Naseby is a tiny historic gold-mining village that grew up in the 1860s during NZ's gold-rush days. It's about an hour and forty minutes North West of Dunedin, in the Maniototo region of Central Otago - a landscape of dramatic temperament, few people and high, wide skies.
I've just spent a night up there, seeing friends and checking up on the old mud house. I had big dreams for this place when we first met. It looked its age - how could it not after a hundred and forty seven years - but stood its ground with spark and attitude. Fixing it up would require a lot of hours and elbow grease, but none of it felt un-doable. There'd be something thrilling about bringing the old place back to life. (And the shabby, dilapidated courtyard was calling out for clematis and grape vines, espaliered pear and olive trees, a great big banquet table, benches, lanterns, a brazier - company...)
The mud house was the town's apothecary in its early days and has since played the role of draper's store, stationery shop and South Island farmer's holiday home. I was reminded again this visit of my first-love intention to set it up as a creative exchange space; a retreat where I and others could meet away from our usual pulls, for the purpose of writing, painting, talking, brainstorming, or being silent. I still visualize it serving the wider community as a kind of atelier or meeting place, whose primary purpose would be to foster interdisciplinary, inter-continental collaboration, research, discovery, conversation.
I've drawn these ideas up and spoken of them before, but not here... The concept is both embryonic and pretty much fully-formed. I wonder - does this come across as audacious or fanciful? It might. But is that a reason not to speak?
Is persistent, heartfelt intention enough of a foundation to build on? What responsibilities would a communal space like this bring with it? What challenges? What far-reaching connections and joys? (If you'd like to have a wander through the mud house, you can visit it here. I'd be really keen to dialogue about this potential, should the concept of such a space resonate with others out there?)
Interestingly, during this brief overnight visit, I was reading through the Guest Book and came across an entry from a recent visitor. She'd written 'Great place! Ever thought of turning it into an artists' retreat?'
The world works in mysterious ways.
Here's to a year that's '2000ft above worry level.'
If and when worries come along (as they are wont to do), may you find all the tent pegs, can openers, mosquito screens, books, antihistamines, Russian fudge, picnic cutlery, fishing rods, swimming togs, friends, flags, golf balls and starched white bowling outfits you need to navigate your way through.