Do you have those moments when time stands still and you know that in a few moments time, things will never be the same again? Well, I had one of those recently. For 5 years I have followed my dream to establish an activity centre here in Southern Burgundy. Marketing campaigns have been launched, interviews have been conducted, phone calls (seemingly by the thousand) have been made, friends and family have rallied to the call and arrived with paint brushes and mops. Holiday makers have come and spent their holidays here enjoying the space, generosity of the locals, views and the house itself, I've listened to their thoughts of how to make this place even better and implemented some of their suggestions, and throughout all this time, Mark has worked away in the barn turning it from a ruin (see photo on first ever blog) to a usable environment where people can come and do what they love to do - writing, painting, music or, as is the case right now, taking time out in a group to reflect on life and plan the way ahead.
So, there I stood on Macon Loche TGV station platform as the train from Paris pulled in. On board was leading retreat organiser and facilitator Karen Ely and a group of women from North America. This was the moment when I moved from being someone who really wanted to own and run an activity centre to being someone who does own and run an activity centre. And the barn (or 'Atelier' - workshop as it has been renamed) has certainly seen some activity this week. To start the week off on the right note, friend and wine buff Mike Harper hosted a wine tasting event breathing life and colour into the rich history and characters that makes the wines from this region known the world over. Next up Alexia Fachon, yoga teacher and all round health and vitality motivator, came to run a yoga session that left everyone feeling rejuvenated and ready to face the day ahead. Two local musicians, Michael Carver and Roland Walrawens, rounded off the week by entertaining and teaching our American guests with a medley of much loved french folk songs - the acoustics were put to the test and passed with flying colours.
As I sit here in my office typing this, I hear laughter coming from the open windows of the barn. The air is warm and the last faint scent of lavender hangs in the air. Having an activity centre was a dream, an experiment to see how far I could follow my aspirations before 'reality' kicked in and I hit the barriers, real and imaginary, that are so common in the human condition - no-one will come, I won't find the support, well known tutors won't be interested. Well, I now know that you can leave the job you no-longer love, buy the house in the foreign country, renovate a barn to create a beautiful space, ring up people who are leading lights in their field and invite them over to run events- and they will come. I now know, beyond any doubt, that it is possible to achieve anything you put your mind to.
The barn, Atelier, feels different now. It's not just me who has noticed. It has a warmth, a sense of purpose about it now. Talking to my best friend Brenda yesterday, I mentioned that it felt as though all these special people had left something of themselves behind. She corrected me -'It's not about leaving anything behind, it's about adding something special to make the place even better'. The people who came and supported this first event as either guests or as participants have made this such a success. Karen will be back next July with a new group of retreaters (or is that retreatees?), Nicola Slattery arrives in just a few weeks to bring art to Les Cerisiers and courses for the following months are filling up nicely.