When I think of a writer’s retreat, I tend to think of the grand poobahs like the McDowell Colony or Yaddo — places with a pedigree. McDowell is especially appealing to me because Thornton Wilder spent lots of time there and he’s one of my all-time favorite writers. There’s something about The Bridge of San Luis Rey that is so mysterious and otherworldly: I’ve read it many times with awe and pleasure. So every now and then I fantasize about applying for a spot. A friend of mine actually peeked in at McDowell and saw some of its cottages — and the little picnic baskets that are delivered to their doorsteps. What’s not to love?
Then there’s another place I came across on my own also sounds so perfect!
It’s called La Muse Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat — love that name! — and offers year-round stays in a “twelfth century manor house in the mountains of Languedoc, in southern France.” For a relatively modest fee you can ensconce yourself in a room or cottage and write your heart out. Sounds divine, doesn’t it?
Well, right now, these entrancing possibilities are just that for me — entrancing possibilities. But that’s just fine, because almost by accident, I created a DIY writer’s retreat for myself — and it was quite enchanting in its own way. Here’s what happened: I went up to visit my son, Alex, in Middlebury, Vermont, for Parents’ Weekend last October. Now Middlebury’s a small place and there were tons of parents who had the same idea. Long-story-short: no room at the inns!
Instead, I ended up staying at a rustic cottage by Lake Dunmore. It was absolutely stunning — and still. I brought a portable typewriter, paper, and a project I was working on — and spent a blissful two fall mornings sitting at a narrow table overlooking the tree-touched lake as leaves and chipmunks skittered around and rowboats bobbed and swayed. I did some satisfying work, spent time with my son, basked in the beauty of Vermont — and drove back home renewed. Now that’s a retreat!