I only have two days left at La Muse- my writer’s retreat- and I sit here at my desk, looking out onto the green mountains, and I think, “Where has this time gone?” That, and, “What have I done while I’ve been here?”
I wrote a list on my second day, a list of all the things I wanted to do while I was here. I divided it into two columns: the first were writing-related projects, and the second was, well, everything else. Walks and books and adventures with my friends.
There are check marks next to a whole lot on the second list. And the first? I’ve done some writing, but if you think what could be accomplished given nearly three weeks of long, open days in a beautiful place with little distraction, then maybe I haven’t actually written all that much.
Here’s the thing about this place, and it’s a lesson I’ve learned twice before but it’s like I have to learn it all over again each time I’m here: I can’t actually get all that much writing done while I’m in Labastide.
There are several reasons for this. The first is that I’m not sure I could ever be the kind of person who can sit down and write for 8 hours of the day. Or even 6 hours. I can work in smaller chunks, but I think my limit in terms of time in the chair with a document opened in front of me is 2 hours. And then I need to get up and do something else, clear out my head, reset.
So I work in the mornings but then, inevitably, the day gets away from me. And I suppose that I let it get away from me and this time, this year, I told myself that it was okay. It was okay to sit and eat a long lunch. To hike up to Le Roc and spread out a blanket and read a good book in the bright sunlight. It was okay to take an afternoon nap, and okay to spend 3 hours hiking in the hills with a dog. It was okay to walk down to the next village and have a dish of ice cream, it was okay to stay up drinking wine until the stars came out. It was okay to do all of those things every single day and I have to say that it’s made my time here very, very enjoyable.
But this isn’t exactly a vacation, either. It’s time I’m giving to myself so it’s important that I spend it how I want to, but something else is happening, too. It’s as though I’m filling myself up, so that when I go home and get back into work and routines I won’t feel empty. I think I’ll be able to find my creativity easily because I’ll be so full of it, and the trick is to keep that creativity going for as long as I can. It’s wonderful to be able to write and work on projects for three weeks in the mountains of France, but maybe it’s more important that I be able to write and work on projects for the rest of my year too.
So it’s been a good three weeks. A really good three weeks. I’d intended to have all of my posts from the Chemin du Puy adventure written and published and I only managed to get through Day 5. More are coming, soon and eventually. I still miss the Chemin and spending entire days walking, and there’s part of me that wishes that when I leave here, I could be heading off to another hiking adventure. That I was going to Scotland again, or maybe Ireland, or even back to Spain. But instead I’m going to Paris (I know, I know, what a life this is!). I know that its going to be a good week but to stay put in a big city for 7 days after hiking and writing in tiny villages I worry that I might feel out of place in Paris. Uncomfortable. Uneasy. Overwhelmed.
Or, maybe, I’ll never want to leave. I already know that I love Paris, and when I was planning this trip, a week in Paris made sense, so I think it needs to be in that spirit that I head into this final part of my summer adventure. I’ll be staying in a very central part of the city in a tiny Airbnb apartment and I think I might be able to do some writing. I want to walk around the city, I want to find a new cafe every day, I want to go to some art museums, I want to have a picnic by the Seine. Any other suggestions for me? I have a lot of time in the city and absolutely nothing planned (but maybe that’s the best way to approach this time).
But I’m not in Paris yet, not quite yet, and instead it’s time to soak up these last moments in a small village in the mountains of southern France.
A snapshot of moments:
Last night we walked down the hill to the Roquefere, 2km away, and feasted at the restaurant: starting with a salad of goat’s cheese, continuing with a big bowl of steaming mussles and a mound of salty fries, then citron sorbet, always a glass or two of local red wine. We walked back up the road in the dark and gathered on the terrace where we had a surprise birthday fête for one of the residents: champagne and an apple tarte, music and candlelight and talks about dreams and goals and the beauty of fast friendship.
Today it’s raining, a soaking rain that’s not letting up so I’ve been puttering around my beautiful room, returning books to the library, drinking mugs of hot peppermint tea, staring out towards the misty mountains. Maybe this afternoon I’ll bake a cake, so I can use up my extra eggs, and that jar of yogurt too.
I’ll have to find Homer, the dog I’ve grown to love, the one who follows me every afternoon as I set off for a hike, who waits for me, who comes when I ask him to and sits at my side.
And maybe, one last time, I’ll go up to my spot, this large flat rock that feels like its on the top of everything, with views down into the valleys and out over the mountains. I’ll sit there and stare at a view that’s been burned into my memory but I’ll soak it up all the same, imprinting every bend and curve of those mountainsides, memorizing the exact shades of green, remembering it all: the wind and the rock and the mountains and the sky.
And then I’ll leave, onto Paris, onto the next thing, moving forward, continuing to walk. Always walking. Always moving forward.