The Christmas Garden

On Christmas Eve I did nothing. The tree stood decorated for weeks, the presents wrapped, the cards written, my mother and daughters’ gifts posted, the menu decided and the garden watered and silent – except for the wind which, from time to time, sorts out the leaves. 
I have been reading Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. I don’t think I’ve ever read it in its entirety. This story of the bitter, greedy and cold hearted Scrooge whose motto is “keep Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine” and who is forced to face his ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. Despite the western world’s slow secularisation amidst polarised religious ideas, Christmas has to be, as Scrooge’s nephew proffers

     ….a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as id they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Scrooge, in the end, is given another opportunity to do good and join life.

  
For me, this Christmas is a time to reflect on family. This Christmas, a life long dream of finding my father’s family has come to be realised. For the last three months I have been communciating with my lost family in the Czech republic. They live in a place similar to here on the Mount. They are like me, they love the garden and they love Christmas. We will visit them for the first time this January, they have been abundantly generous and open-hearted – it will be a momentous meeting. 

 
  
  
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you all the time to reflect over the Christmas season. I thank my family for their love and support; to my new Czech family, this has been an amzaing journey and one which continues; to my school colleagues, you are so very special in my life, to my wonderful neighbours here on the Mount and to all those amazing people I have encountered throughout the year, may this Christmas bring you solace and happiness. Like Scrooge in the end, may we know how to keep Christmas well…may that be said of us, and all of us.” Merry Christmas one and all.

  
   
   
And…. find time to be yourself and grow in the garden ……. 🙂

What a winter, but what a wonder…

Ten years on the Mount and what a winter we’ve had. Last weekend we tried to burn our ever increasing pile of winter debris, to no avail. Instead we set about trimming the abundant camellias – one of which shot over the roof of the house! I salvaged its ruby blooms.

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What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. (John Steinbeck)

It’s been a winter of mists, fogs and log fires. Nothing new here really, but this year every weekend brought with it the wonder of winter! In early August, I raced up to the Mount when I heard there was “snow on them there hills”! I have done this a handful of times over the years, much to the bemusement of friends and family. The last time we had snow on the back deck was August, 2008 but each year, the Mount, at elevation 1013m, is dusted with the soft, white ice. We are 750 metres, so often we just get sleet.

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One weekend we ventured to our favourite country town, only to be confronted with thick lunchtime fog!

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Daylesford on a not so clear day…

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Brrrrrrr, I can hear you exclaim! Yes indeed, it is quite chilly.

Top five mountain garden tips for winter
1. Weed, weed and then weed again
2. Rake those leaves and clear those paths
3. Watch the bulbs emerge
4. Visit the camellias or pay homage to any floral friend – they love to be admired!
5. Smell the clean, intoxicating air
But there’s one more
Head for that log fire at the end of the day!

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Emerging camellias

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The beauty of winter can be seen in every turn. The sparsity of foliage is countered by the abundance of those beacons of colour; those buds and blooms that wink at us around each corner of the garden. We can only be in awe.
Thy knowest, winter tames, man, woman and beast. William Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.

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As we prepare for a few more chilly days, wear our coats, scarves and gloves, may the wonder of winter be kind to us!

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Today’s view from the back yard deck. How is your winter (or summer) experience?

Travelling North

I have begun to lose count of the many flights we have taken from Melbourne to Brisbane over the years. Waiting at the airport always reminds me of that John Williamson, play made into the film, Travelling North.The protagonists leave their families in cold Melbourne for a new life of warmth and laughter in Far North Queensland or more colloquially known as FNQ!

For us it’s the other way round. Yes, we take the opportunity to escape the winter cold but also use it to spend time with my ageing mother, visit Daughter Number One and One-And-Only-Grand-Daughter.

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We departed in 5 degrees C and arrived at a comfortable 13 degrees. Long, light sleeves are still required. We make it a point to walk in and around the steep slopes.

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Robert McFarlane in his recent tome, The Old Ways describes walking as “enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape”. Even though as a child I did indeed escape mundaneness by walking up and down these slopes, the reflective time enabled me to have a sense of disciple and endurance.

Walking, for both Colin and I, is a time to talk, reflect, plan, laugh and reminisce, often on the lives of our grandparents and parents who came to this country, post war. One of our favourite walks when we come here is to take a nostalgic visit to one of the many vintage stores. He has his favourites and I head straight for one which is named after a film starring Maggie Smith and based on a humerous novel by Graham Greene.

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Steering away from his usual religious allusion, Travels With My Aunt tells of a lonely, serious banker, who loves dahlias, meeting his long lost Aunt Augusta at his own mother’s funeral. They embark together on a series of adventures, journeying to exotic places as well as time on the Orient Express. During the course of the novel, these two diverse characters form a bond. There is a twist in the story, which you might guess! They reclaim each other through their travels, talks and adventures.

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What is it about the simple foot-fall that places many things in perspective?

The little vintage store which I visited (I do hope the proprietor does not mind me taking a quick snap of some of the wares) is perfect in its nostalgic nod to the past.

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Overall, what are we to learn from returning to our places of origin? I alluded to this in a previous post Streets of your town. For me it places things in perspective. We have four more days here so stay tuned….