andalucia

The Power Of Nature To Heal

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Photo of the Sierra De Aracena by Charlie Chesterton, chef at Finca Buenvino. Follow him on Instagram @foodsunandfun

I’m writing this in a café in north London, down wind from the peppery scent of their Christmas tree. Outside, the sky is blue and the sun shines.

I want to go and play outside, Mum!

Every year it’s the same – every year I’m crawling the walls by December, desperate for sun and fresh air, and yet the answer is in my own hands. Not more extra spending on a possibly-effective SAD light, but getting my butt moving; wrap up, shape up and get out of doors. And not to Savers, Sainsbury’s or another ‘indoors’ but really OUT, OUT.

Whatever the weather.

As a child I found such happiness spending whole days outside –looking after the cows on a near-by dairy farm, searching for shells on the beach, roaming the fields on the family allotment, deep in the Hampshire countryside. All places where I could escape into my imagination, undisturbed by my parents or siblings and find peace and happiness Now, I want a life more in walking boots and waterproofs and less in make-up and outfits socially acceptable for city-living. I want mud. I want to feel my heart race as I climb a hill or mountain and my spirits soar as I reach the summit and gasp at the landscape before me.

The power of the natural world to heal and inspire  is something I need to remember in the dark, indoors days of winter in the Northern hemisphere. Plus now there’s digital help at our fingertips. I’ve joined a Whatsapp group called ‘Nature Therapy Counsel’ which encourages the sharing of photos of the natural landscape. There’s  the website Spirit Of The Trees which ‘provides poetry, folk tales, myths for tree lovers’ and as I type, on my laptop  I have my headphones plugged into a Youtube tape of 11 Hours of  Tranquil Birdsong.

Author Matt Haig was quoted in the Guardian Review recently, in relation to his experience of depression, saying, ‘…the day I realised I was going to be OK was the April after my breakdown, the sun came out and I almost felt a literal weight being lifted.’  And I’ll will be OK too, when the higher light levels return. In May, I’m back in wooded landscape of  the Sierra De Aracena National Park in Andalucia to run writing retreats and there we’ll spend almost all day outside -  meditation sessions, writing workshops, guided walks and eating lunch and dinner – but in the meantime I must  take more advantage of London’s myriad of parks and wild spaces for my mental health, whatever the weather. ‘Tis verily the season for bringing the greenery in but I need to get out as well.

This poem by the American author and poet Wendell Berry is my Christmas gift to you:

When despair for the world grows in me 

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’

© Wendell Berry.  From “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry”

Autumn Celebration

A time to say thank you…

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Elaine, you are an inspirational teacher and I wish you could have been the course leader on my MA! You’ve encouraged us all with such sensitivity, perception, creativity and fun that I’ll always want to go on writing! Thank you for interconnecting with us all on a deep level and sharing your life and talents with us.

We have had a wonderful year at Finca Buenvino in 2018 - filled with laughter, love, generosity and gratitude. We have met so many new writers and taken such great pleasure in sharing with them the superb hospitality and food of Sam, Jeannie and Charlie Chesterton - introducing them to the high hills of the Andalucian landscape, the joys of sharing mealtimes, guided walks, mindfulness meditation sessions and of course, the transformational power of writing down our lives in notebooks.

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The infinity, salt-water pool which overlooks the Sierra De Aracena Y Picos De Aroche National Park. Finca Buenvino sits in 150 wooded acres which we explore every day, always taking time to sit and write sensory observations and stories in our small notebooks which we carry everywhere.

I will leave it up to comments from my writers on our September week to explain the benefits of a Write It Down! holiday at BV. Thanks to all of them and to everyone who has joined me during the last four years. We will be back here in May, June and September 2019.

The teaching method’s were superb; constant gentle nudges that got you out of your comfort zone and made your heart and mind wake-up and produce writing that I didn’t know was there - non-judgemental, sensitive, fun, very creative and caring to us all. I would recommend this holiday to anyone interested in writing.’ Heather.
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Elaine’s teaching created a very good team spirit, pushed us a little so we could all get a lot from the course but did so with humour throughout that was always encouraging. This holiday has finally got me started on a long held resolve to start writing - it was a very enjoyable, relaxing and therapeutic experience. David.