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Deluged, Waving, Not Drowning

Updated: May 2, 2022

In the midst of our retreats there is always a moment where Shannon, Peter and I catch each other's eyes buzzing with delight. All the frustrations of Covid-19 postponements, re-planning and reorganising float away on clouds of fulfilment. The far away gaze and gentle smiles of guests meandering their way to the labyrinth, calm waves of laughter at the dinner table, and thank you notes from gracious guests remind us why we love doing what we do here.

We want our guests to soak up the beauty and nurturing on offer, to breathe deeply, let go of tension and feel a sense of lightness, being rejuvenated and inspired by the time they leave.

Being immersed in a writer’s retreat at Springfield is a joyful, life enriching experience. (Lynn)

This retreat has helped me to reconnect to my creative spirit (Catherine)

Springfield is a magic place — to be nurtured and get back in touch with nature and yourself. This is my third retreat and they get better every time. (Stephanie)

At the start of this year, with all of last year’s pandemic challenges in mind, we decided to see the uncertainty ahead as an opportunity to re-imagine our offerings. Being small and flexible allows us to respond to feedback and continually redesign what we do as new situations emerge. We began imagining what our ‘new normal’ could look like, and experimenting with ways to balance Springfield’s retreats with our own lifestyle dreams.

Then came the deluge, and we’ve barely had a dry or sunny day so far this year. It’s hard to complain about rain, with the drought and bushfires a not too distant memory, but some days it's tough to keep our spirits up when dampened by the constant drizzle. Springfield’s name now makes perfect sense too. At one stage it seemed that there was just as much water rising from the springs beneath our feet as there was falling from the sky, and I wondered if Rosemary Hall might slide down the hill and sink into the swampy kangaroo paddock.

Endless rainy days should have been the perfect scenario for me to hunker down and write, but alas my creative spark was soggy too.

Far away floods, non-stop grey skies, floors perpetually covered in muddy paw prints and the sheer weight of water everywhere generated a perfect storm of procrastination.

It was one year ago that I packed my car and boarded the ferry to Tasmania for my solo two month writing retreat.

This year I’m not going away to write as I am facilitating a group of courageous creative men in a twelve-week inner landscaping course at Springfield, but as soon as our course is finished I will carve out time and space to start writing a new book that’s been seeping into my story-mind.

Writing is often described as a long-suffering, solo experience — we sit at a desk and we write, alone, for hours each day. However, at our writing retreat in 2016 with Karen Joy Fowler I was reminded that writing as a form of creative expression can be a joyful experience.

I’ve learned that my creative process can be a source of joy or suffering and that this is mainly determined by my creative ecology. Everything I do, and don’t do, what I eat, my sleep, my conversations and moods all work to either enhance or limit my creativity. To have the chance to explore my ideal creative ecology in Tasmania last year, with days and weeks and months free to do exactly as I pleased was a gift that will last me a lifetime.

Our next writing residency called ‘Just Write’, is only two weeks away. My own experience, together with the success of our Stella residencies (where three Stella Prize nominated writers come to stay) has inspired us to offer this opportunity for writers and artists to simply enjoy time and space away from life’s distractions.

‘I arrived at Springfield with the project of assembling ‘Australiana’ into its final shape and I am forever grateful for that time. As I said to Kinchem at the time, there is no measure for the impact such a residency will have, how it will nurture the many stages that are involved in taking a piece of writing from its initial idea to its final form.’

Yumna Kassad, The Stella Prize long-list, 2020 for ‘The House of Youssef’

'I look back on my time at Springfield as a little period of paradise: reading, writing, gazing out my bedroom window at the lush green horizon in the morning and the spectacular sunsets in the evening. Most importantly, I met another writer - a true kindred spirit - whose friendship has since developed into a truly creative and lasting gift. I am certain that without Springfield, our paths would never have crossed.'

Gabrielle Carey, The Stella Prize long-list, 2014 for ‘Moving Among Strangers’

’Springfield afforded me the opportunity to clear my mind, cleanse my soul and connect with my writing process. The retreat is a holistic experience. Not only do the incredible surrounds including an amazing market vegetable garden and rolling hills allow one space for thoughtful walks but Rosemary Hall itself provides spacious living where you can collaborate with others or cocoon yourself away in your own quarters. There’s something incredibly restorative about Springfield, something that lingers long after the retreat has left. I can’t thank Kinchem and Peter enough for their wonderful hospitality and making Springfield the creatively inspiring retreat that it is.’

Cath Moore, The Stella Prize long-list, 2021 for ‘Metal Fish, Falling Snow’

While at Rosemary Hall we are here to support you in creating the residency of your dreams. At Just Write residencies there are only three writers. Your days are of your own design and we can assist with organising meals, massages, yoga, or bush walks and also offer fun, generative writing exercises (using The Story Workshop Method) each day to get your creative juices flowing. In the evenings you can enjoy the company of other writers over dinner and a glass of wine, or, if you prefer, you can tuck yourself away, and be fully immersed in your own deep, undistracted process.

If you’d like to get your hands in the dirt while you take a break, there’s always plenty to do in the gardens too. Gardening, especially weeding, is a favourite part of my writing process. With all the rain my newly planted salvia’s and grasses are leaping out of the ground, as is the milkweed and thistle. The Sheoaks that we planted for the Glossy Black Cockatoos are thriving but still need constant weeding. Each morning I wander down to the labyrinth and cast my questions before tending to one Sheoak each day.

Usually, when walking the labyrinth, I cast my question then remind myself of the inner landscaping practices, one at a time, until one sticks.

Yesterday it was the fourth practice, attending, that resonated and stayed, whispering its name over and over, attending, attending, attending, until the answer to my question was clear — attend to what is right here and right now. Attend to what is needed today.

Be present, attune, seek energy, be open to feedback, and attend to what emerges. This reminded me of one of my favourite permaculture sayings ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’.

As the late English psychologist and author Michale Argyle famously said, happiness is simply about doing the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled as often as you can.

It is the tiny details of my day that delight and restore me — wild writing in the morning, walking with the dogs, stretching, then writing in the studio, tapping into the green fuse in the afternoons, wandering in the bush, nourishing evening meals with Peter including fresh picked greens and herbs from the garden, reading by the fire and delicious leisurely phone calls with loved ones.

These are the practices and rituals that give my life the structure I need, the scaffolding that supports me, no matter how strong the wind blows. As well as the daily and weekly rituals, I now have an annual pattern too. At some stage, once a year, I promise to give myself some time away, on my own to go deep into my creative process. In August my personal retreat will be back in Bali, and after two weeks of creative play I’ll be running a 12-day inner landscaping intensive before I return.

As I peer into the drizzling grey horizon, dreaming of Bali I know that there is a part of me that lives for creative solitude. In those days last year in Tasmania, when I answered to no-one, I heard my inner voice calling me out of the shadows, saying, ‘today you can do whatever your heart desires’. It only had to call me once. If you crave this too, whether you come to Springfield, find another retreat or create your own residency in your favourite place, I hope you too will soon enjoy the soulful delight of giving yourself the chance to dance in wide open fields of creative play.

x Kinchem

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