Saturday, 19 September 2015

Secret Hollow

A little while ago, I spent some time thumbing through albums and organising dusty boxes of photographs and came across some pics of our little property in country Western Australia.
The photos are a huge wrench for my heart, for they show the place which was the saving of my Self and the making of who I am.
There, in that secluded nook carved within an old forest, I was truly able to begin to mend the hurt of a long abused childhood.
It was my sanctuary.

Following are scans of photos I took many years ago. They are not great quality, but still, looking at them even after all this time, as hard I might try otherwise, the tears fall unbidden.
I wish now that I had taken more photos of the gardens in all seasons, for a garden is as beautiful at rest in the depths of winter as it is in the flush of spring and in the hazy, ripe warmth of summer.

The small, hundred year old weatherboard cottage was once the school for a mere handful of local farmers’ children, and was surrounded by a couple of bare, grassed acres.

On the eastern side of the cottage, just outside the back door, was a very old apple tree which produced beautiful, huge heritage cooking apples.  Many blissful hours were spent sitting under its mossy, verdant boughs offering deep, deep shade on a warm summer’s day, and countless apple pies and crumbles were cooked with those delicious apples. We loved that tree very much.**

hubby's handiwork - arbor and pretty picket fence surrounding the old apple tree

We acquired chickens and geese, adopted orphan sheep and calves and kangaroos. Then, baby goats that grew to provide us with fresh, nutritious milk - from which I made the best soft herbed cheeses we ever tasted.
Our now ex-city dogs, Max and Jessie, were in seventh heaven, and behaved ever so well with our new country brood.

Soon, I bought a horse, then another.

Nina Ballerina

There were many networks of forest trails and back roads to ride, and I spent a glorious few years in their company.

misty morning trails adjoining the property

Then, after early miscarriages, I fell pregnant successfully. But, due to complications, I could no longer ride, and the painful decision to sell my horses was made.

As my belly grew, so did the grass in the small, sad, empty paddocks.
But also, a kernel of an idea began to grow alongside my wee babe.

And, in time, I turned grass into gardens.

The experience of being a new mother was a deeply profound incredible honour, and I look back on those days with a great fondness that tugs at my heart.  Motherhood is selfless and all consuming. In nourishing a child, you give all of yourself in those early days/weeks/months. Just as it should be.

But, there was still the child within me that was left wanting. She was crying out in need too. Forsaken long ago and further ignored.  Something was missing.

I was never shown how to be a good mother. I had no - absolutely no - strong female role model. No friends. No support. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to, “do this mothering thing”.
Both my husband and I were adrift on the alternating joyful/tearful sea of new parenthood.

In creating a garden - this garden - I was able to make myself a better mother, and allay my husband's worries.  I finally understood how to nurture.

sweet boy, not much bigger than the watering can, my eager little helping hand ♥♥

Day by day, I learned that children and gardens, respond to the kind of care that they get. That a garden requires patience, work, careful attention and love. So does a child.
My baby boy was never neglected. Neither was my garden.
He grew like topsy, and so did my garden.
I gave so much to them. And they thrived.
In return, they showed my inner child - she, who once didn’t believe in any kind of good future - how to sing, and smile, and dance. 
And there, in that Secret Hollow, in my old cottage and pretty garden, with my husband, child and beloved animals by my side, I began to heal.

Those days.  In between mothering and tending animals, I spent time designing, stepping out preliminary plans, hauling barrow load upon barrow load of mulch, carting bucket after bucket after bucket of grey water from the laundry tub and turning deep sand into good, composted soil. Shifting large rocks from one end of the property to the other. Digging endless holes as the spade became an extension of my arms.
Hands blistered and calloused, muscles endlessly aching, skin burnt by the sun’s rays - or soaked to the core from working in the rain, and deep bone weariness at the end of each and every day was more than cathartic.
It was the building up that my broken spirit needed.

the front garden, newly planted

here be dragons... and kittens
thriving and growing

a secret garden takes shape with its beautiful arbor awaiting a gate

the following season - enticing and mysterious

inside the secret garden looking out - spot Sunny beneath the bench

I have so many wonderful memories of the creating of this garden ~

~ Large areas of overgrown turf turned into enriched beds waiting for green inhabitants to arrive.
~ Digging holes. I became very proficient at digging and planting, digging and planting.
~ Laying pathways of salvaged bricks and crazy paving.
~ Hoarding many large cardboard boxes, to split open and lay upon the soil before mulching - a very effective weed suppressor method. Thick newspapers worked well too.
~ Dropping into the small nursery in town after the weekly shopping, wandering the rows, baby on hip, looking for "just one more potted plant to fill that gap". And, being able to divide or propagate more plants from one pot.
~ Driving to the local post office to pick up boxes of tube stock herbs and perennials ordered from nursery catalogues.
~ The day I bought seven Silver Birch saplings to plant in the lawn alongside the top garden.
*I used Edna Walling’s preferred method of putting the same number of potatoes as tree saplings in a bucket, flinging them forth over the chosen area, and planting the trees where the potatoes fell – a less formal and more harmonious, natural way of planting. Edna would often plant two birches in the one hole, as seen in a woodland setting.
~ Hubby being amused, as I clapped my hands each season when a truck full of mulch or baled straw arrived at the front gate. A snug blanket-to-be for the garden.
~ Watching in awe as hubby fabricated metal arches and wooden arbors from my drawn scribblings on the back of cereal packets. He’s a very talented man.
~ And especially, the excited anticipation of travelling with hubby, car trailer in tow, multiple times to pick up hundreds of Old and David Austin roses.
I came to know, and remember each and every one of them, and whispered their names as I greeted them every day.
~ The utter joy at seeing plump buds and new growth tips appear at the end of each winter. The promise of spring/summer lushness to come.

Heliotrope by the back door – the subtle scent of vanilla would waft gently throughout the house

the rear garden, a perfect way to hide the washing line - foxgloves and roses and pansies oh my!
gorgeous golden blooms of David Austin's Graham Thomas with a scent like delicious custard

adorable Abraham Darby - prolific and perfumed

the beauty of scent - Abraham Darby and lovely Leander at the back with DA Heritage in the foreground

Each season required specific jobs: weeding, mulching, pruning, fertilising. Every one a learning curve. I improved with each year, and the garden responded likewise.
No task, large or small, was ever resented. For it would have felt like begrudging what my soul delighted in.
Even regular lawn mowing - which took a minimum of two hours with my trusty hand pushed Honda Buffalo mower (I named it Buffy) was a happy task. It gave me time to contemplate, plan and dream… and a Gemini always needs time to dream :)

top garden

summer flush

how to disguise an old shed - lots of blooms!

I’ll always remember the balmy summers, as the sun slowly set and shot rays of gold over the gardens after a long days work well done - with the unforgettable smell of freshly cut grass mingling with fragrant flowers and herbs warmed by sunshine, while bees drunk on floral ambrosia, gathered nectar and plentiful pollen.
Truly, halcyon days.

It’s hard to believe that one place could hold such importance in one’s heart.
But, this was to me, my Brigadoon. A place of magic, shrouded from a world of hurt. Where I could shut the gates and feel safe. Finally.

After almost seventeen years, the leaving of it forever was so very, very difficult…

Somehow, I feel a part of me will always remain there, in that little secret hollow in the forest, thousands of miles from where I am now. How can it not?

Will I find another place where I can grow again? I truly hope so. I learned so much back then, and have more to learn, and to give.
I want to spend the rest of my days tending herbs and vegetables, with dogs and cats milling about my feet as I take moments to stop, bathed in the amber light of a warm summer’s afternoon, and smell the heady scent of old English roses once more - as my soul sighs deeply and the child within sings sweetly...

‘The Soul of the Rose’, also known as ‘My Sweet Rose’, by John William Waterhouse

**After we sold the property, the old apple tree was cut down by the new owners to extend the carport. Those people moved on three years later, leaving the legacy of an ugly extension instead of an aged, graceful and still fruiting, heritage tree.  The news of this broke my heart.



  1. This was beautiful to read. I don't ache for former gardens; no longer mine, their current occupants may do as they wish (however bull-headed and wrong that may be!), but I do often think of them, the planning, the mistakes, the triumphs. Thank you for showing us a part of you.

    1. And, thank you for your lovely comment dinahmow, it is appreciated.
      In more ways than one, gardens get, not only under our nails, but under our skin too.
      And in our hearts. It's why we continue to do what we do, I think :)

  2. Oh what a beautiful, beautiful post. Complete with beautiful, beautiful photos.

    I am so happy, that you had this place and time, in your life. To heal. As you nourished your son and your land. And thus, your inner child.

    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Gentle hugs,

    1. Thank you, Tessa.
      It was a very special period in my life. The years flew by too fast though. As they do...
      I'm glad to have shared this special time here.

  3. A truly beautiful post. Which has left me misty-eyed.
    Love your garden. Healing and beauty. Both of which take work.
    Heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring are flowing your way.

    1. Thank you for the hugs EC. ♥
      Your own beautiful garden plays an important part in your life, and images of it gives those of us who read your blog as much joy as it does you. The hard work you put into it is a great reward.
      Nature has such rich rewards for those who care to nurture her :)

  4. I worked all day at my little local garden shop, helping customers much like you described yourself. Moms coming in with a baby on their hip, dads with small ones helping them pick out seeds, buying trees to plant.... so much nurturing.
    I really don't know how you were able to ever leave such a beautiful place, but we leave beloved places and separate from our children and we find new paths to heal and to grow. I know all about that missed childhood, and found I got to have mine while my daughter was young, I lived it through her very special childhood days with much joy.
    Lovely post, nice to read after a long day at work

    1. I like that you work in a lovely garden shop Tracey, and are an important part in the nurturing of other people's gardens.

      The separation from those, and that, which we love is so hard isn't it? But, as you say, "we find new paths to heal and grow". That's so very important.
      You too, are an amazing mother - you must be, because your girl is a beautiful human being in every way.
      We're very proud parents aren't we? :)

  5. i am sitting here. words don't come very easily. the pictures i've lingered over more than once.
    i read in awe.
    in awe of what you overcame and what you've become. i knew bits and pieces. but this. this is a tour de force of what surviving is about.
    i've heard always that nature is the healer of all wounds.
    and that those gardens simply burst with life for you is proof enough to know it's true.
    you were born there i think.
    and that little lad no bigger than a watering can . . . oh that he could be a gift too. and that you ever dared to wonder that you would be a good mother!
    i don't know a more loving sensitive spirit on this earth. you are a mystical being. i've felt that from the beginning.
    thank GOD and the universe for sending you tim. and your son lewis. protected and loved by two fine men. and another boy ... blue jack.
    i'm privileged to know you and call you sister.
    love across the blue.

    1. So true, Tam, I was "born there". And, as I've said to Cindi, I'll most likely haunt the place one day :)
      Yes, nature, whether it be wild or cultivated, is truly a great healer. Plants give so much to us. They vibrate healing energies, respond to our care, receive our deep sighs and return precious oxygen for our lungs. How awesome.
      I am indeed grateful for my boys. They are saints, in that they put up with me, lol.
      And, you are a kindred spirit. An ocean apart, but closer in spirit. That's very special.
      Furever ♥

  6. I'm blinking back the tears.
    It's not my place to ask but I know there must have been a very good reason to leave.
    Still, I feel my heart break as I read your lovely words and look at the photos...
    I feel like you have a question in your heart?
    A question on what to do next? Are you thinking of moving again?
    Or.. maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm transferring my thoughts onto you?
    My little house, I've lived here 23 years and I know every square inch of it.
    And my yard, the hours and hours of digging and planting, Oh nothing as amazing as your gardens but...
    I know that feeling of coming home and feeling HOME.
    Feeling safe from all the crap out in the world.
    I love pulling into my drive, seeing the yellow roses and finally exhaling.
    And on the practical side, I could never find a place to live so cheaply and yet so safely and close to things.
    The street I live on is a long one that runs almost the length of my town.
    At one end is the old hospital (now a nursing home) where I was born and the other end is the cemetery where my parents rest.
    And.... the other direction, the actually the same avenue that I grew up on.
    Yep, walk ten blocks and there's my childhood home.
    What the Hell?!
    Am I to never go further than this?
    But is Happiness truly location?
    I wish I had the answer.
    But this post tells me that your heart was broken, leaving that home
    and that you yearn for another special place,
    or maybe just that place?
    But feeling that sadness in your words, scares me to death.
    I don't want to leave here and then wish for it back.
    I know that, like you, I need to have a place to garden and have my pets
    and then, when I saw the horse, it took my breathe away.
    I wonder if that could be part of the answer to my question?
    I hope you find what you need my friend.
    That you learn what you need to learn
    but know that you are giving so much already.
    You have given me more than you will ever know
    and every time I read your words, whether it is here in a post
    or a comment over on my blog, I find myself reading those words over and over again.
    I wish you realized what an amazing writer you are and I think, no... I know,
    that there's more than one book waiting to be written by you.

    1. I teared up (once again) when I read your comment, Cindi. You’ve tuned in perfectly.
      And, you understand where I’m coming from, as you feel the same about your own place.
      The reason to leave our property was a difficult one. And a sacrifice on my part, for the benefit of better schooling for our teenage son and employment for hubby – both required city destinations.
      Had it not been necessary, I would still be living in my Secret Hollow. And, I’m sure I will haunt it when I die :)
      Even today, I feel the pull of it and I miss it so, so much. It had an aura about it that I’ve never felt anywhere else since.
      Yes, you’re right, we will be moving again sometime in the next year. The search for a small property to grow veggies/herbs/roses will be on in earnest.
      Problem is, land is so expensive here, that anything “good” is snapped up fast. I hope the Universe will be looking upon us favourably when the time comes…

      You have similar questions of your own. Perhaps my post here was meant to be written for you too?
      Food for thought…

      A book? I wish I were that good, truly. I’m not.
      But, thank you so much for saying that :)

  7. Poignant and done with such eloquence…...
    To see the David Austin's Graham Thomas brought to mine my own. I could not leave it at the city house and I could not take it to the coast as the deer would have found it a delightful snack. So this last winter I pruned it back, burlap the root and gifted to my daughter-in-law. It now resides beside their hundred year old Craftsman-style cottage in the Oakland Hills. When I go over to see it I will think of you, Vicki. And the emotive beauty you brought into my life today.

    1. It's so lovely to read that your Graham Thomas was relocated to a loving home and that you can still enjoy his beauty, Charlene.
      His generous golden blooms are such a joy.
      That's one of the reasons I love about roses, they are such tough plants and can easily withstand a good hard pruning and transplanting, as long as they are cared for, which yours is :)

  8. Vicki, your gardens were beautiful. Yes, a part of you will always be there but I have a strong feeling that you'll go on to create gardens just as beautiful somewhere else. My heart wept when I read that the people who lived there after you cut down that beautiful old apple tree. I don't know how some people can be so heedless of other beings right to live! I'm glad that you found such a healing place, even if, eventually, you did have to leave, and I'm sending blessings for you to find another beautiful, healing place.



    1. Thank you, Victoria. I hope the Universe will take those blessings and surprise us one day in the near future :)

      I'm so aghast at some peoples' utter lack of consideration too. That wonderful old tree...
      There was another option to extend that they could have chosen - if they had just thought about it.

      I'm glad that there are those of us who continue to protect and preserve the living beings, while they are in our care.
      Love to all on your magical mountain - and kisses to dear Mrs. Rose xx

  9. There is so much beauty in the post and in the pictures, it just takes my breath away.

    1. Thanks River. Sometimes, those days feel like a dream, and I'm glad I have wonderful memories and photos to remember them.

  10. Sept. 22

    Happy Eve of the Spring Equinox, to you!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. And, a wonderful autumnal equinox to you Tessa. I enjoyed your post this morning :)


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