After our morning yoga, Elissa treated us to a watercolor class to teach us to paint the château, but the rain had other plans. So we worked on color blending in the blue salon, under the gaze of the plaster unicorn head mounted to the wall like a prize, until the sun peered out. We want to control the water-paint ratio! Not you, Nature!
Before everyone settled in though, I had this moment with a butterfly who landed on the table to die, or rest in peace.
Luckily the rain stopped just in-time. The sky wasn’t perfectly clear, but the looming clouds cast a writerly mood over the grounds and our paintings– pensive, reflective, and changeable. Elissa showed us how to measure angles, notice parallel lines, approximate perspective, and patiently build the Château de Verderonne in paint upon our papers.
Mr. Marie was pleased with our work– he seems to genuinely love how many writers and artists are inspire by his beautiful home. The Château de Verderonne has a long tradition of hosting artists dating back to the days of Marie Antoinette, and probably earlier too. Between the ancient theatre and the castle itself, there’s plenty of space for the magic of creation.
Between class and workshop, I took a stroll around the grounds and realized that sunny skies are lovely, but overcast and threatening to rain is where all the real drama is. When I found this tiny green spider on the white rose, I remembered the butterfly from earlier, and then this sonnet, “On Design” by Robert Frost:
“I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wmgs carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.”
We had all been wondering since we got here, why are we all here? Why this specific group of people at this specific time and place? We wondered about fate, free-will, and chaos. If we were destined to meet, to collide with our stories and poems, to influence each other, to remember each other, or if it was all a happy accident. What design of writing to appease?–If design govern in a thing so sweet.
“Your thorns are the best part of you.” –Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”
“You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather than an asset…” -Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”
I watched the bees visiting the petunias
My wander through the rest of the garden darkened as I neared the gate–
The greenhouse beckoned with colored glass and ripe tomatoes
Little did they know, fat and content upon the vine, what would become of them tomorrow…
The rain had made good on its threat, but no walk is complete without snuggling a baby chick at the chicken coop
And then it was time for our last workshop. Some of us revised projects from the last workshop while others brought new material. I have to say, workshop, even the best ones, can be exhausting, but I felt rejuvenated after ours– there were so many fresh perspectives that prospect of revision felt promising, exciting, and full of possibilities.
Yoga coaxed us out of our seats and revived our writer-backs.
At the end of the day, how could I help but be happy with the work we had done? Already we had completed three workshops, snuggled many chicks, painted a castle, visited Paris and Chantilly, and learned so much from craft talks and classes… and the retreat wasn’t even quite finished. Every morning and every night I would look out my window and feel thankful for the present moment and our lucky constellation of writers in this ephemeral place.
– Jessica Reidy, CWW Fiction Instructor