This summer will be our last at the french centre, probably. In 1993 my ex-husband, David, and I bought the small farm at Bessais le Fromental, the fulfillment of a dream we had both had since we got together. Immediately we felt the special atmosphere of the place and knew it had to be a retreat centre rather than the course centre which we had originally envisaged.
Nineteen years is a long time and my relationship with the house and land there has grown and deepened and changed over that time. The last few years since the marriage ended, the place has become something very special for me - a refuge and a teacher, my spiritual homecoming. I have loved the woods and fields intimately and come to know their details. It is as if, by simply thinking of the place, I am back there again. When I recall my walks there, I see the little holes of voles and mice along the path, little entries into the red clay, or the see the light coming through the overhanging oak leaves, fresh in spring delicacy and dripping with dew, in my mind's eye. I know the feel of the hard tussocks of field grass and the shoots of blackthorn breaking up through the turf where they were cut. I know where the stinging nettles and brambles need watching and where I may see a deer in early morning or evening or violets and bluebells in spring. I re-experience the soft dampness of early mist on the field and the crisp sharp air under a clear night sky.
How can I forget?
But time moves on and with it changes happen. What seemed unthinkable a few months ago has become inevitable. This August I will let go of the centre in Bessais. I dont even know if I will go back there again after this year. Maybe I will, but if I do it will be in a different way. My energy has to be moving on and investing in our work in Britain. I will be much more based at The Buddhist House in Narborough and not travelling between there and France. That place deserves better than my part time attention and there is much that needs me here.
Also there is new potential which opens up with letting go. This week I have been in Wales looking at venues for future Ten Directions course blocks and ecotherapy retreats (look at the beautiful photos I have just posted on this site).
The first event of the summer in France is the Sacred Space retreat. It seems like a fitting honouring of that special place which has been my spiritual home, but also it marks a transition for me. What I have learned in the last month or so is about how that place has been sacred for me, a mirror to my spiritual life, but also how other places too can hold that sacred energy. Its funny isnt it. Although as Buddhists we are not supposed to identify with places, my love for particular pieces of land gives me a special relationship with them in which they become imbued with a particular quality set aside from other places because in some way I identify with them as 'mine' or as having a special meaning for me - but then isnt that also what people do to other people whom they look on as their 'teachers'?
Since I started to let go of the centre in France in my mind, I have come to love the water meadows of Narborough and the have just been finding new excitement in the stunningly beautiful hills of Wales as I look forward to a special relationship with them in the future. The world offers sacred spaces wherever we choose to find them and discovering and sharing the joy of such connection is very dear to me wherever it happens.
But also I know that the french place will always be in my heart, retrievable and solid, a teacher and companion in times when I need its inspiration. I will be able to imaginatively walk those paths I spent so much time tending just as I can still in my mind see the woods where I played as a child. Special places do not leave us even when the trees are felled and the land built on.
So this summer it is France. At time of goodbyes and special times. I look forward to that poignancy of sitting out under the big bowl of the sky watching for shooting stars amid the sparks of the camp fire. But also I look forward to the fun of swimming in the rivers and walking the forests.
Do join us if you can. Let us create sacred memories together.
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