.

In mindful contemplation,

Holly x

 

A Little Note For Readers

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Dear Readers and Visitors to The Holly Tree Tales ,

A warm welcome to those visiting my site and I hope you are enjoying reading my Blog, as it builds a little at a time.

This is just a brief note to say that it would be lovely to hear from you, if you would like to leave a little message underneath posts, so that I might know that you have ‘popped in’?

It is always good to know who one’s audience is and to know when my writings, or merely short quotes, have made a difference, been of interest, or helped someone in some way.

Thank you for stopping by and, if this is your first visit, please feel free to click FOLLOW, if you would like to be kept informed of new posts.  You will not be sent any spam by my site, and will be a much valued member of the group of readers here.

With kindest regards,

Holly Maxwell Boydell

Forgiveness Is Key

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On Forgiveness, in life generally and from a Christian perspective …

 

Forgiveness is the starting point of any type of success, and is necessary every hour, every day.

Forgiveness is one of the driving factors that prevent childishness, tantrums, delays, excuses, the laying of blame … and all other forms of behaviour or attitude that do not reflect the nature of God.

Every person on earth has the challenge of being the very best person they can be.

Those who soar like eagles, in all areas of their lives, are the ones who reflect Christ and who welcome correction where correction is helpful to take them to the higher levels. Forgiveness is tied in with that.

There is no success in life without continual self-examining, forgiveness, and steps in the right direction, learning constantly from and altering the steps that lead backwards.

 

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“Forgiveness is key to flow in our lives, and affects every area of our experience.”

 


Holly x

 

A Little Silver Trunk of Life

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From time to time, I receive messages from people around the world who have been helped, inspired, motivated or simply enabled to take another step through a challenging period in their lives, as they’ve heard bits of my story or read my words.  We are each doing our best on this planet, and we are each facing different things as we negotiate our way along our paths, but it is always encouraging to hear that one’s own journey has acted as an example to others of what is possible and to hear that hope has been restored in the life of another.  Here, I’m sharing another little piece of my jigsaw, as an open hand to any other who might need a little strength …

I have a little silver trunk, where the few remaining contents of my life before marriage are filed … in some ways the trunk is a little substitute for the roots of family home I don’t have.

Late last night I climbed up to the attic, negotiated papers and packages strewn across my studio space to reach it, prized open the wonky lid and extracted some of my old journals ~ teenage and early adult snippets of “life” … Can’t recall why I went up there in the first place, nor so resolutely climbed obstacles to reach my private little trunk, but the gems contained within the pages of the first tome I opened are emotionally immense ….

Clearly it was meant to be, but I’m not sure why.

Poetry reading, words of times past pouring out of my pores now, saturated and awash with memory … and gratitude … for a life well lived …

Potent moments recorded there.

I am grateful that these have survived so many moves. God is good. He has a plan. One day at a time …

Whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, just remember: it will make you and mould you and you’ll be so much richer as a result.

“Never, never give up.”   ~ Sir Winston Churchill

With love,

Holly x

On Being Blocked On Your Path

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The devil will attack you in the areas of your greatest anointing. Be mindful of where the negativity is coming from and fight it off. Don’t give the demon more attention than it deserves, and don’t allow it to continue to take air space. Negativity feeds on attention of any kind. Starve it.

Mindfully yours,

Holly x


#ThoughtForTheDay

 

Thoughts on Teamwork & Leadership

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A team / group of people cope best in difficulty, when they fully understand the objective that they are working towards.

A leader of a group has to lead ~ he or she cannot simply show up.

When there is a clearly outlined objective, it makes moving forward a possibility.

No success was ever achieved without deliberately working towards a specific goal.

For success to ‘happen’, one has to study success, set the compass towards success, dress for success, do and take whatever steps and actions are needed towards the achievement of the goal(s), and keep focus alive.

Where success dwells, no excuses are entertained.

If you want to achieve something, you have to be prepared to do whatever it will take for you to achieve it.

If you want a team to work with you on something, you have to either lead properly or delegate the leadership, and find ways to continually celebrate successes along the way, as well as providing rewards during and at the end of the process.

In pursuit of excellence,

Holly x

 

Being Busy

We are now all mini satellite offices, carrying our Reception Desks and Admin Departments in our hands, pockets, handbags …

“Think of the ant …”

Now consider the eagle.

“A bee is praised, a mosquito is swatted …”

Open eyes and see what’s going on, really.

Balanced views are critical to sustainable success.

Holly x

[Originally written for another platform, hence the brevity of this post.]

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – A Motherhood Memory

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Cooks Hill, NSW, Australia ~ 1993/94

 

“Swing low, sweet chariot …”

This picture … me ‘n my girl … in the garden of the first home that we owned, where we spent many glorious hours in Nature together, had lots and lots of parties and get-togethers, with friends and family frequently coming to stay.

The garden was a ”postage stamp”, whose every inch I knew, into which I poured my love and learnt all sorts about Australia. Gardening became the therapy for a very homesick heart, a heart that missed people in two countries, two continents called “home”, but with that came a grateful connection to the earth and so much that reminded me of my beloved Africa.

In order to be a parent, I had to learn to listen deeply to the rhythms of real soul, such as I had seen in the ways that African people cared for their young … My journey was an otherwise blind one, based only on what I felt to be right, and most of the time I could not see further than my nose in the process. I read LOTS of books.

I called that home “Tintinnare” … which is Latin; it means the ringing of bells. It was and still is, I’m sure, a very special place. We lived there five years, sold it to move to “Rosewood”, when my son, four years younger than his sister, was a year old.

Holly x


[This post was written for another platform originally, hence the brevity of script.]

The Gift Of A Mandela Book

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This morning, whilst drinking my early morning cup of tea, something prompted me to look across to the little bookshelf beside my bed.  As I glanced up to the top shelf, a book almost spoke to me to lift it down and open it … this book … “Mandela. My Prisoner, My Friend”.  I obeyed.  I held it, I stretched out my hands and looked at the cover, I drew it close to my chest and hugged it, as if to feel the warmth of southern hemisphere sunshine … and then I opened the covers and peeped inside.

I knew that I was taking a chance by opening the book, potentially exposing myself to pain, at seeing evidence of things about Nelson Mandela’s life which I know were brutal, creating uncomfortable feelings of despair and utter shame, coupled with longings for the country of my birth, and yet I knew that it really was time to face whatever the pages contained … but I was only going to peep.  A little.  It was not my intention to spend too much time on the book today, with a list as long as the proverbial piece of rope of things demanding my attention, but I felt that I was being guided to read some of it and to at least make myself acquainted with a little of what the text contains.  The book had been given to me some time ago, a surprise gift, and it was time I gave it my attention, bravely.

As so often happens, I feel intuitively that I should do things and, instead of questioning the prompts, I usually tiptoe or stumble forth in the direction where I am led. And so I prised open the unread book, and I recalled the immense sense of amazement that I had felt when it had first been given to me, as I read the handwritten inscription inside:

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“To Holly,
Nelson Mandela was / is such an inspiration for me, as are you!
Keep shining your light and doing what you do.
Kirsti   x  “

[gifted to me on 28 April 2016]

Once again, as when I had received the book, which had been a complete surprise, I felt a wave of humility mixed with pleasure, at being thought of so highly and in such a wonderful way.  I cannot imagine anyone on the planet not being touched to be associated with “Madiba” in any sense at all … what a tremendous honour that I should be so blessed to remind someone of him, so much so that they would give me this book with open handed love.  It’s no small thing to have received this, and I remember at the time I could not comprehend why, nor quite take it in.  I still cannot see how I bear any passing similarity to Nelson Mandela, but life has been incredibly challenging to me as well, starting with a turbulent and at times heart breaking childhood, and has taught me so much through those challenges.  I suppose this gives a tiny reason to feel that Mr Mandela and I might have, had we ever met, been kindred spirits.  Each of us, people acquainted with harsh reality and at times extremely unfair judgement, both very much in love with Nature, people and the African soil, giving some vague reason to believe that perhaps we might have had some things in common while he lived.  I would have loved to meet that real, power filled man – as many would have, I know.

And so, I turned another page, to see what I was being led to read.  The few pages that I opened spoke deeply to my consciousness and, whilst I could not face reading into the detail, what I read was enough for today, enough to make it worthwhile to have opened the book – almost a year since it had been given to me, in April 2016.

In the Prologue, these words by the author, Christo Brand, struck my soul:

“Nelson Mandela spent his boyhood in the green and golden hills of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.  There he ran wild with his friends in the village of Qunu.  He has told of the happiest years of his life – shooting birds out of the sky with a catapult, gathering fruit from the trees, catching fish with a bent hook and drinking warm milk straight from the cow.

Just like me, he sometimes looked after flocks of sheep and would go home to his family’s little house after playing till dusk, to eat supper and listen to his mother’s stories around the fireside.

As a young boy, he had no immediate knowledge of apartheid.  In his small, safe world there was no obvious menace.  His childhood was secure in the rural Xhosa community where he belonged.

I also knew nothing of the cruel racial boundaries in our country as I grew up.  My father was a farm foreman in a fertile part of the Western Cape.  All my young life I played with black and mixed-race children who lived on the farm with us in Stanford, many miles from the city.

Looking back, Mandela and I both enjoyed childhoods full of innocence and charm, although many years apart.  We were both brought up in the Christian tradition, our lives ruled by strict but loving parents who taught us right from wrong.  All that mattered was home and family, with rewards for good behaviour and punishment for bad.

He and I, in contrasting worlds, came to know in our different ways the full cruelty of the apartheid laws, and those worlds collided only many years later when we both found ourselves on Robben Island, the bleak maximum security prison where he was serving life and I was his warder.

I was 19 years old when I came face to face with Nelson Mandela.  He was 60.  Until that day I had never heard of him, or his African National Congress, or the deeply held reasons that meant that he and his comrades were prepared to die for their cause.

I found a man who was courteous and humble, yet at the same time the powerful leader of many of the political prisoners serving time on Robben Island.”

and

“He wrote of his ‘long walk to freedom’, and I walked some of that road with him, an incredible journey that defines my life today, as well as his.

In truth, my life began so much later than his.  A white Afrikaans boy born into the very culture that created Mandela the revolutionary, I’d had no idea it was going to lead me to him.”

~ * ~

Unlike Christo Brand, whose childhood and life story are also described in the book, I did not grow up in a Christian household, and my home and background influence were very definitely liberal British / generally English ones, but I too experienced the times of friendship with ‘forbidden’ others, and the wildness of living free during part of my childhood in the African countryside.  In this way, I suppose one could imagine that each of these aspects makes us plaited and pure South Africans of the apartheid era, kindred spirits in all sorts of ways.  There are aspects of imprisonment which Mandela experienced, that I could identify as similar in various parallels with my own life on other continents where, despite appearance to the contrary, I have also experienced the sheer despair and discomfort of being contained, misjudged, overlooked, misunderstood.  It is in the nature of some of us to express ourselves openly and to put our gifts to use with excellence and generosity; when we are constrained, those energies can be directed inwards and threaten to overwhelm us … Nelson Mandela showed that they and the opposition he faced would grow him, instead, and indeed they did.

As I turned to a few more pages, before getting up and on with the day, I came across a page that struck me as special to share, and so I took a quick photograph (a bit blurry, given the time of day!) ..

On one page, two human beings whom I have a huge amount of respect for, both having been at the receiving end of unimaginable condescension and criticism, both heroes of their day, despite (and perhaps because of) it all, both educated, civilised, philosophical giants, with warm hearts and the grace of forgiveness in the fibre of their make-up: Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.  Each man a legend, in his own right.  Each man someone I look up to as an example of a fine human being.  Each man with roots in Africa. Each a leader, against all the odds.  Each man a lion-hearted soul.

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At the front of the book, US President Barack Obama’s message in the visitors’ book on Robben Island, dated 30 June 2013, is quoted and reads:

“On behalf of our family, we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.  The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

These words deserve a moment …

I am one of those people who will often read the final pages of a book, and then go back and absorb the detail, quickly, or pausing to comb through the fine print, savouring each page like a morsel of delicacy.  Thus, confining this one quick comb through my precious gift of “Mandela.  My Prisoner, My Friend” to another ten minutes or so of perusing the content for now, I turned to the last couple of pages, where I read the words of co-author to this story, Barbara Jones:

“It was soon after dawn on Sunday, 15 December 2013 when Christo Brand walked through the ancient fields of Qunu village and past the river where Mandela played as a child, on his way to a sad but fitting ceremony, the last goodbye to the great Nelson Mandela.  Security guards noted his damp and muddy shoes and insisted on brushing them clean for him.  He continued alone right up to the burial place and looked into Mandela’s empty grave.

‘I thought to myself how he would now be able to look over the whole of that green valley he loved so much.  Madiba had come home, just as he always longed to,’ he said.

Christo was greeted warmly by a group of military generals, every one of them an ex-prisoner from Robben Island.  Film producer Anant Singh, whose “Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom”, had recently received huge critical acclaim, persuaded Christo to sit nearby, along with actor Idris Elba, who took the lead part.

Mourners started up their beloved freedom songs dedicated to Mandela, and Christo felt proud.  Close to tears, he listened to Mandela’s grandson Ndaba giving his moving speech.  ‘I closed my eyes and I could hear the man himself, and see him in his youth’, he said.  Granddaughter Nandi was also impressive and talked of Mandela’s warmth towards his family.

Daughter Zindzi saw Christo, gave him a special smile, and thanked him for being there.  The singing stopped and everyone stood.  It was the moment for Mandela’s coffin to be carried solemnly past the mourners.

‘The coffin was close enough for me to touch but I didn’t think that would be right,’ said Christo.  ‘And it was enough to know that our lives had touched for so many years.  I said a silent goodbye to the best, strongest and most honest human being I have ever known.’ “

I don’t think I have spoiled the story by sharing these last few lines in the book … most of the world was watching the procession of Nelson Mandela’s coffin on that day, we all know how the story ended … I, for one, was glued to my television screen, candles lit and with tears pouring down my cheeks.  Scotland, where I write this from, is a long, long way from home.

God bless you, Madiba.  You, Lion of Africa, gave eloquence and elevation and grace to the people and to the country I am now so proud to call my real home.

To the friend who gave me this book so unexpectedly, your generous gift has blessed me with a renewing, an additional and special link to a country I left thirty two years ago this December, two weeks after my twenty third birthday, a country that was in turmoil … leaving a country and a people whom I miss with heart and mind and soul.

Holly x

The book was published by John Blake Publishing Ltd, in 2014.
ISBN 978 1 78219 743 0

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