I have just completed my third writing retreat at La Muse, and can affirm that my experience of time and creativity there continues to deepen and enrich.
My first stay was a golden three weeks in the Fall of 2010, with several other women writers and artists, American, Brit, Aussie.
I was in an altered state much of the time simply from immersing myself in my writing practice, the wonder of the Place, and the stimulating company.
My second retreat was for three months as a partial-barter the winter of 2014-2015, part of the time with my good husband at hand.
I learned the hard work and devotion it takes to maintain the physical reality of a 17th century stone manor house:
- keeping the modern heating system working in an old building;
- doing loads of household laundry to provide guests fresh, crisp linens;
- the regular “follow-ups” needed to keep the communal kitchen, dining room, library and WC’s inviting.
This time I came as a full-time resident, again with my husband sharing two of my three months stay.
I had a writing project that required daily discipline, but I also wanted to be physically active and “give back,” as I learned to do during my previous retreat.
I engaged in small tasks that made things pleasant for others:
- folding someone else’s laundry before hanging mine up to dry
- splitting kindling for the wood stoves
- sweeping, and mopping the kitchen, dining room and library floors
- setting the tables for Book Breaks and Welcome Meals
- organizing the library books back into their original homes
I found coming together with other creative folk, initially strangers, so much richer when our sense of community was built not only around our creative projects, but also our daily habits.
When the last person to turn the lights out in the kitchen made a special effort to wipe down the stainless steel prep table and sweep the tile floor, my early morning trip down to make coffee was sweeter.
When another guest graciously took extra bottles around to fill at the Source, I blessed her foresight as I enjoyed fresh water.
This sense of shared responsibility for our physical environment somehow “grounded” our intense, solitary creative pursuits, letting us tangibly care for each other.
The gift of hospitality offered at La Muse, through the vision and generosity of its founders, John and Kerry, is to be received, savored, appreciated.
In my experience it has been further enhanced when I joined in to help make the place welcoming, caring, pleasant.
So whilst La Muse is an invitation to experience “life apart” for the purpose of concentrated creativity, it is also an opportunity to cherish that privilege, starting with “chopping wood and carrying water.”
(The above was written by the lovely La Muse Advocate Nancy-Collins Warner, in Mid-March 2017. She and Chris live on an Indian reservation in Idaho.)