Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 & an old mud house looking to take on something new

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. 


  1. I think that a starched white bowling outfit is just the thing I need to navigate myself through 2010!

  2. Thanks Claire! Food for thought indeed - knowing you and the universe in which you magically operate, nothing but good and short of spectacular will come of this. In its own quiet, organic way. The tapestry is being woven as we speak.
    Happy New Year my friend!

  3. Hi Claire,

    Apropos to your musings on 2010, here's your Leo horoscope for the week of the New Year, from Rob Brezsny's site Freewill Astrology:

    "A guy who goes by the name of "Winter" has made it his goal to visit every Starbucks in the world. According to his website, he has thus far ordered drinks in 9,874 stores. His project contrasts dramatically with an acquaintance of mine who calls herself "Indian Summer." She is in the midst of a global pilgrimage to the hundreds of sites listed in Colin Wilson's book The Atlas of Holy Places and Sacred Sites, including cave paintings, dolmens, medicine wheels, and temples. Guess which of these two explorers I'm nominating to be one of your inspirational heroes in 2010."

    Buona fortuna and vaya con dios on your personal pilgrimage.

  4. Hi T.Clear - I hope you find a matching hat!

    Kay, hello. Are you back from Queenstown, I wonder? You are one of the writers I know would bring a special energy to the mud house community. Thanks for endorsing the idea. You are right, things are woven as (and when?) we speak... I'll let you know what grows. Hope to see a bit more of you this year. L, C x

  5. Hi Tim - Colin Wilson is def. someone to turn an ear to. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've not read any of his work yet. 'The Outsiders' looks like a book worth plunging into at this somewhat flummoxing point in my life. Is it one you've read?

    Winter - Summer. North - South. Sacred sites and best intentions in both places. I'll be on the lookout for a copy of CW's Atlas.

    Arohanui, fellow traveler

  6. We took our holiday guests on a day trip exploring around the Maniatoto and Central Otago including a compulsary stop at Naseby. They could understand our fascination and attraction with the area and why we love going on long weekends there. It certainly is a long way above worry level.

    Couldn't figure out which one was your mud-brick friend though. Also the forest was closed due to the extreme fire danger and high winds. There were plenty of people swimming at the dam. It looked very inviting.

  7. Hi Vanda

    Things don't exactly stop in Naseby, but they do slow right down. I find I get thirstier than usual there, which is interesting (and something to do with the fact I need to live near/look onto water) but love the forest walks, especially the larch & lancewood bit that leads one along the water-chase.

    Did you know that Naseby is a prolific peony growing area? It's not all mountain biking, curling and pubs!!! Sounds as though you've had a great holiday --- just one question... when are you going to show us your new red boots? ; ) xx