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.

Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan – An Ode to South Africa – With Translation

A Power of Prosperity moment.

A Kwa-Zulu Natal house martin, resting on a telephone wire at the Author’s home in Berwickshire, UK.

In my previous blogpost, I explained the writing of this poem, which seemed to write itself one chilly evening in Britain, during October 2013. I have now cobbled together a translation, which appears below the original, for those who do not speak Afrikaans nor know the South African lingo …

Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan

Ek wil huis toe gaan …
Weg van hierdie koue plek;
Weg van hier, waar die mense kan nie lag nie;
Weg van die grys en die vreeslike ys,
Daar waar die hemel dikwels blou is;
Waar die mense lag en speel,
Waar die vriende warm is,
En die blommetjies baie is;
Waar die dikdikke dik,
En die blomme lekker ruik;
Waar die koppies loer my in,
En die pad lekker warm onder die fiets is;
Waar die biltong smaak,
En die boerewors kraak;
Waar die sonskyn soos parfum op my vel voel,
En die wind so lieflik oor die veldt grassies ‘skyn’ …
Ja, ek wil huis toe gaan.
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Ek kan nie langer wag nie,
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Die pyn is soms vreeslik koud.
Ek moet huis toe gaan,
Voor alles is vergeet en ek is baie oud.
Draai my huis toe nou,
Op die wind en die voel se rug,
Nou, asseblief, gee my ‘n bietjie verlig,
Ek wil huis toe gaan.

Asseblief. Net huis toe. Nou.

~ : ~

 

And in English, a rough translation …


I Want To Go
Home

I want to go home …
Away from this cold place;
Away from here, where the people cannot laugh;
Away from the grey and the terrible ice,
There where the sky is often blue;
Where the people laugh and play,
Where the friends are warm,
And the flowers are many;
Where the dik-dik call,
And the flowers smell divine;
Where the little hills entice me,
And the road is hot under the bicycle;
Where the “biltong” tastes delicious,
And the “boerewors” crackles;
Where the sunshine feels like perfume on my skin,
And the wind shines so beautifully over the “veld” grasses …
Yes, I want to go home.
I cannot wait any longer,
I must go home.
The pain is sometimes freezing cold.
I must go home,
Before everything is forgotten and I am very old.
Draw me homewards now,
On the wind and the back of the bird,
Now, please, give me a little relief,
I want to go home.

Please. Just home. Now.

~ : ~


Explanation of Words used

Boerewors :  a spicy South African sausage.
Biltong : a dried meat, often spiced with coriander seed.
Dik-dik : a very small type of antelope, named for the sound  that they make.
Veld or Veldt : the wide open spaces of natural African grasslands / meadows.
Verlig : literally translates as someone who holds progressive or enlightened views, in this poem used with liberty to describe a sense of relief, lightheartedness, or respite from continual care or burden.

Holly x

The original poem, written in Afrikaans on 26 October 2013.
Translation on12 August 2015.
~ by Holly Maxwell Boydell

An Ode to South Africa

Holly amongst plants enroute Cape Town perhaps - around 1973 - THTT signed

The Author amongst plants on a family journey between Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Cape, stopping somewhere en route, possibly Namaqualand … A child adoring the exquisite floral beauty, simply growing wild and free all around her. Circa 1973.


Written in moments, straight onto my Facebook page one homesick evening …
The ‘poem’ below wrote itself, it took no time at all to release … I walked up to my computer, sat down at the keyboard, and just let the words flow, as tears streamed from my eyes. I did not edit it, simply hit return and ‘published’, once the flow of words had ceased.

Strangely, there had been many years in between my leaving South Africa in December 1985 and sitting down to let this poem ‘escape’ on the evening of Saturday 26 October 2013. The strangest thing of all was that, for many years, I had completely forgotten every word of the second language of my country of birth, a language that was never ever used in my ‘very British’ home. Somewhere deep in my subconscious, however, the longing thrashed about and translated itself into the language of the land that I longed for.

At the time of writing, as now, I did not know whether the words made any grammatical sense whatsoever … yet somehow my teenage son, who speaks not a word of Afrikaans, picked up the emotion and the significance of this poem. I think the trauma of leaving, readjusting, and the difficulties encountered in a new country, not once but thrice since 1985, caused my subconscious to block much that I had taken for granted before. 

Is it a poem, I wonder? It certainly is a work that came from (or beyond) my deepest self, all of its own accord. Mine were merely the hands that typed it …

~ : ~


Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan

Ek wil huis toe gaan …
Weg van hierdie koue plek;
Weg van hier, waar die mense kan nie lag nie;
Weg van die grys en die vreeslike ys,
Daar waar die hemel dikwels blou is;
Waar die mense lag en speel,
Waar die vriende warm is,
En die blommetjies baie is;
Waar die dikdikke dik,
En die blomme lekker ruik;
Waar die koppies loer my in,
En die pad lekker warm onder die fiets is;
Waar die biltong smaak,
En die boerewors kraak;
Waar die sonskyn soos parfum op my vel voel,
En die wind so lieflik oor die veldt grassies ‘skyn’ …
Ja, ek wil huis toe gaan.
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Ek kan nie langer wag nie,
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Die pyn is soms vreeslik koud.
Ek moet huis toe gaan,
Voor alles is vergeet en ek is baie oud.
Draai my huis toe nou,
Op die wind en die voel se rug,
Nou, asseblief, gee my ‘n bietjie verlig,
Ek wil huis toe gaan.

Asseblief. Net huis toe. Nou.

~ : ~


End note: Two years hence, I think I have remembered sufficient Afrikaans and South African ‘lingo’ in order to be able to vaguely translate this piece.

I have not travelled home to South Africa since 2007, and only twice briefly before that. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of my leaving South Africa, very reluctantly, during incredibly unsettled times in that beautiful country, still struggling to find its peace.

Holly x

Ifafa Beach - rescanned - 1960s - THTT signed

Ifafa Beach, on the South coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, during the 1960s. A place very dear to my heart, much-visited and very much loved as a young child. A place I long to visit, often.

 

Elegantly Fading Tulips

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No matter their colour, a simple bunch of tulips is always welcome, with their quiet freshness and stunning simplicity.

A vase full of tulips never fails to delight, even as they quietly fade …

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Quite unlike many other flowers, over time tulips fade with elegance, beauty and grace, such as these lovely red ones above, whose blooms matured with ever increasing richness as they lasted on and on. Next time, I shall remove the leaves sooner, to preserve the purity of the flowers’ show!

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I was given this gorgeous bunch of pure white tulips above recently. Every day it brought me new, delighted pleasure. When the leaves had finished their green sharing, the flowers wanted to hold on to the stage … until they too began to fade … with sheer and singular beauty.

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I watched each day, as the pretty petals began to crinkle and gently recede, and the blooms became as delicate-looking as the purest snowy feathers, as silky as gossamer down, so elegant, so fine.

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When the petals gently began to drop, like the loveliest snowflakes on they shone, revealing all that existed inside the precious blooms …

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And when they came to the end of their exquisite blooming time, I snipped each faded tulip into my compost bucket, as their job was not yet done. In my heart I felt awe and gratitude and ‘thanked’ the tulips silently, for bringing so much grace and elegance into each moment …

Tulips … so special, from their exquisite freshness to their demure, divine decline.


Holly x

Children Learn what they Live

IMG_0004 - copy - CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE  - by Dorothy Law Nolte

 

 

 

 

Words by Dorothy Law Nolte PhD.
Image and layout by Holly Maxwell Boydell.
Prepared and posted onto The White Space’s page in January 2015 at http://www.facebook.com/thewhitespace.

 

~ : ~

 

 


 

 

 

Added note:

 

The adults running the world right now, are the children of yesterday.
The children of today are the adults of tomorrow.
They will run our world – the way we taught them.
What we learnt and absorbed as children, is being played out in our lives right now.
It behoves us all to learn to see the world as children, relearn the lessons, and think before we act. In business, in all professions, in parenting, in all spheres of life.
We live what we learnt. We can change.

 

~ Holly Maxwell Boydell

 

 

 

 

 

[Additional words and Tag added Wednesday 17 February 2016]