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