Sunday, October 5, 2014

What's the Buzz and Life at Boarding School

There are a few things happening in my back yard. The first is a fragrance so divine that it would be very difficult to ignore, even if I wanted to. I fell in love with this fragrance many years ago as a resident student at boarding school.

Let me tell you the story of how I discovered the fragrance. I had been excited about the prospect of attending a boarding school. I had never been away from home alone and thought it would be a positive experience--an adventure. I have to admit that it ultimately was a very good experience  and one which helped me to learn how to deal with all sorts of people, to mature and learn how to be independent in so many ways. Upon arriving, however, I found myself thrown into totally different surroundings, living in a room with three sets of bunk beds with five other girls!  The six of us girls shared a connecting bathroom with another six girls in the other room. Twelve of us and one bathroom. Living in what had once been a private mansion, now filled with dozens of people, other girls and Catholic nuns. These were people I had never known before. Some of whom , I was to discover, were a good deal more experienced and worldly than I.

After a while we girls were like sisters. We were "in it" together! Kindred spirits, watching each others back and posting look out when necessary! I found myself playing decoy on more than one occasion. Honestly, the stories could fill a book!

Have you ever lived at a boarding school? If you have, you know this is the truth. It is an experience unlike any other in the world and that is an understatement! Have you ever seen the movies The Trouble With Angels and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows?  I promise you, life in boarding school was exactly like those two movies. For fun, I am posting links to Youtube clips from them here and here.  The nun who was in "command" of  our residence hall was a dead ringer for the one in these movies. She was tall and lithe and walked as if she was floating on a cloud. We could not hear her coming and she would appear as if by magic. She could smell cigarette smoke a mile away! I was glad I wasn't a smoker and seeing her grab the hand of a girl and sniff her fingers could strike sheer terror into the heart of anyone who might be contemplating lighting up!  If she ever caught a whiff, which was apt to happen, it could lead to some sever consequences! So could food fights in the dining hall. Consequences like being grounded on weekends for a month from dating privileges or from the privilege of going downtown on Saturday afternoons.

We had huge fireplaces in almost every room and the girls who smoked would rearrange the furniture. The fireplaces were no longer in use and the girls would place the long bureaus in which we stored our clothes in front of the fireplaces. The girls would hide in the fireplaces and smoke. Presumably, the smoke was to go up the chimney. It is amazing that the nuns didn't catch on. Now, I did not smoke, but I admit to being guilty of pushing the big bureau back after the others crowded into their hideout..

The dreaded "sniffer" came into our room once as I was trying to catch my breath from the exertion of moving that big piece of furniture back up against the fireplace. I decare,  I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die, right there on that very spot! Needless to say, so did the smokers who had just lit up. Sister spoke to me briefly. They heard what was going on and started stabbing those cigarettes out. They almost choked trying to keep from blowing out the smoke. To this day, I still cannot understand how she didn't smell it. I swore to myself that I would never do that again and, indeed, I did not!

After two years, the place had become a home to me and I loved it and the people. I adore those old movies about the "angels!" and can identify with the resident girls.  I kid you not that for each of the nun characters in those movies, no lie, we had a nun in residence with the personalities of those nun characters. They could have easily filmed those movies at our residence and school, using us girls and our nun overseers to play the parts! The similarities and circumstances are uncanny!

Okay. Let's get back to that heavenly fragrance in my back yard. It comes from a bush or some might call it a shrub.

There were many of these bushes located in what was referred to by everyone who lived at the residence hall as The Sunken Gardens. The Sunken Gardens was an area located about half way along the brick pathway from the residence hall to the school building where we resident girls attended classes, along with other day students (girls and boys) living in the Aiken area. It was on one of the trips from the hall to the school in early Fall my first year in attendance. It was around this same time of year that I first noticed this entrancing fragrance. That same aroma came wafting through the air every time I walked up that path. Such a sweet perfume! I was intrigued and so I finally asked one of the sisters where it was coming from. It is called Tea Olive bush.
Tea Olive Shrub
If you are interested, the technical name for the plant is Osmanthus. If you would care to find out more about this wonderful plant you might want to visit Clemson University's site here.  

I remember many times sitting in the Sunken Gardens and breathing in that wonderful fragrance and how it somehow helped to ease the feelings of  homesickness and uncertainty I was experiencing and made me feel more at home with my surroundings. A girl of sixteen can feel very alone when the family she has never been far away from seems light years away. As it turned out, I met the man I was to marry and spend my life and raise a family with while attending that school. As a matter of fact, he and I spent some time sitting in that special little spot in the Sunken Gardens!

I thought then, and still do, that if there is a fragrance in Heaven, surely it is that which comes from this shrub whose clusters of tiny and delicate white flowers are so unassuming as to be missed on first glance! I promised myself that someday I would enjoy this heavenly scent in my yard. And so I did. My husband and have planted one of these at every house where we have lived. It is an evergreen shrub. The fragrance wafts over the entire yard from those little flowers which appear in the Fall and several other times throughout the year!
Obedient Plant/False Dragonheard

Obedient Plant or False Dragonhead. It is called Obedient Plant, I have read, because it can be bent and will hold its shape for flower arranging. It is, as I have discovered not as obedient as its name implies as it is somewhat unruly in the garden and seems to want to spread itself about. I like it anyway as its flowers are a lovely bluish/purple in color and I like blue flowers. I couldn't get a better picture because of  some very aggressive Yellow Jacket wasps that were buzzing around. Every time I see one I have a flashback of a time I was drinking a Sprite after school while talking to my friend, Iris. I lifted the bottle to my lips, not noticing the Yellow Jacket sitting on the rim of the bottle. Oh, the throbbing pain! Oh, what a fat and swollen top lip! School pictures taken next day--not a pretty sight! I do not take any chances with those particular insects!

I loved Betty, my sweet and lovely mother-in-law. She loved growing flowers and she always had Marigolds in her garden. I learned a lot of things from her.  She taught me to save the seeds from Marigolds and I always think of her and miss her when I see Marigolds growing. I save seeds from the ones I grow now and I planted  several varieties in my vegetable beds in the Spring to try and discourage insect pests.  After I removed the spent veggies, I decided to leave the Marigolds for a while. They have now taken over and are putting on a real Fall show, spilling over the sides of the planters in a wild and reckless way!
Marigolds Spilling Over Planter

What do you think about the fragrance of Marigold flowers? My opinion,  it is one you either love or strongly dislike. I know people who think they have a pleasant aroma. Not me.  I really do not like the smell and that may be why certain pesky insects might not bother vegetables planted among the flowers. It is my experience that one must get pretty close to one of the blooms to be able to smell it. Therefore, the assets of this plant far outweigh the fact that it possesses a somewhat unpleasant odor.

Marigolds grow in a great variety of hues of yellow, ranging from a buttery white to deep gold. To see a variety of beautiful Marigold,s you can check out any seed company's website or catalog. Here at Burpee Seed Company website, you will find many gorgeous types of Marigold plants. There is something else happening back there. Something else is buzzing!
Bumble Bees
Bumble Bees are buzzing about and working very hard, gathering up much nectar and pollen! They seemed totally oblivious to me as they worked and I was taking pictures. It is easy to understand where the term "busy as bees" comes from if you take a minute or two to watch them at work!

I realize that Bumble Bees do not make honey like Honey Bees do, but they have a purpose and so I am glad they have chosen to take up residence out back for a while. I am not a tree hugger but I think we need to to preserve and conserve whatever natural resources we can. I think most reasonable people realize and understand that bees play an integral role in the survival of the human race as they serve to pollinate many of the plants that we eat and use for various purposes. I have heard that our planet is losing much of its bee population. I am not fond of getting a bee sting or a sting of any kind, for that matter, but I am encouraged when I witness them as they eat the nectar on flowers and see the pollen stuck on their mouths. ensuring that we will be able to have plants to eat and to provide oxygen in the air for us and all the other animals in the world. And so the cycle continues. Therefore, it makes me happy to see they have chosen to stop for a while here in my little piece of the planet!

I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane and thanks so much for stopping by to check out the buzz!


111 LaLa Lane said...

Great story about your days at boarding school, Lynn. I am so glad I stopped by your blog because I just learned what the shrub growing behind the lake house is. I've noticed the little white flowers starting to emerge. Just this morning my neighbor stopped by and she pointed out to me how sweet they smelled, but she couldn't remember it's name either. Thanks to you, I now know. Tea Olive...what a pretty name.

lynn cockrell said...

Like the fragrance of the Tea Olive, those boarding school days are forever etched into my memory and heart. So glad my little post came at just the right time for you! I am thrilled that you have this wonderful shrub in your new yard at Lake Greenwood. Isn't the fragrance intoxicating? Now, you too will be under the spell of those intoxicating little white blooms off and on all year!

Caitlin @ Naughts Cross Stitches said...

I never went to boarding school but I worked for a year as a boarding mistress which was an awesome experience.

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

What an interesting story!! Boarding School!! i never knew anyone who went to Boarding School and there were none around us while growing up. Plus my mother would have never let me out of her sight for that long.....LOL!!

Thanks so much for always coming by and brightening my day!!


Ivy and Elephants said...

Such a great story! My cousins went to a boarding school not far from my town and I wanted to go SOOOO badly! Amazing how certain smells can stir our memories. This is a beautiful one.