My Journey Into The University of Life

IMG_2942 - cropped - THTT signedHaving delivered my son, the youngest of my two children, to a prestigious international university at the weekend, I find myself ready to share the thoughts that are streaming through my mind right now … keeping the feelings of emotional adjustment at bay, while I picture our son adjusting to his new life in a new place, and we adjust at home to not having him around.

It is a strange head and heart space to be in, not for the first time another massive readjustment, a new place within a strange place, on a journey that has held many unexpected bits along its path.

Here is a little more of my own story …
It is a snippet about my starting out in the Big Wide World, showing up at the gate to the “University of Life”.

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Did you know?
I did not go to university.

Furthermore, I do not have any certificates from any institutions other than a matriculation certificate from high school, and there are no letters after my name.

I have no profession, no specific thing that I can tell anyone that I ‘am’, no one easy answer to provide when faced with a form to fill in about what I ‘do’.  And yet, I do and have experience in a lot.

I have been educated to beyond tertiary level, by the “University of Life” … for those who do not know what this is, the best and shortest way I can describe it is: It is the long way round to blasting through glass ceilings, reaching full potential, and having ‘degree status’ clout. However, in matters of life, meaning, authenticity, sustainability and leadership in a range of ways, it is the path that I have travelled, is most definitely not a short cut nor easy way, and it means that whatever I say, I mean and have quite possibly seen, felt, tasted or survived.

It would be wonderful if there were a degree for this journey into and through the “University of Life”, a piece of paper to frame, a garment and a mortar board, but there is not. There is little recognition in tangible form for the courses that I have been on. As a result of the journey, and despite it, when you meet me, what you see is what you get. My communication is undiluted; I do not suffer fools lightly (nor does the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible), and I have found that life is far too short to beat around the bush. It would be good to add a degree to this level of experience and integrity, but as yet I have not.

Why did I not go to university? 
Plainly put, I might have gone to university (indeed would have loved to attend the beautiful establishment on the slopes of Table Mountain, where I lived), had circumstances that I was living within been very different.

Having left home pretty much, at the raw age of eighteen, it was simply too hard to take on university by myself – the funding and the focus required were a crippling prospect – as well as manage my life entirely by myself. That said, I tried to get to university or teacher’s training college, I even made an appointment and met with my senior school headmistress – who said in no uncertain terms that she believed in me, even offered to help me to find a bursary – but it all felt too hard to pursue at the time. I found that, as I needed to support myself, still contributing in certain ways to life at home, already by then well-schooled in the rigours and realities of some very obscure scenes of life, I could not afford the time nor the cost nor the luxury of a university life.  How I would have loved to join all my friends who were able to do just that! But it was not the path that life had set me on.

Looking back (and at the time) I know I would have grabbed life on campus with both hands and squeezed every bit of juice out of a university experience when I left senior school – it was how I lived my life, anyway – but instead my mother directed me to undertake a Secretarial Course.  I was told that I would be supported partially to do that, but not to attend university. The lion share of everything that I needed I would have to find myself … not least, it turned out, the guidance to do what I was gifted for.  What a waste of twelve years of striving to be the one who would (and had so often done so or come close to) be winning the prize. There had been many Speech Days, when I was younger, where I had walked proudly up onto the stage to receive a book prize or some other form of recognition … and no one was ever there to support me. I gave up on that lark halfway through high school, when my home life became a series of rapidly changing and dramatic stage sets. It was hard to keep track in the pace of life itself, anyway … I do recall that our headmistress gawped when I told her that one day, during the public reading of our results at the start or end of a school term, in front of my entire year.

Therefore, despite my reluctance at going to do something that held no interest to me at all, the path that I had been told was my most realistic option was the one that I took. The little that I learnt at Secretarial College ended up being one way I kept myself from starving during many desperate times over the coming years. It was never my choice of career path … but it helped when I could find nothing else to turn my hand to fast.

Did I not receive a Certificate upon completion of the Secretarial Course?
No, I did not.
Why not?
Because I did not complete the course.

Four months into my six-month secretarial course in the city of Cape Town, after and whilst enduring endless banging away on manual typewriters (ouch) in an effort to reach perfection and to get my perfect banging of keys up to reasonable speed, with countless sheets of paper and carbon flying in all directions, battling to get my head and hands to process the simplicity of shorthand, staring square-eyed at the columns of bookkeeping figures … and on and on … I could not take any more. I was feeling utterly demoralised.  So, being used to ‘making a plan’ and finding ways to keep going within storms of life, I went straight to the nearest newspaper seller, bought myself a newspaper, and opened up the Classifieds pages to scour the list of Job Ads. I had to find a better way to do life than doing what I was most definitely not suited to, and I hoped that this would somehow lead me through an open door  … instantly I saw various advertisements that I somewhat courageously, very determinedly, rather cheekily, circled and then set my sights on applying for.

The first job I applied for … “Girl Friday for City Insurance Brokers” … led to an immediate interview … and the immediate offer of said job.  However, there was only one problem: the directors of the firm who were offering me the job, at what for me at the time was a huge salary – R300 (South African Rands in 1981) per month – required that I be at least able to operate an electric typewriter. Snag: I could barely manage to keep all the sheets of paper in the manual typewriters at the secretarial college down the road, let alone type one sentence without needing to erase and repair errors (times multiple pages) … and so they, being optimistic men of ‘making a plan’ too, decided to deliver to my little flat, with their company Driver, one of their new electronic typewriters, with the implicit instruction that I PRACTISE.  I was to show up for work three weeks’ hence, armed with the electric typewriter that they owned … and in receipt of the necessary skills required to operate it.  They were, clearly, believing in me to produce a miracle

I showed up for work … on time and on the due date … with the typewriter … whom I might have named by then … only just able to drive it.

My role as “Girl Friday” was a broad one, and it went from challenge to challenge, from strength to strength over a period of two years.  When I became bored, the Directors and senior staff found new challenges for me … while they expected me to answer their incoming switchboard telephone calls with aplomb, and not trip myself in the process of dealing with miles of yellow tape attached to the office telex machine … a vital piece of kit in the inter-office and inter-national communication system of the time.  Oh my word, it was all slog … but I loved it, because I was being mentored and taught and appreciated and given bonuses and helped to stretch and stretch and stretch … all in lieu of my much-coveted university place.  The Directors and senior staff had taught me all that they could, from keys to claims and back again, and wanted me to pursue a career in their field.  It just seemed grey to me, and so I declined their offers to support my studying to undertake the Insurance Industry Exams. C’est la vie.

When I could stretch no longer within the framework of the office and the company, when I decided that I could not face a lifetime in the insurance industry, when I was done with doing all the things that were possible for me to learn in that one office, when they had moved premises from the “Golden Acre” (and I had helped them to do so) to the outer suburbs of Cape Town … and all of life seemed to scream to a boring halt for me … I resigned. Job done. Great friends made. Wonderful experiences, including a yacht launching that I had organised to great success … but it was time to move one.

I am now in my fifties. Much has passed under the bridge since then.

I have much more story to tell, but that’s enough for now.

The “University of Life” is the hardest one on the planet to get into and to do well within … it requires a huge amount of tenacity and guts … and listening … and learning … and independent battle strategy … and following leads … and bumping yourself, getting bruised, picking yourself back up … but it often produces Eagles and Leaders and I have only to look at my children to know that I have defied a whole lot of what Life tried to use to trip me up. It has been an exhausting ride, but I am thoroughly proud of it and abundantly blessed as a result of never, ever, ever having given up.

So, without a degree and without a professional accolade to slip off my tongue, or any other seriously impressive title to blind you with, please know that what I write and what I do and what I speak is me being completely and utterly real, desiring to share what I have and to make the world a better place than the one that I found.  I speak from experience, and all of it hard won.  Often a lone voice, I have lost and found my voice … stronger and more vibrant than ever before … because I have the scars to prove that life is a powerful force and love will carry us through everything, if we just hold on.

Be brave. Be strong. Keep believing. Fall down. Get back up.
Cry. Shout. Scream at the wind. But don’t ever stay down on the ground …
Wait for the next current of life to come along … and then rise up!
It might take time to heal from the wounds, but just remember:
Eagles don’t have time to hang out with those who wish to remain forever on the ground.

If you’re on your path to graduation, go for it!
You’ve got a headstart.

With love and motivation,

Holly x

PS. My typing speed is phenomenal now … and I still have no desire to be anyone’s PA … shall leave that role to those who can do it with aplomb. Oh, I did it, by the way … I worked as a PA in London, in a prestigious establishment there, and I have the experience to prove it … Just no Certificate, I’m afraid. There is, of course, other working experience to add to the bow too, but those stories are for another day.

PPS. I am still learning, changing, rebuilding … and it is now time for me to graduate to the next level too …

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“the gazebo is scheduled for conservation work soon. Please respect the fragility of its interior”*

rings true!

*(a sign seen in a beautiful garden in the Cotswolds recently, it is what gave me the inspiration to write this piece)

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Link to WordPress “The Daily Prompt”
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sympathy/

Sunday Morning Mindfulness

Quietly and sleepily sipping my first cup of Earl Grey tea early this morning, I slowly and absorbingly read the pages of a beautiful hardback book given to me by my mother and stepfather a few years ago.  I think it was a Christmas present – there will be a note inside to tell me, as I usually note these things nowadays – and I remember being instantly delighted by the sight and feel of the book, when I received it.

The cover of the book is white, with fine black writing and an elegant picture of a blue flower on the front, details on the back of those writers whose work has been included and form the body of the book, and the inside cover is a lovely blue. Published by the Royal Horticultural Society, it is a collection of prose and poetry with lovely pictures, artist sketches, of the flowers and plants that have been written about.  A coffee table book in a sense, or one to simply pick up and feed your senses with … which is why I picked it up this morning.

I read the other day, in a most unlikely place, that Table Mountain in Cape Town has 1,500 species of plants – whereas the entire United Kingdom has no more than that, indeed less than.  The fact astonished me, as Table Mountain forms only one very small part of the vast and beautiful country of South Africa, a place rich and awash with abundant flora and fauna; a place I miss to my very soul, because of this.  It was, believe it or not, this morning that the realisation dawned on me: “I miss the flora and fauna of South Africa”. More than anything, I miss the sights and the sounds of the natural world … and that is saying a lot, as there is much else in that gorgeous rainbow nation which I miss very much as well.

The little book that I was dipping into this morning, is about plants that grow in Britain, many of which I have come to know since my return here from Australia in 2006, and mostly since purchasing our current property in 2009.  I have learnt a lot about the British climate and natural environment while living in Berwickshire, experiencing life ‘out in the sticks’ much of the time, observing what is going on in our own tiny patch and what is going on all around us.  The monocultures that are witnessed everywhere in the United Kingdom, concentrated in the areas of countryside, are a depressing sight to someone who knows and longs for the biodiversity of a beautiful, natural world.  Instead of focusing only on those sorry and disastrous states, however, I take my focus back to the beauty of individual plants and absorb the wonder of life wherever I see and feel it, plants being only one way (and a potent one at that) of feeling the connection, a tangible connectedness, with the source of all life.

This is another thing I have realised only within the last few days … I ‘drink’ from the beauty of plants and feel drawn into closely observing the presence of bees and other wild creatures resting on or feeding from plants, because I feel a sense of connection to them, a connection to something deeper than myself, something and someone who is my very source.  I am easily uplifted by the sight or smell of a flower, a plant that is in excellent and robust health, a bumblebee or butterfly supping from pollen laden faces or drinking nectar from the trumpets of exquisitely designed little or large flowers. These things really draw me in, momentarily, for seconds at a time even, but powerfully and satisfyingly.  No matter if they quickly pass, the next moment soon comes.

All of these things of nature, strange as it may sound, feed my soul … and yet, so does the sight of a beautiful painting in a gallery, the feel of a special book, the experience of seeing a magnificently designed building or a chic, sophisticatedly detailed car (I have been known to stop and stare, mid conversation, when a Ferrari or Lambourghini has been sighted), a fabulously crafted pen, a stunning dress or creations of our recent past, like blue and white crockery and Bentwood chairs, a cared for old Morris Minor, a mirror or bowl of beautifully crafted glass.  Anything that is beautifully styled for elegance, efficiency, for peace or for speed,  will always draw me in, like a honey bee to nectar or even a monkey to a scene of curiosity, I suppose! I am simply fascinated by beauty, simplicity, form, ergonomic and eloquent design.  I see all of this in nature, and in miniature form it is always communicated to me through a beautiful plant, tree or flower – or even in sand or soil, in sticks of all sorts, in pebbles, rocks and gemstones!

Thus, as I turned the pages of the book my mother had given me, reading with pleasure about primroses, plumbago, giant white lilies, meconopsis (delicate blue poppies), blue iris, hyacinth, and even dandelion, I appreciated every word as one who closely knows the subject that she is reading about.  I feel the essence of a flower so easily … try it, next time you have the chance to inhale the fragrance of frangipani (in other climes), or jasmine, or the deliciously lemony tang of citrus blossom … you’ll connect with the source of all life that way too, I’m sure.

Digressing from my original subject of this piece, I realise, this issuing of invitation to others to feed on and drink from the well of life is a natural one to me too … I love to share what I have been blessed to know, to experience, to have for a season, to love, to learn from (good or bad), to achieve, to grow through, to expand within. There is so much joy in having others on the journey too and the invitation is usually a spontaneous one, invitation being something that has been a natural instinct of mine from a very early age.  In recent times, living in a place so remote and far from most of my friends and loved ones, I have extended the invitation through publishing (mainly online as yet) many writings of my own. Everything that I write and share with others, is an invitation for someone else to share in the experience of, a form of hospitality, a hand outstretched, an open door of sorts. If anything I write helps another, that is a bonus and hearing about it comes always as an unexpected gift.

And so, back to the book and the early morning cup of tea which helped to waken me for the new day …  I looked into the pictures opposite each page of poetry or prose, I read the lines, I felt the scenes, I appreciated the closeness of observation that had enabled the writers to share their presence as they wrote about the plants, and I felt loved. Nature does that … whether out in nature, or in word, or in image, nature nurtures somehow, I find.   There is nothing quite like experiencing the real thing, the sights and smells and feel of life inside elements of plants, flora, or the quirkiness of the fauna of a place, but to read about it is a close thing at least.

As I closed the book for the time being, having finished my cup of tea and feeling that a piece of writing needed to be birthed, I held it briefly in my arms and felt my mother’s love. Knowing that the book had been especially chosen for me, not least I am sure because of its colour scheme on the cover, the white enhanced with shades of blue, for content and for sight, becoming freshly aware of this was another nurturing of sorts.  My mother was born in this country, in Edinburgh, and these are the plants of her country of birth which I am tending and reading about these days.

Perhaps I shall soon find a way to travel easily between the other countries and continents that I love but, for now, I drink in the beauty of elements of the country where I am currently based, as I dream of and plan for what can be. Always, I am grateful for what is and has been, and always I drink in the awesomeness of now, all around me.

It is in the plants, the flora, of a country that we read deep into her soul.  It is in the plants that I find my connection to my source.  It is in the plants that we find our nourishments, our medicines, our fragrances, our hope, so much life, the essence of so much that is sustainable and needed for healthy longevity, our groundedness, our environmental stability, and the source of so much joy and of so much that is meaningful in real life.

Holly x

 

 

 

 

 


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Link to WordPress “The Daily Post”:
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/inhabit/

 

In The Garden Of The Mind – A Poem

    

In The Garden Of The Mind

With sweet bitterness I think of the way we hurt
And wonder at the monstrous thoughts
That claim for themselves
The precious moments of our lives.
What right, these demons of destructive power,
To tread so heavily on our dreams?
How dare they obscure the sunshine from our view
And with such brutal force
Plant their small seeds of gruesome despair
In the shadowed flower beds of our minds?

A little love!  A friendly touch!

New energy begins to fizzle
Through the branches of my thought,
And with gathering momentum
Strength finds its plotted course
Whilst perseverance warmly nourishes
Far into the recesses of my seedling memory.
Fed and tended, my bruised resolve refreshed;
For in His mercy the Gardener plants
New seeds of faith and hope
And graciously
silences
my Lamentation.

 

 

~ : ~

 

 

 

Written on 27 April 1990.

 

© Holly Maxwell Boydell

A Visit to RHS Harlow Carr in Spring

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This is more than just about a garden visit.

I am writing this blogpost retrospectively, having visited RHS Harlow Carr in early Spring this year.  Our visit this time, occurred just as the buds were opening on the blossom trees (prunus of several types), the fresh leaves were unfurling in many shades of green on chilly trees, the bulbs’ leaves were emerging from their cosy soil beds, many flowers bravely blooming in the still and freezing-cold Yorkshire air, and various heathers and ericas were in abundant show-off pink colour blaze.

Harlow Carr has become a special place to me, a place where I have enjoyed a few visits since my children attended boarding school in that British county, which is several hours’ drive south of our current home. Visiting gardens is a way for me to connect with the pure life force that I sense is so lacking in society today, a vital way for me to unwind and to find inspiration for all the tasks I’m still learning to understand and to manage, and for strength in the journey of life itself, as well as simply to be in the presence of beauty and grace, for wonder and for fun.

On this day back in April 2017, my husband and I had driven down from the area where we live south of Edinburgh, met our daughter at a train station nearby, and we’d all set off for an afternoon of grounding, family time and chatting about life plans, on a very rainy afternoon. We were lucky to find a table fairly quickly in the very busy cafe on site, and happily enjoyed a simple lunch in an attractively glassed area, which afforded us the privilege of seeing the beautiful grounds around us, while keeping warm and snug inside.  Magically, the heavy dark clouds had moved on just as we were sated from a few hours of chat, so we gathered our coats and cameras and stepped outside into the crisp, damp, fresh air for a quick and intentional walk around the tidy paths.

 

 

As we live further north than this garden, it was interesting to note what was happening there, and to know that our turn would come next. The further south one travels in Britain, the earlier the seasons begin and the warmer the climate is.  Our growing season is brief, when it finally starts, and I always sense a wave of panic when everything suddenly begins to grow like mad up here, all maintenance and other jobs becoming necessary at once.  Thus, it helps to see gardens further south, for the warning signs before they take place where we are.

As we wandered about, strategically and fast (by then near to closing time), I was surprised to see so many heathers in bloom at Harlow Carr. Most surprising, I thought, was that the hungry bees were already out and feasting on their tiny little blooms … a sign that this (the various types of heather or erica) is a good plant, one type of species to encourage others to include in their plantings everywhere – at least in every area of Britain where it does not already naturally grow in the wild (where still allowed).  The British landscape does not currently afford much scope for wildlife to find either food or haven, there being little naturalness or biodiversity left on the main island of the United Kingdom; in most areas a begging starvation of diversity exists wherever one looks.

Gardeners can address this suicidal environmental travesty, but alone we cannot – the large landowners and land managers must take the situation into their hands too. We urgently have to address the plight of our wild pollinators  and other creatures that exist to form a healthy eco system, which we each will benefit from. I digress.  Lungwort (pulmonaria) in its many forms, is another plant that bees love in the early months of the year, flowering profusely before much else is in bloom.

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Lungwort (pulmonaria)

It was lovely to see everything looking ready to receive the new season’s growth, beds tidied and mulched … no doubt left a little wild during the winter, to afford habitat for wildlife and to allow some seeds to feed birds, as well as to drop into the ready soil.  I especially loved the little area near the potting shed, which boasts elegant garden architecture, as well as tastefully careful landscape design.

 

 

 

The potting shed itself was delightful to visit – attractive and of great interest; it was useful to find a description there of how pest control was managed in the past. Nowadays so little thought is given to the damage that we are doing to ourselves, to wildlife, to ecology, and to the future of our children’s experiences of the natural world by the use of so many toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, all manner of cleaning materials, genetically engineered plants, etc. Indeed, we are “shooting ourselves in the foot”, instead of learning from and following in the footsteps of our clever ancestors, who knew how to work with Nature, to create something out of little, to harm few or none in the process of fending for themselves. I think about these things, when I wander about!

 

 

 

The notice on the potting shed wall reads:

“The Potting Shed

The potting shed is the gardener’s laboratory! Before commercial pesticides became available, gardeners mix their concoctions of chemicals on a stove in the potting shed, using recipes that have been handed down over generations.

Most ingredients can be found easily and cheaply such as soot, elder leaves, dung, urine and ashes.  Other materials that are used can be bought locally such as soap, lime, sulphur and tobacco.

It is a real factory … in order to realise why gardens have so many flowerpots, it is important to remember that every plant in the garden will  have been grown from seed, carefully nurtured and then planted out (there are no garden centres for instant effect at this time).

Potting sheds are the domain of the workforce and the gentry never visit them, just as there is a definite line between ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ in the house.

Use of Poisons

Dangerous ingredients, such as arsenic and strychnine, are used regularly in the garden as they can be bought very easily – however the Arsenic Act (passed in 1851) allows only people over 21 to buy it, and the sale has to be recorded in a Poisons Book.

The most dangerous ingredients are generally kept in a poisons cupboard in the potting shed. In true Agatha Christie style, if there is a murder on the Estate, the first place the police tend to look is in the potting shed!

In order to keep flies out of the potting shed and prevent them from laying eggs in the compost mix, the walls of potting sheds are painted with Reckitt’s Blue.  This is a blue powder added when washing clothes in order to produce a clean blue-white appearance.”

I find all of this fascinating, don’t you?

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A thirsty honey bee, sipping raindrops from the petals of a white daffodil flower.

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Lovely white narcissus (daffodils) at RHS Harlow Carr ~ and the little honey bee I spied, which features in another photo here, captured close up.

As we ambled quickly along the paths, we encountered a few surprises, such as the very tall willow statue of a Roald Dahl story character, The BFG, which would surely delight every child who visits there and also provides inspiration, perhaps, for what one might do with natural materials found outdoors.  He, the BFG, was a ‘friendly chap’ ~ I took a quick photo to remember the artwork by …

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Heading uphill, onto the side of the garden opposite the entrance, we wandered through tall trees and shrubs, admiring the majestic trunks of rhododendrons, many of which were in beautiful (and some fragrant) bloom.  The honey of rhodendron is toxic, apparently, but the bees need these blooms too and the flowers are always a wonderfully welcome sight, after a long, dark period of Wintry gloom.  I have learnt, at cost to one or two of the mature garden shrubs at our home, that only some rhododendrons (of which azaleas form the same general family) are fit to be pruned!  Would that ours could look as tall and elegant as those at Harlow Carr, which have been cared for by clever people in the know about these things.

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I think this must have been about my fourth or fifth visit to RHS Harlow Carr, since our first visit there in September 2011.  On that day, we had been travelling back up north, having taken our youngest child to boarding school for the first time, and my emotions were in torment.  I remember wandering around Harlow Carr on that day, with my heart in my throat, tears brimming, feeling as though I were a tree whose limb had been ripped off in a whirlwind.  It was an ache I shall never forget … and I thank the universe for making sure that everything turned out well, despite the pain and the challenges and the things that were to come, after that agonising time.  My soul was soothed by Harlow Carr, stopping there as if to apply a plaster to a gaping wound, and it helped me to keep breathing as we left the county, where both of our children were now boarding … it is a relief to have all of that behind me now.

If you have the chance to visit any of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in Britain, do consider doing so; I am sure you will not be disappointed.  So much care goes into preserving precious plant species, designing landscapes that stand out, inspire and motivate and heal the soul … and now the RHS are also behind a great push to make the public, citizens of all ages and all walks of life, aware that we must take care of our natural environment, our pollinators, our precious and vital earth.  I am so grateful for the chance to see such places, to absorb the positive energy there, to benefit from the calm and order and consciousness … very grateful indeed.

In mindfulness,

Holly x


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Truth And Love

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This piece is raw and unedited. It was written straight from the heart.

 

Truth And Love

When I was a little girl, we had a black “houseboy” called John who cried when we left our home in Natal, to go to Cape Town. He had been my closest ally and loved us all so much, bending over backwards in so many ways to put our lives and needs before his own. Not only did that parting hurt, but so did losing my beloved pet cat, “Kicky” on the journey … and then our father disappeared from our lives a little while later … to reappear magically fifteen years later … but that’s nothing compared to what happened during those fifteen years.

No one knows my full story. No one knows the pain that I rise above every single day. No one else I know has walked a similar path – in Africa, Britain, Australia, and bumped back down in unfamiliar territory in Britain – and I have no one with whom I can compare stories or gain direction from. So I hang onto God and I never ever know what He’s going to do in my life each day … but I always know that He is there and he’s keeping me breathing through it all.

For about twenty years, I had a type of amnesia. After unwillingly leaving South Africa at the end of 1985, and then being totally immersed in British country life for almost two before taking myself on the next (challenging) adventure to London, without back up of any sort, I had completely forgotten the languages of the country where I was born and grew up. Survival mode had kicked in full ball. I had no contact with most of my oldest and dearest friends and many of my beloved relatives for most of the years since leaving South Africa, through no design or choice of my own, and over the past decade or so many have reappeared. This, in itself, has been a massive heart stopping exercise, one that has been on a curve and a roll and non stop for a considerable amount of time. I thank God for these people, every single one of them, and for the serendipity that has been working to repair the broken jigsaw puzzle of my crazy life.

In the meantime, all of life has to happen too.
And, by my God, it does.
Full ball.

Please understand that I’m still doing my absolute best to recover from the last nervous breakdown, the second of two which occurred in Australia over the fourteen years that I lived there, the last in the process of the chaos that was our leaving our home and life in Australia, putting my lovely business to bed ~ hoping to pick it all up again after a little soiree abroad …

One day I might write the full story.
The full story.
The full fifty plus years.
But. I’m afraid to expose those who have betrayed or hurt me ~ I realise that’s their indaba and not mine. I can only live with Truth and we each have to live with the consequences of our own decisions, choices and actions … as do I. We each have to learn to grow and mould ourselves into better shapes and treat others better and gain compassion, understanding, learn forgiveness and practise the loving art of grace … each of us … I do not manage the universe … so one day my story will come out, because it just might help one other person on their rocky path.

God bless those who love unconditionally and who do not judge. Your reward will be waiting for you in heaven … meantime, on earth we each get to experience that which we give out.

Choose LOVE.
It’s the most reliable, I’ve found.
In all its facets.

 

 

 

~ Holly ~

 

 

 

A Poem To A Young Man Entering The Army

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Some of my Readers know that I grew up in South Africa, during the Apartheid years.  At that time, all boys who had completed their schooling (or immediately after attending university) had to do their ‘national service’, in either the Army, Navy or Airforce.  They had no option and were forced to do this compulsory service in one form or another.  The threat of national service in South Africa led many to leave the country, or to protest in various ways, or to seek office roles within the services . Few were in the Defence Force as a matter of career choice, at the time. Some Defence Force experiences were a lot easier than others.

When I was a teenager, many of my contemporaries went away to complete their service in the South African Defence Force over a period of two years – part of which consisted, for some, after ‘Basic Training’, of being sent up to the Angolan Border for around six months.  This was often a time of deep testing for the boys, just as they were becoming young men, and it was emotionally challenging for their families and friends as well.  There was little contact with them, and all letters were censored. A friend from the time, whom I recently reconnected with after many years, reminded me of the food and letter parcels that I had sent to him and to various others of our friends during the months of trials on the Border. It was a tough time, and many of us supported our friends as best we knew how, under the circumstances.

At some point, I cannot recall when, national service was reduced to eighteen months, and then to one year. I left South Africa in 1985, just after my twenty third birthday, and have not lived there since, so there is much that I have yet to rediscover about the land that I grew up in and loved. There are large gaps in my knowledge about the country as it is now.  However, I do know that when Apartheid was abolished, national service was not far behind.

Whilst much good can, and often does, come from the lessons that life teaches young people in challenges such as those experienced by the young men of South Africa, the brutality of much of the Defence Force system there at the time, made life very confronting, often graphic. It was especially life-changing for young men stepping into the real world just beyond the school gate.

I was twenty one when my brother went into the Army, just before his eighteenth birthday.  I remember that day as if it were yesterday, the tearful farewell, the sense of utter bereavement at the sight of his empty bedroom – and my brother was one of the ‘lucky’ ones, who it turned out was able to perform his national service duties close to home. Due to having suffered serious illness as a young child, my brother found himself exempt from much of what other young friends had to endure during their national service time. That, given all else that we had been dealing with, was a blessing in disguise.

This is a poem I wrote, privately, to my brother, on the day that he went off for his first taste of Army life. I poured out my ‘grief’ through my pen. I do not think I have ever shown this ‘poem’ to my brother before, nor to anyone else. Yesterday I typed it out and published it to my inner circle via the internet, today I am posting it here.  It is amateur writing and it speaks from the heart of an older sibling, who was carrying a lot on her shoulders at the time.

I dedicate this poem to my brother, now, and to all who are going through life-crushing trials .

Keep hope alive!

Be strong ~ even when you fall, know that you can and will get back up again.

With love,

Holly x

To  A Young Man Entering The Army In South Africa

Brother, for years we were told,
But never really believed,
That one day you, too, would have to join
The long, frightened queue
Of young men, new recruits of the Defence Force.
The Organisation, so powerfully strong,
Snatching, from our arms, our boys
So brave, but oh! so young.
Without you all, how would we fare
In these troubled times of war + fighting,
Dangers so desperately near?
They are but selfish thoughts that bring me to tears,
But how can I help feel pain for you
As the next two years seem achingly long,
An eternity of an unknown future.
My brother, you are so very dear to me
And with my heart I pray that you find
Some measure of peace deep inside –
To face the torments and anxiety,
The discomfort of cold and hunger too,
To learn to reveal or to hide true feeling
Whichever best suits a particular moment.
Learn to have patience for those not so strong,
And a kind disposition to  help the lonely get along.

There are many like you, struggling to be brave
Put on your courageous smile then
And show them your way to overcome
Anguish and fear,
Enabling them to gain strength through you.
Have confidence and optimism –
You will survive!!

Written on 12th July 1983
Cape Town, South Africa.

© Holly Maxwell Boydell

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

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