Gargoyle Cottage. Retreat, retreat!

Gargoyle Cottage at Allbion Manor, Victoria, BCThe name of the place grabbed me immediately: Gargoyle Cottage—how simultaneously creepy and delightful, a perfect companion for its bigger sibling, the gorgeous and funky Albion Manor. It seemed the perfect answer to my where-to-stay-in-Victoria search, commenced when I received an invitation to be a guest speaker at Vancouver Island Romance Authors’ June meeting.

And upon seeing Gargoyle Cottage in person? Even more perfect: a fairy tale house, nestled behind a massive weeping willow tree amidst an enchanted jungle of blooms. Thriving purple clematis and bright blue California lilacs guard the back of the tiny domicile, while its crotchety namesake perches above the glass paned door. Managing to look protective, welcoming and snarky all at once, the gargoyle’s sneer says, “Don’t just stand there gaping. Go in or stay out, but make yourself useful either way. Deadhead the petunias or something.”

I confess I did obediently deadhead a few flowers before proceeding inside, where I was as charmed by the cottage’s interior, as I had been by its exterior. The antique furniture gracing each room grabbed my imagination. What whispered conversations had that sideboard been privy to over a century? How many dreams had the massive, crazily ornate bed inspired? Who had kept what in that tiny, intricately painted, yellowed with age Chinese lidded vase?

Settling in, I pondered what I wanted to accomplish during my days beneath the gargoyle’s watchful eye. Some professional development, absolutely. A couple of close author friends and one of my editors live in the Victoria area. Some purely fun stuff—of course. Chiefly, however, some deep thinking. Perhaps it seems weird that I need to slot in time to think, but there you have it. Obviously (or hopefully), I do a certain amount of thinking every day, but to actually spend concentrated time at it? Yep, I have to schedule it, or it doesn’t happen.

Life is so busy that it can be difficult to find time to consciously evaluate and plan what I want to do. It’s all too easy to feel wiped out and inundated with work and chores, almost like I don’t have a spare minute, while also feeling like I don’t get anything done or don’t have time for the things that really matter.

This fact—that life is busy—is exactly why taking regular breaks to play, think, dream, imagine and plan is vital. It allows me to prioritize and regroup. It helps me really live my life, not just go through the motions. It shows me areas where changes might be needed and affirms things I’m doing right.

Not all my retreats take place in quirky, quaint little B & B’s, however. (I wish!) It’s much more common for me to set aside a day in my normal life. If a mini retreat sounds intriguing to you, here are a few tips to get you started.

1) Leave your house. Even if you’re not planning an overnight stay, getting out of your home, away from your everyday life, is critical. If you stay home, it will be too easy to see all the things that need doing. You’ll decide to tackle just one task—and bam, all will be lost.

2) Bring a notebook or a laptop. (Avoid all social media sites like the plague!) Ruminate on what you’d like to focus on. Do you have a decision you need to make? Are you trying to narrow down your work focus, seeking to prioritize the bazillion ideas rattling around in your head, or just wanting to contemplate life?

3) Consider arranging a lunch date with a close friend or colleague. (And enjoy every minute of it, but don’t let the social time of your retreat eclipse your alone time.)

4) Go back to your alone space and spend time reading magazines or articles that deeply interest you or are relevant to your life in some way.

5) Head outside and take a long walk (or just sit) in a place you don’t usually frequent. Don’t move briskly though. Meander. Absorb your surroundings. Let your mind wander.

6) Return to your space and mull over your notes. Possibly do some brainstorming, jot a pros and cons list, or draft a schedule if you’re aiming to meet a large, many parted goal. If you realize that what you wanted to think about has changed, explore that instead.

7) Repeat semi-frequently!

If you take time to retreat and think—or you’re planning to now—I’d love to hear about it! Please respond in the comments. 🙂

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“Gargoyle Cottage. Retreat, retreat!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 28, 2017 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”