On this Monday morning, I muse from a charming Tuscan courtyard. A setting, where terracotta pots are stuffed with crimson geraniums, delicate hydrangea and ripening limes.
A place where the morning sun glints on ochre stone walls, on tall Venetian shutters and on bunches and bunches of plump grapes. Their wayward tendrills float down from the trellis above the long wooden table. It’s where we writers gather daily… a place I know well.
I’ve returned to this writer’s retreat in Tuscany where I first found the courage to discover my ‘voice’– to become a writer. Jo is once again leading the way, and as with the group six years ago, this one is also bursting with ideas, with tales and stories… with dreams. And indeed, if there is one place that can inspire, surely it is The Watermill at Posara.
Three aged watermills and their buildings, the oldest from the 17thcentury, have been lovingly restored to create this soulful setting. Where once pasta and wheat were milled, olives and chestnuts pressed, now the flow of the Rosaro River is one of tranquility, not labour. Nearby is a calming forest of tall ram-rod bamboo, with artichoke shrubs sprouting bright ‘sunflowers’ and old stone walls bound with history and sprawling ivy.
Yet even with this colourful backdrop, we still have a canvas to colour in – with our words of poetry, childhood stories, personal journeys and musings for memoirs.
However for me today, despite being ensconsed in what truly must be paradise, and even with the support of old and new friends, I’ve found myself feeling unsure and challenged.
Yes on day two, how can I feel that I have nothing to say? Has it all been said? Can I do this again? Should I have returned?
What may feel natural on one day, or during one experience, may not do so on the next. It was six years ago that I arrived with a suitcase-full of dreams, an empty notebook and my favourite Uniball pen. Why then today do I feel like I’m back at the beginning?
Yes I’m now a published author, but on this beautiful Tuscan morning, where the lyrical bells of Posara toll and the butterflies pause to say a fleeting ciao, somehow chains seem to clamp my fingers and shackle my creativity.
But then… the troop of us pile into two vans for a late Tuscan lunch. We wend our way uphill to a castle-town where fortressed Roman walls drip with ivy and chiseled stone tell yet more stories. Where a gaggle of writers linger in a trattoria, chilled local wine and cuisine our muse. We’re effusive in our discussion and generous in our advice and support.
I’m reminded of the privilege of hearing people’s stories and their dreams. I’m pleased that I can now give the odd nugget of advice, yet still need wisdom and inspiration from Jo and all the others.
How has it spoken to me? To be humble, to not become complacent as a writer, to be ever-curious and learning. Yet surely, this is not only a writer’s journey.
Be mindful of listening and holding other people’s stories, like a grandmother’s treasured crystal.
Be mindful that whatever someone may aspire to, it is their precious dream. You can help with kindness, with advice and a loving ear.
Oh, I have no doubt that I’m meant to be here and I’m thankful. I also have a feeling that by tomorrow, those ‘shackles’ will be unchained. But now, a familiar bell drifts from the courtyard below, up to my enchanting suite. It is the hour to reconvene with my fellow writers, time for apertivo. All of it, a treasure.