Outer and Inner Renovation

It’s over 20 years ago since the seed of an idea for offering a retreat space came into my consciousness. Where it came from I don’t know,  but being strongly connected to achieving in the outer world, I thought in terms of bricks and mortar and had a house built. At the time I was immersed in the publishing world and the seed lay dormant.
The new entrance to “Retreat by the Dart”

Throughout my publishing years, I had a longing for “something else” but after I left publishing to pursue that elusive calling, I found myself in a creative void, not a comfortable place for a goal oriented person.  A chance conversation reminded me of that original “seed”. With huge enthusiasm and alacrity I embraced a new flow of creativity, searching hard to find the place where the seed could fully germinate and grow.  I sold my house and home of 18 years, moved from Hampshire to Devon, and embarked on converting a former coach house to create a retreat space (is there a pattern here?!). I was back in my “comfort zone” – focussed, busy and happy with what I was doing. Strongly into the achieving state, but this time with a sense of vocation. I thought that was good enough.
A transformed garden

At the start of the renovation project a little voice in my head said “Are you sure you want to do this?” Full of enthusiasm I ignored the hint. For a long time felt I was pushing myself to complete the job, so keen was I to make a start. I was oblivious to the signs of illness putting my chronic tiredness down to the demands of the project. After a blood test, the GP told me to go straight to A&E (do not pass Go!) where after 48 hours, acute appendicitis was diagnosed. A large scar later, I emerged hardly able to walk. Long term convalescence was a whole new experience, and not part of the plan. 
The” inner” space outside
The early stages were comparatively easy – it was obvious what I could and couldn’t do, sympathy abounded, and I really had to rest. But as time went on, words of “are you better now?” were falling on a slightly scared me.  Recovery was clearly going to take months not weeks and now all my energy was going into the healing process. But ironically it was in this place, where it seemed I had to let go of everything I’d been planning and working for, that “something else” was really able to emerge.  
Looking down the garden to Dartington Estate
The Stables bedroom 
Last year I had spent time reflecting on the parable of the talents. I easily identified with the guys with plenty of “talents”, when it came to “poor missy one talent” I found myself fiercely protecting her. What was that part of me “hidden in a hole in the ground”? And as I was convalescent, it was as if  I could sense something new emerging out of the raw edges of illness: a space opening up within myself. She is the “something else”, the one who is able to slow down the pace, see things through a different lense. In an e-course on The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault suggests that the parable of the talents is not so much about finding out what we’re good at and going for it, rather it’s more about inner transformation. That seems to be the lesson I’ve been learning this past 6 months. You could say I’m learning to be on retreat in my own home.
Looking out of the Stables retreat room

A year since we started the house and garden renovation, the outer work is complete and the retreat space is open. The inner work continues.
The Stables Kitchen 
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