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Out with the Old, in with the New

9 Jan

Out with the Old, in with the New

It is over. Christmas passed by, and here we are already into the New Year of 2019. Now, Twelfth Night is done and it is beginning to be a little bit lighter each day.

Taking it all down, putting it all away, starting a new fresh year, even while trudging up to the attic and down to the basement, getting things out of the way. It is a bit ironic. Start fresh, but not for a few days. Right now, much of the house is clear of decorations, but the dining room table is full of every thing taken from the other rooms. These decorations in my mother’s house are sometimes as old as I am. Some of them are from my earliest childhood. I wish I knew their stories. Where did those Art Deco angels come from? A whole choir of them sit in the window near the front door. When I was very little, they sang on the dining room table. They are reassuring to me. Time passes, but some things remain the same.

Fresh starts are marvelous. We can always start fresh. But, the New Year makes a logical place to begin anew. And since I am not as fastidious and neat as my mother, I need excuses. My latest book has been languishing as a rather boring first draft, since October. I have not touched it since then. But NOW, I am ready. It is time to add the meat and the spice to that first effort. It is something like cooking from scratch. The first draft is a rich, but bland soup stock. It is sitting, simmering, ready to be changed into something much more interesting and tasty to read. There are many lessons to be learned in the book, but they are subtle. They don’t shout about their benefits. You could call them the meat of the soup.

Next comes the spice. The fun stuff, some gossip, some speculation, and some outright shocking stories that may, or may not, be family stories, or those of close friends.The question always is; “How much do I want to upset my family?” How much spice shall I add? The spice is the best part, in my opinion. But, there is more to the soup than meat and spice.

There are the veggies, these are good for you and useful. Like life tips gained from living a full life, and surviving. Younger readers might gain an insight here or there and older readers may identify. They need to be part of the story, whether it is anyone’s favorite part or not. I am good at mixing things together to make a delicious stew or soup. I am betting that the end result will be fun to read, informative and in the very best cases, life changing.

Of course I suppose that is what every writer craves to hear. “You changed my life.!” Those words are magic. Magic for me, as well as the speaker. And it has happened to me before. That is why I know how exciting it is to hear them.

Back when my entire focus was on childbirth, I was able to really help some women empower themselves. They were hungry for some support in their beliefs about giving birth. I was right there, with as much information as they were ready for. And in some cases they heard me and they took action. Those are the ones who later told me what I wanted so much to hear. They told me that if it were not for my council they would not have dared change doctors, or hospital or they would never have dared hire a midwife. Not everyone needed that knowledge, but for those wanted it, I was available with books and contacts and my own story of empowerment. Those were happy times.

Now, I am a different sort of “pregnant” and getting ready to birth a book. A book about my life and it’s transformation over the last 4 years from desperately unhappy, to a joyful existence in the same place, with the same cast of characters that made me miserable before. Now every day is a good day. I want to share that journey with others.

Copyright©.  2018 Bonnie B. Matheson

Staunton Hill

20 Oct

                      Staunton Hill

How lovely it was there and how much I enjoyed it. It was not just the writers workshop, but the beauty of the place and the surroundings and the PEACE that I found there.  I want to come back.
I went to Staunton Hill for a ‘memoir writers workshop’. The place was new to me, and in fact I was completely misled into thinking I was supposed to drive to Staunton, Virginia. NO! WRONG. That is not anywhere near where the PLACE, Staunton Hill, is located. It is below Lynchburg, far below, near a place called Brookneal, VA.
So I drove and drove and drove, having left Washington, D.C. at 3:30 pm on a Friday afternoon. That was a terrible mistake, right there. Eventually, and in the dark, I arrived at my destination. It was after 8:30 pm. I sat outside in my car, because I was trying to figure out: which was the front door. I could not reach anyone by cell phone as there was no signal in the driveway.

Finally, I left my car and took a chance on a door. It was opened by a lovely woman, all pale blond skin and hair. She was slender and pretty and welcoming. I knew I was in a good place immediately. The welcome was genuine and palpable. Janet Bruce is the owner of the Staunton Hill Center for Thought Creativity and Production. She and her husband used to run it together, but now, widowed, she does it by herself.

When I stepped inside, I saw a sleeping, long hair, black-and-tan dachshund that looked almost like my own boy, Magnus. So, of course they were great people who lived here. Dachshund owners understand each other.
It was still all confusing to me. The house was charming, but vast. The other participants and the leader were gathered there doing an exercise without me. I was hungry and tired. They brought me a tray with delicious food and offered wine, which I declined. We all introduced ourselves and chatted happily. Then I was shown to my room.

It turned out that mine was the Evangeline Bruce Suite. It was just marvelous. The bedroom was charming and had a fireplace and a wall full of a ‘breakfast china’ collection behind glass cabinet doors. The Queen size bed turned out to be extremely comfortable. Opening off the bedroom was a very modern bathroom with a glass-walled shower. And opening off that was “The Library” part of the suite, a room with a two facing walls of books, fascinating prints, and photos and sculptures. I wanted to immerse myself in that room. There was a comfortable desk and a good desk chair and great Internet signal. I was in Heaven. That library also opened with an outside door to the columned walkway that fronted all of the rooms.

In other words, the accommodations were just wonderful. They were comfortable and luxurious without being ostentatious. What a haven. What a marvelous place to shed ones cares and revitalize one’s energies.

Janet Bruce’s faithful next-in-command, Sarah Sargent, whom I knew from her earlier work with the VCCA (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts ) kept all moving smoothly. Our workshop group was fed by them, waited on by hired staff and constantly stimulated by new and beautiful surroundings and inventive meals.

The grounds are extensive. The driveway is a mile and a half long. A wonderful swimming pool is set in such lush grass one immediately wished to take off shoes and stockings and stand in it. The various gardens and expanses of lawn all sew peace and serenity into the soul. Where ever you look, in every direction, it is lovely. The ancient English Boxwood is healthy and luxuriant. The crenelated parapets and Eastern-looking columns constantly tease the eye. What a magical place.

Of course I could have worked on my memoir writing skills anywhere and learned a lot. But being in that magical place was so stimulating and engaging that it added immeasurably to the experience for all of us.

I long to return. And I will find a reason soon.

 

Copyright©. 2018 Bonnie B. Matheson


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