Voluntown is a beautiful country town that’s two-thirds state forest. There are many families that live here, some farmers and small businesses, too. Here are a few things to check out when you come to the area, on your way here or your way home.Read More
The flower does not demand speed. It doesn’t tell nature to hurry up, or slow down. The flower is in harmony with everything. It accepts life on life’s terms. Perhaps I can try that. Slow down, relax into it. Trust the process. If I wait, life will bloom like a perfect flower.
How do we move forward in a world that doesn’t always mirror the positivity we feel on the inside?
Keep going and trust the creative intelligence in the universe. Beyond our varying spiritual or religious beliefs, let’s agree that there is a greater-than-human intelligence at work.
We don’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
While people may be doing illogical and unnecessary negative things, let’s remember to take a deep breath and rest assured that, in the paraphrased words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Universe is on the side of Justice and the moral arc is long.
Wishing you love, good health, prosperity and a sense of wonder.
Part of the reason why it’s taken us so long to open after the fire is that we have a vision for Still Waters that includes infusing everything with artwork, so that our guest experience is like being inside of a work of art. This needs to be subtle because we want our guests to have a meditative and relaxing experience.
Tao makes a lot of the elements you’ll see on our property. He incorporates the wood from the former house in many elements. The wood is old—1700s and earlier old. It’s a blessing that we don’t have the budget to buy all the things so we choose to make them. Because as an artist, Tao handcrafts our outdoor dining tables, nightstands, bathroom vanities, even the bridges and so much more with his artist touch. We hope our guests will appreciate all the pieces he made, even if they don’t realize when they’re enjoying them that’s why they feel so special.
Handcrafted buffet table by fine artist Tao LaBossiere, made from pallet wood and floor boards from the 1730 house.
Change takes time, but transformation can happen in an instant. In the moments where we hear and learn something from another human being about a different way to see things, our whole world can change.
We see this happen in nature. Yesterday I was walking around the property. Suddenly, in a spot where there was nothing the other day, I saw tall asparagus that looked like it was growing forever. Guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?
Much of this is in the noticing. Obviously that asparagus potential was already there. It’s been there since my father-in-law Paul planted it several years ago. But I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t waiting for it. Then, in an instant, it was there.
I think change is like that for us, too. All of a sudden we wake up a different person. Maybe we are happy and we haven’t been before. Maybe we feel more at peace in our own skin. It’s because of the work. The day to day practice of whatever we do to develop ourselves. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. And then, we enjoy the harvest of our work. What a blessing.
"You cannot create a statue by smashing the marble with a hammer, and you cannot by force of arms release the spirit or soul of man." — Confucius
Patience is one of my huge life lessons. I want what I want when I want it. Usually, I want it now. When the fire happened...Read More
This morning when I woke up, a thought popped into my head — Radical Hospitality. I consider many of my thoughts to be spiritual guidance because that is what I pray for. I asked the universe and God of my understanding to guide my thoughts, words and actions. So when Radical Hospitality as a clear, distinct phrase echoed in my mind, I figured it was divinely inspired. Perhaps I need to start writing my second book that chronicles Tao & my adventures reopening Still Waters. Radical Hospitality. I thought maybe that's the title. But first, I thought I'd look it up and see what else exists. Much to my delight, Radical Hospitality is a thing. I suppose many people know that already. But I didn't and it was exciting to me. Something new to learn.
This thought wave started over the weekend when my friend Cathleen came over to visit and see our renovation progress at Still Waters. Cathleen brought a pineapple. It was a sweet and thoughtful gesture. After our visit, I remembered that I thought of pineapple a few days prior when I bought a frozen bag of it at the grocery store. Later that afternoon, I went into the basement to switch over the laundry and saw a shelf on Tao's work table with a small pineapple finial for a hook. Pineapples everywhere. Okay, clearly this is a sign. Yes, Universe, I'm paying attention. When I googled "meaning of pineapple" there were all sorts of articles on pineapples as symbols of hospitality, the origination of pineapple hospitality in the south and even a snarky result of why are you googling what pineapple is, you idiot (f-bombs intentionally omitted). I continued my search because what I really wanted to find was the spiritual meaning of pineapple. This article gave me some insights and satisfied my inquiry.
This morning, considering my waking thoughts, I found this inspiring sermon on Radical Hospitality by Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell, minister emerita of the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. The whole sermon in its entirety is a beautiful read. Even as a non-member of their church reading this sermon long after its delivery, it made me feel included. Even though I'm on the other side of the country, I felt welcome. This line is what struck me the most: "I’m not talking about being politically correct, or legalistic—I’m talking about hospitality as [a] spiritual practice. I’m not talking about just opening the doors—I’m talking about opening the heart."
Yes! Hosting guests and groups at Still Waters is about opening the heart. Softening the edges. Opening the mind. Being gentle with ourselves and others. Opening the heart brings vulnerability, and many of us don't want to feel vulnerable. That's an opportunity for discomfort and even pain. But if I can be with it, let it in, there is an opportunity for growth.
I hope to be ever reminded of this approach and the idea of hospitality as a spiritual practice. Let the practice begin again!
Last night, outside in the crisp air, I looked up and saw the moonrise, then turned toward the house and saw this sunrise. 😉 Our neighbor Laura Parsons created this beautiful stained glass art and Tao was determined to get it into the new part of the house, literally. Tao built the encasement and our builder installed it. Guests staying in the sunrise bedroom see the view from the other side. It is breathtaking and a showcase piece of our second story.
As we round the corner and get closer to reopening Still Waters, we needed to clear an area where Cottage Trinity and Four Directions stood. These cottages were previously identified as three and four. While there are countless memories created in these buildings, they were dormant for over 20 years. The cottages were located where the new septic leach field for the main house will be constructed. Our local Voluntown fire chief asked us to consider using those cottages for fire training. We said YES! This brings us full circle.
Yesterday about 30 men and women in full fire gear came to the property and conducted a very controlled burn of both cottages. It was an excellent training exercise with a lot of positive energy. It all was perfect in its execution. We are grateful to the Voluntown Volunteer Fire Dept No. 1 for their professionalism, attention to detail, impeccable control of the entire situation, and great communication before, during, and after the fire. Check out social media for more images.
Cottage Trinity in full blaze.
Cottage Four Directions in flames.
The fire department used Still Waters Pond as its water source, controlled by the professional firefighters.
Some of their equipment.
Here’s what remains before clean up. It’s remarkable how the trees around the cottages were protected by their targeted water sprays.
Our center is owned and run by artists. So Tao and I spend much of our energy Creating all the little details that will add up to very unique guest experience. He’s been working on these beautiful shelves for the new guest rooms. The wood is sourced from the old part of the house built in 1730 that came down after the fire. The house was deconstructed by hand so we could salvage most of the gorgeous pre-colonial wood to include in the new building and other artworks Tao wants to create. It’s an homage to the past with a nod to the future!
Tao with one of his rustic vintage handmade shelf hangers.
It was nearing dark, so I walked to the house with my headlamp on. The bonfire softly glowed behind me. "Honey, look!" Tao exclaimed, "they're going to go all the way around the deck."
The exterior lights were on. Tao had turned on the interior lights too so the whole house was glowing with warm invitingness.
"It's amazing," I replied. I stood there in awe of this common thing that so many people take for granted every day, that I took for granted.
Since the fire in March 2014, every time we spend any time outside at night we have headlamps on. We don't get to turn on the exterior lights and have our path illuminated. Until now. What a gift.
Electricity is huge. Not everyone gets it. I'm grateful for this turning point.
Still Waters main house. Work in progress. Sept 2017
There are so many details to manage when rebuilding after a fire. We are fortunate to have this challenge. As artists, we deeply care about the aesthetic details. We want our guests to be creatively inspired and happily relaxed. Everything is being re-created with an artistic, rustic, and contemporary feel. I'm so happy that Tao and I have similar taste. He has been hand building the sink vanities out of the 300-year-old wood that was salvaged from the house fire. This important reuse pays homage to the past, with a nod to the future. And it's simply beautiful. He's also custom building the end tables for each of the guestrooms from that rescued wood. We can't wait for you to see it when it's finished!
Morning coffee at the amethyst sink.
One of the reasons why I love the change of seasons so much is that we can literally feel change in the air. Here in New England, we get to experience nature changing through the temperature, the landscape, and the beautiful leaves changing colors. Around Still Waters Pond, our green leaves will change to the many vibrant colors of Fall. For now, The summer lingers a bit longer while the temperature starts to drop. Long sleeves, hot coffee and tea, reflections on a beautiful summer. Simply beautiful.
There's a great blue heron flying over the pond right now as I take this photo.
We have three peach trees on the property, and have started some what of a small orchard. I'm not sure if we're going to be able to keep it as we move forward with the construction, but I hope we can retain them all. Some of the trees are small enough that we could move them if machinery or other things need to get in the way. This year, we have an abundance of peaches. I've been using some organic herbicide to keep the little critters at bay. The other day I picked a whole bunch of peaches and they are delicious. We have another tree that was totally ransacked by birds. And a third tree whose peaches are still green. I love that we can grow our own food and look forward to future Gardens. I have a lot to learn about gardening. My last few gardens were complete failures because of the lack of running water after the fire, and the time to nurture them. So they became feeding grounds for the local woodchucks who absolutely loved my kale and cucumbers. So this year, rather than plant a garden that I don't have time to tend to, I've been shopping at farmers markets and foraging for wild foods on the property. I've got BlackBerries, milkweed pods and leaves, Plaintain, and even more edibles that I'm not venturing into. there's an organic farmer that comes to the Voluntown farmers market, and I'm happy she's there and buy from her each week. I will only buy from the farmers that don't spray. They don't have to be certified because I know that that's expensive, but they have to be honest about their farming practices. Not everyone is. I'm happy to support the ones that are. I hope that this summer, you have access to delicious, fresh food that you've either grown yourself or bought from a local farmer.
Still Waters' 2017 peaches
Our time at Still Waters Pond isn't all pretty views, peaches and bullfrogs. It's hard work. It's work till you're bone-tired kind of work. I learned that way of working from my dear husband. I don't keep up with him though. The hazmat suits picture from 2010 shows just one little part of what we've been up to for the past seven years. Despite the fire of 2014. Despite other life issues. Much of our time, sweat, every penny we earn, and fierce determination -- this is how we will relaunch our dream retreat center and bed 'n breakfast later this year. Tao is the visionary dreamer and I am the practical realist. He imagines the future and declares it; I pull us into the present reality. He sculpts the landscape and restores the spaces; I manage the business side. Then we cross over and collaborate on both sides. We are a good team. Blessed to do this together. Grateful for the unique opportunity.
It is said that growth arises from struggle. That change comes from pain. So why is it that we resist? Why have we not learned to welcome our pain and our struggles as opportunities for growth? This is the path. As I personally work toward the ever-pervasive goal of being comfortable with being uncomfortable, I've come to rely on a variety of practices to help me get there. Not that there's any "there" to arrive to, but rather ways of being and practicing to move toward personal growth.
First -- I've learned to ask for help. Whether it's in a 12-step meeting, a text with a friend, or a prayer to the universe, I realize that I can't do all of this life stuff alone. I need the help of people I trust and energies I don't even fully comprehend.
Second -- when in doubt, throw it out. I've learned how to quit. When things don't serve me and I truly know that at my core, time to let it go. This does not just apply to old vegetables. Don't sweat it and let it go. Life is just way too short.
Third -- when I really don't know what to do, I'll do nothing. Sometimes answers take a while to come. And my first reaction is to resist and say no. So it helps to add in a little waiting time before making big decisions. Sometimes this also makes sense for little decisions, too.
This human experience thing can get a little rocky for us all. So it's good for me to keep in mind that I never know what someone else might be going through. I hope whatever you're going through, you can see that this too shall pass. All things will change. May you feel blessed in this moment.
March 30, 2017 marked three years since the fire in the main house. What an amazing three years it has been. We've learned so much about expecting the unexpected, working hard and never giving up. We've made great, albeit extremely slow, progress at Still Waters, with regard to the rebuild of the main house and preparations for our Company relaunch. We've been busy working on our other businesses, too, because those bills won't pay themselves! How grateful we are for the opportunities we create through Art of Tao LaBossiere LLC and Amy LaBossiere's marketing consulting and health coaching. We've been getting so many inquiries: Hey, when are you reopening? Everyone's been so supportive, encouraging and helpful. We are still not sure when our precise relaunch will happen, but we are shooting for later this fall. Life is what happens when we're busy making other plans. We shall keep you posted. Please keep us in your thoughts, and prayers if you practice.