Snowdrops on International Women’s Day

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On this International Women’s Day, I thought I would post a few photographs of the delicate white blooms carpeting areas of our garden at the moment, a little visual gift to those who love snowdrops, and with thoughts of all the women around the world who are making a difference on our beautiful planet right now.

I read a quote today by Magnify Magazine, which said: “Behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, although so often women can be one another’s worst challenges and bitter rivals instead! Successful women, however, in whichever areas they work or perform their vital roles, know that it is in the lifting of others that we rise to greatness or prove to be of value ourselves.

It is so important to remember how much women do in our society generally, and how far they are prepared to extend themselves, in order to maintain peace and dignity on our planet. There is a long way to go towards making women feel more appreciated for all the roles that they perform, so many unrewarded, undervalued or ignored. There is also a distance to reach yet towards recognition of the fact that women are the ones who instil so many of life’s worthwhile values into the children of our world. To those among us who are making a difference, even in the smallest of ways, I salute you.

Enjoy this snapshot of the last moments of the snowdrops shining in my garden this week, soon to be retreating into the background, where they will regain their strength to bloom with vigour next Spring, and give way to the crocuses and narcissi who will take centre stage.

 

Holly x

 

 

PS. I think the white streak down the photograph below, might have been an early bug in flight … (or perhaps even a fairy?).  There are sure to be fairies in this garden of biodiversity somewhere!

 

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Copyright ©  The Holly Tree Tales

Be Peaceful Now

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None of us ever knows what lies ahead,
but we can each choose to find ways to be peaceful now.

Now is the only time that any of us has,
and we can make our own lives stable by appreciating its value.

When we are peaceful,
we make it easier for others to be peaceful too.

When we focus on peace,
we enable more peace to take place around us.

Be peaceful now.
It is the only time there is.

~ : ~

Holly x

A Moment Before Christmas

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A moment of mindfulness, under this year’s fresh and fragrant Christmas tree.


 

 

Written on Monday 21 December 2015

 

I have stolen away from all the things I am ‘supposed’ to be doing, to do something that I need to do … to write a few thoughts down and to catch a moment, to consider and to prepare for the coming Christmas days.  Less than an hour ago, I was in a blind panic, about all that remains to complete on my To Do list, and then I pulled myself together with the remembrance that there are so many around the world right now, for whom Christmas will have anything but a To Do list, a To Buy list, or a to invite list …

I know that this is the time of year when many around the world feel the deepest sense of aloneness, purposelessness and loss. I am aware that we are among the fortunate few on the planet, who have a roof over our heads, food in our tummies every single day, warmth as we snuggle down into our beds at night in the northern hemisphere, know comfort as we do the same in the south, and so much around us from whence we can each draw joy, if we will but stop a moment and see how much we are each blessed by.  And so, I stopped.  In the midst of my busy, modern Christmastime anxiety, I just stopped. I breathed. I remembered those less busy, less encumbered with ‘blessings’, and I gave thanks that I have people in my life for whom I ‘must do’ and complete my To Do list for.

What has happened to Christmas?  What has happened to the Christ child in the meaning and the midst of Christmas?  What has happened to the hearts of those hell bent on spending their cash on things that they and others truly do not need?  What has happened to this time of year when, despite the shops being full and the banks’ coffers overflowing, so many go without everything that we take for granted, and so many have not one loving soul to warm their hearts with?  Why are so many doing so much to sell us what they and we know that none of us truly needs for life to go well?  Why have we become so needs orientated and so acquisitive, anyway, so goal orientated rather than love inclined?

Why have we forgotten that this is the time when we remember how Love came down to meet us where we are already at?  How can we imagine that materialism and things can fulfil us, when those who are totally alone at this time of year know only too well that they cannot?   How many would give their eye teeth to have someone loving to hold?   How many fear the alcoholic rages that follow the “Christmas Cheer”?  How many children wait expectantly for Father Christmas, or Santa (who has stolen the show), and yet many live in fear of what their own fathers might do to them, and have no knowledge of the Father who is our very own and loving God?  How many have grown to hate Christmas, because it hurts, or sends them into spiralling debt?  How many dread the gatherings and the opulence, when all they really want and need is love?

At the start of this day, a mere four days before Christmas Day itself, I had so many plans and intentions of things to complete, my list long and courageously ambitious, as I continue to struggle with the pain of a recently strained back.  At the beginning of this day the morning sky lit up, with tones of pink highlighting the clearing grey clouds, offering hope and promise of strength and resolve and fortitude … and I have done the best I could with those. However, the end of the day is here now, and I have left most of my List a dream and a hope for tomorrow, undone and only with the help of a miracle to be completed in good time. I believe in miracles, have seen and know a fair few myself, but it seems that this time my List really is ridiculous and life is showing me to calm it all right down.

Four years ago, for the first time, I hosted Christmas (with all the traditional British trimmings) in our own home here, with and for my wider family in the UK.  In previous years, we had either been living in Australia, or had spent Christmas in one or another of my UK family members’ homes, but that year I had begged to be the one (as the eldest sibling), to do Christmas for everyone in our home for once.  I look back now at all that was so lovingly created for that day, by myself and by my children and a friend from Hong Kong who was staying with us, and I marvel at the beautiful homemade Christmas crackers, the food (so simple and yet for me, coming out of a breakdown, such a major feat to produce, tasty and on time).  For the first time in my life, I had made Christmas pudding (organic and to my own experimental recipe) for our family to share. Adventurously, I had baked an impressive organic Christmas cake (partly my own recipe too, a scary first time process, baking it nervously in my trusty round Le Creuset), completely homemade and iced, even the marzipan was made by my own hand. That Christmas had every element of magic and joy that I could conjure up, working against so much that had been and was holding me back, and I think I and my team of merry helpers managed to pull it off well … the pictures, in hindsight, certainly looked respectable!

This year, with only my small nuclear family around our table on Christmas Day, I want to create the magic that we have all enjoyed at other festive occasions and places, in previous years.  This year, however, we are keeping everything very, very simple.  Our gifts are simple, things that each person really needs, lavishness a thing for others, our company much decreased in numbers, our peace and goodwill at the centre of our meaningful time, rather than all the trimmings that create the chaos, the bling, the acquisitiveness, the potential for debt along the road … We have been beautifully blessed by the arrival of Christmas cards, each one appreciated for the love and the time that went into its creation or its thought, and it is in these little things that we see the gifts of presence, of friends near and far, and loved ones who are missed, too far away to touch and hug and feel nearby.

In days long past, as I was growing up in Africa, we would usually only put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  Now, I often wonder how there was the time to attend that task, with so much else  to attend on that day.  Some put up their tree many weeks before Christmas, but ours usually appears to take its stage in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, once both of my children have returned home from boarding school or university, and are here to enjoy its choosing, as well as attend the decoration and sparkly splendour that goes with the desired end result.  Having stood our fresh tree in a metal bucket of water, the trunk held steady with variously sized stones, we light the interior of the deep green needled branches with warmly coloured strands of Christmassy light, then surround the base of the tree with a plain calico cloth, upon which our gifts are placed on Christmas Eve.  As we build the scene, we try to keep things calm and co-ordinated, choosing baubles, little wooden ornaments and glistening stars from a selection that has travelled from southern to northern hemisphere with us … the shiny red apples a gift from my mother on my first Christmas in Australia, always a regular on our tree.  Nothing is ever hung before the little wooden nativity scene has been safely secured in a visible spot, nestled amongst the boughs, the real meaning of Christmas taking pride of place in our home.

Today, I broke with tradition once more and began to create a Christmas pudding for Christmas Day … something I had intended to do on the weekend of “Stir Up Sunday”, a month ago.  No doubt I have left this task too late for the flavours to mellow and mingle, but a wish and a prayer might see it through to become a taste sensation, hopefully producing a good waft of dessert joy.  This year I shall attempt to create our pudding successfully with a gluten free flour and, if it turns out really well, we might enjoy it at a future gathering with the wider family, where everyone can happily tuck in.  I wish I had started this process earlier in the year, but the ‘ideal’ time had other pressing commitments, and so this one will happen now, traditional timing out the Advent window, so to speak.

Four days before Christmas … if said pudding works and I pull it off in this time, a new pudding tradition may well have begun.  The very act of stirring those fruits and zests and liquids, as the Christmas Pudding’s raw ingredients came together bit by bit today, was enough to get me powered forward.  As I breathed the lovely, familiar smells of Christmas, in calm silence, without any music needed to add to the ambience, I was filled with hope that, despite all that remains on my list To Do, I shall manage to do only what needs to be done, and only in a way that retains calm and can be done lovingly and well.

In closing my record of thoughts leading up to Christmas, I have been pondering too that yesterday I read a mindful piece about Christmas, written by a Buddhist monk.  In his thoughtful article, the writer mentioned that “The Pope has shared that this Christmas there is nothing to be joyous about, because there are so many among us choosing hate and violence instead of peace and love.”  It is a sobering thought, and so sad that Pope Francis should feel moved to say this, isn’t it?  We, who are safe and loved, have so much to be grateful for. If you would like to read it too, the full article is at http://plumvillage.org/news/a-green-santa-and-a-hug-of-love/

I hope that in these days leading up to Christmas, you will know an abiding peace in your heart, and that all your plans and hopes for Christmas will be beautifully and fruitfully realised.  Let’s spare thoughts and share our hearts and treasures with those not quite as blessed as us.

In Peace and evergreen Love,

Holly x

 

 

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Our 2011 homemade Christmas cake.

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Our little homemade angel, atop our 2011 Christmas tree, her flowing hair made of the purest wool and wings of softest felt.

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The beautiful wreath for our front door, made lovingly by my daughter and a friend, with plant offerings from the garden.  December 2011.

Collecting Leaves ~ A Poem With Little Punctuation

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Gifting myself an hour outdoors in the weak Autumnal sunshine this morning, the intention being to collect what I could, in that time, of the bounty of leaves lying piled up and scattered all around the house and under nearby trees, I savoured every minute of the precious outdoor time. Every bagful would, in only one year, become freely acquired luscious soil, a friable bounty known as “leafmould”.

As I walked back inside afterwards, my fingers frozen to the bone, peeled off my cosy outdoor boots and set my sights back onto working at the computer, I heard a beautiful tune playing on the radio: “Anno Epilogue” by Oliver Davis.  The haunting melody seemed to contain a mirror of the mood I was wafting through. I sat down, with intentions of attending other projects, but instead I wrote this poem.

I hope it will make sense  … there was little punctuation added whilst writing, not wishing to interrupt the flow of the poem writing itself!

~ : ~

[Please continue reading until the Post Script, dated 21 November 2015, at the end of this post. Thank you.]

 

~ : ~

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Collecting Leaves

Golden sunshine captures me as I look into the leaves …
Smells and sights and sounds I feel
As into the depths of golden hues
I allow my spirit to sink and swim and swallow wholeness
From without into within and all around and all beyond me
When all of a sudden the wind whips up and darkness descends into the daylight
Clouds overhead look to me like mighty thunderous promise
While hard drops of icy water hit the surface of the layers on the ground
Sleety icy cold and glorious, windy wet and perfectly sound
I feel the ice begin to enter through my too thin and puny rubber gloves
Knowing soon I shall have to head back inside
But I wish to remain outdoors where I can smell the Autumn and play in her gifts to all mankind
It might be Friday the thirteenth, but superstition is not a worry to me
I am free and I am unencumbered by the fears that grip so many on this day
All I want to do is stay outdoors and be warm enough to play
I look up and see the holly berries ripening on a holly tree
And quickly realise that there lies more promise, more gifts from Nature on this day
Soon I shall gather boughs of berried holly, before the little birds take them all away
And that way we shall have some festive season redness of natural beauty in our home
As we sit in front of log fires, catching up with loved ones who so often are very far away
Playing games and sharing stories, looking at photographs and reminiscing on times we’ve loved
Knowing that every moment is a precious gem, one not to be squandered
But that day soon comes, when we know not when.
And so for now I gather in my harvest of leafy gold dust,
Which when it turns to dust will become my gold
As leaves of many colours and types and sizes become transformed
From rich, papery, vibrant shades of Autumnal tones in every golden hue
Into the rich brown, sweet smelling earth from which they once came …
Once more they are and will become … leafmould.
As we go from dust to dust, so leaves too return to the Earth
From whence we died, we each become new birth.

*

by  Holly Maxwell Boydell

*

[all rights reserved]

~ : ~

 

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Note: If Readers too would like to hear the beautiful tune I heard before penning this poem, and replayed while I collected its stream of words, here is a link that I found to “Anno Epilogue” by Oliver Davis, via YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-71KIvYOKLk

 

~ : ~

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Blessings,

Holly x

 


POST SCRIPT

Saturday 21 November 2015

I wrote the poem “Collecting Leaves” at lunchtime last Friday, 13 November 2015, and posted it onto The Holly Tree Tales that afternoon.  Little did any of us know that, later that day, the most atrocious tragedy would hit Europe, matched only by some of the atrocities being carried out in other parts of the world too.  Two lines in the poem have been haunting me all this week:

“It might be Friday the thirteenth, but superstition is not a worry to me
I am free and I am unencumbered by the fears that grip so many on this day”

At the time of writing, those words seemed relevant to the ambience and experience on the day, but in hindsight they appear truly crass – which is not and was not, by any means, intended. Out of respect to all those who were hurt on that day, in untold and known ways in Europe and around the world, and to all those who are still hurting in the aftermath of the atrocities,  I have since removed those two troubling lines.  There is now a revised version of this poem, which appears later in the blog, republished and with more punctuation inserted.

In mindful consideration, I continue to hope for peace to come into all of our lives.

~ Holly Maxwell Boydell

Appreciation Of Nature And Creation

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A couple of weeks ago I penned a few brief words, as I pondered the ludicrousness of ignoring our Creator. The words are short and sharp and pointed, but they are not meant to harm, merely to open a shutter of light and let the awareness of magnificence in …

~ : ~

It is pointless worshipping Nature, while ignoring the One who created it all.  What an insult to Divine Intelligence!  And what freedom of spirit to know that, whilst out in Nature, one is in a Cathedral of the most magnificent order, where worship is free and the spirit is unleashed.

All of Nature is a temple and each body is a temple of spirit.  The One who created it all cannot be escaped, no matter how intelligent a human thinks he is.  Scientists and NASA staff get this now …

Mere Mortal, how about surrendering to the fact that, when you’re in dire straits, you’re going to need divine intervention?

Well, look around … how much did YOU create and how much ‘stuff’ can you rely on still being around if and when your Important Economy fails?

Face it … we did not manifest ourselves. Oh, I’m so over that stupid argument.

In Peace.

I’m off to ‘the woods’ to pray.

And play.

In Nature’s Cathedral.

With the bees and the butterflies, the bugs and the birds.

Thank goodness I don’t have to look after them too.
Why?
Because God does it.

Truly.
He is Awesome.
And so are You.

 

~ : ~

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Blessings,
Holly x

 

 

[Note: Top photo: Poignant, peaceful prayer flags in a botanic garden – August 2015.]

May You Always Feel Loved – A Poem By Sandra Sturtz Hauss

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I came across this beautiful poem today. It touched me and I thought it would quite possibly touch others too. I share it here, for all of us …

 

MAY YOU ALWAYS FEEL LOVED

May you find serenity and tranquility
in a world you may not always understand.

May the pain you have known
and the conflict you have experienced
give you the strength to walk through life
facing each new situation with courage and optimism.

Always know that there are those
whose love and understanding will always be there,
even when you feel most alone.

May a kind word,
a reassuring touch,
and a warm smile
be yours every day of your life,
and may you give these gifts
as well as receive them.

May the teachings of those you admire
become part of you,
so that you may call upon them.

Remember, those whose lives you have touched
and who have touched yours
are always a part of you,
even if the encounters were less than you would have wished.
It is the content of the encounter
that is more important than its form.

May you not become too concerned with material matters,
but instead place immeasurable value
on the goodness in your heart.
Find time in each day to see beauty and love
in the world around you.

Realize that what you feel you lack in one regard
you may be more than compensated for in another.
What you feel you lack in the present
may become one of your strengths in the future.
May you see your future as one filled with promise and possibility.
Learn to view everything as a worthwhile experience.

May you find enough inner strength
to determine your own worth by yourself,
and not be dependent
on another’s judgment of your accomplishments.

May you always feel loved.

*

By Sandra Sturtz Hauss © 1987

~ : ~

 

The rose pictured is “A Shropshire Lad”, by David Austin Roses. It grows against the wall, near to where I work on my computer and has the most wonderful blooms, with a fresh and fruity scent. Its foliage is gorgeously dark and healthy, starting off almost burgundy and maturing into a deep, dark glossy green. It is a picture of health and hopefulness, both as it comes into leaf and when it is in full growth in Summer.

 Holly x

An Impromptu Lecture by Richard Demarco, CBE OBE

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I am extremely privileged to know the indomitable Professor Richard Demarco (pictured above explaining his Archive at Summerhall), having first come across him in Edinburgh during the early 1990s, and am honoured to call Richard a friend.

As is his wont and despite his advanced years, Richard Demarco continues to be immensely generous about sharing what he has with others, regardless of where he is or with whom, and he loves an audience with whom to engage.   Ever enthusiastic about disseminating his vast knowledge, conveying his passion in every word, and describing his many encounters with bright and brilliant minds, all of whom he recognises as artists, Richard thrives on speaking with anyone who is interested to hear what he has to teach, and speaks with brilliance and compelling emotion about the things most dear to his heart.

On one of my visits to Richard’s administration base in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, a small crowd had gathered, to whom Richard enthusiastically began to lecture. I switched on my camera to capture the moment in photograph, but hit the video setting, in error.  Thus, instead of photographing him, I found I was filming the exceptional moment, which turned out to be fortuitious.  Richard noticed that he was being filmed, but appeared not to mind the ‘intrusion’, so I kept the film running.  To be honest, I wish I had video or audio recordings of every meeting  and gathering at which we have met thus far, all of which have been fascinating, inspiring and intellectually vibrant.  Richard Demarco is a stellar human being and one who never fails to enliven the world around him, a world which I am so fortunate to be able to encounter him in.

I share this treasure of mine in good faith, the result of my impromptu filming of an impromptu lecture by Professor Richard Demarco, CBE OBE on 10 July 2013, at Summerhall in Edinburgh. The film clip contains mentions of the Edinburgh Festival, the climate and Nature, made poignant by the presence of a cherished portrait of the late Joseph Beuys, renowned artist and environmentalist, a much-treasured and missed friend of the great man.  There are also several ‘guest appearances’ through a creaky door, by those going about their business of managing the Demarco Archive at Summerhall.  I hope none will mind being featured in this little film.

 

 

As an aside before ending this post, mere mention of the fact that this was filmed a day after Richard Demarco’s 83rd birthday.  Richard has recently celebrated turning 85, and continues to travel widely to speak of Art, his great love, and many things related, inspiring all who come into his orbit.  What a remarkable man he is!

With blessings,

Holly x

 

~ : ~

Note:  For more information about Professor Richard Demarco, please search this site for other post(s), where you will also find links to his website.

 

 

~ : ~

 

 

NB.  The film clip featured is the property of and remains copyright to Holly Maxwell Boydell, with all rights reserved.  The film and this post may be shared, but not used elsewhere for gain without prior and appropriate agreement / permission.

 

 

 

 

Copyright ©  The Holly Tree Tales
All rights reserved.

Autumn’s Artichoke

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There is something very satisfying, even decadent, about being able to settle down to a solo lunch of home grown artichoke. What a luxury!

Somehow, with this being the last artichoke of the season in our garden, there was a special tang of just (yet mingled with guilt for not sharing) reward about the perfect plate of goodness before me …

Nothing nicer than a freshly picked, steamed organic artichoke, with freshly melted, organic lemon butter and lashings of pepper  …

Ah. Some days one really feels like a “King”!

 

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How slowly I savoured every last morsel, feeling utter gratitude that I had managed this year, at long last, to produce our own artichokes from the little plants that had held onto dear life in the greenhouse, year upon year, as I tried to figure out whether we had the right garden (climate) conditions for them, and how on earth to go about it.

And what did I do with the precious green liquor remaining in the saucepan that had steamed the delicious artichoke?

 

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Well, it looked far too healthy and full of goodness itself so, instead of tipping the vegetable water down the sink, as so many do, I collected it, diluted it with cold water, and fed it to some thirsty pot plants.

Oh, and the remains of the artichoke?

Well, they went into the composting system, of course!  Winners all round.

In Autumn health and wholeness,

Holly x

Quiet Time In Winchester Cathedral

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A few months ago, I was down in Winchester to attend a couple of events at Winchester College and found a little time for myself on the Saturday morning, anonymous and alone amongst the many inhabitants and visitors to the town. Feeling tired and fairly tender on the day, I decided to take myself on foot to the Cathedral, in the hope of finding a quiet corner where I might not intrude, and where I might be allowed to simply be.

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Whilst there, I penned the following into my notebook …

~ : ~

In Winchester Cathedral
Epiphany Chapel

As I walked into the Cathedral, on a video screen I saw the words very clearly “Be Still And Know That I Am God” … before they disappeared, replaced on the screen with something else.  I had walked in alone, in that moment, and felt as though the stillness and trusting message was especially for me.

I asked the lady greeting visitors at the door if I might be allowed to just come in and sit down.  I barely had the emotional strength to explain that I was not a tourist nor a history scholar, merely someone needing solace. I did not wish to join the milieu, nor have to walk across to the ticket kiosk and deal with the business of being there.  Thankfully, mercifully, I did  not have to explain to her. The lady looked directly into my eyes, and asked if I wanted to pray. I said “Yes, just to sit and pray, and to write”.  She looked as though she clearly understood my need and, without hesitation, showed me the way – “towards the wrought iron gates on the left hand side, and then left into the little chapel” – which has been set aside for this purpose.  I was so grateful to be able to come here and be peaceful, alone.

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As I walked into the chapel and sat down, the tears that had been gathering on the long walk down the side of the Cathedral were beginning to really flow free, and I was pleased to be able to let them out, completely alone and privately.  Then I looked up at the beautiful flowers, in an arrangement near where I was sitting, and noticed snapdragon heads amongst them, and realised that they are similar to the few apricot-coloured snapdragon plants that I had inherited at [the home where we currently live], before I moved them out of the area near the house, into the Stables Courtyard.  Not my favourite colour in plants by any means, but I felt as if they were a link to here, a message of some sort.

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I opened the Bible sitting on the pew rail in front of me; it fell open at Proverbs 19.

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Then I opened another page, after reading what had been shown, and saw Psalm 126.

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I photographed the pages, to have a record of what I had seen and read.  Some meaning was already and immediately there, but I felt that more meaning might come later, and wanted a record of what I had felt to be special and relevant messages.

Before entering the Cathedral, I had walked around the area in and near the shop and refectory beyond it, photographing the beautiful and meaningful bits to me, nurturing myself by being peaceful, enjoying the unrushed time to absorb what I felt led to and what I wanted to see.

Drinking in the peace at the Cathedral, even with the many other visitors and voices bouncing around the huge stone walls, I feel grateful for being understood, being allowed to stop, sit alone quietly, and simply be.

“Be Still, And Know
That I Am God”

Psalm 46: 10

~ : ~

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As I was leaving the Cathedral, I slipped gold coins into the donation box, in thanks for the peace and understanding shown to me, by the kind lady at the entrance door. That time in the Epiphany Chapel had been a gentle, much-needed balm to my soul.  I had felt momentarily as though, perhaps, someone truly is looking after me.

Holly x

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