Featured writer: Vivienne Cole
An eternity ago, almost two years to this very day, I embarked on a life-changing adventure, leaving certainty behind as I boarded the plane that would bring me back to ‘the other side of the world’.
I had already taken the first few brave steps towards the unknown, packing up my belongings as part of a ‘now or never strategy’. As comfortable as I was in my ‘barn’ with its wonderful studio and rural setting – surrounded by trees and acres of wilderness – I couldn’t settle.
A niggling feeling wouldn’t go away – something I’d lived with for years, as familiar as any one of my friends, or the paths that I walked each day. A calling – a feeling of longing that by its nature was irrational – the desire to live in France: a library and music collection bursting at the seams with my French dream; maps and photos from previous travels, yet only a vague idea of ‘where’ and how it might be possible.
Following the only course of action available – answering what was clamouring for my attention – I passed four months in Europe, hoping to have some kind of revelation, or discover what I was seeking; to put a name to it, and at the same time, find the sense of peace that had so far eluded me.
My life was already filled with all that I loved, with what I could only describe as enriching experiences. ‘Work’ was looking after animals, and time to write. My sea kayak was freedom, and the headland that became my haven, magical – an aboriginal site with lapping turquoise waters and giant pelicans that would land on the golden sand that lined the river mouth, that met the waves crashing in from a bar and a sweep of national park, beyond an island. Friends were ‘dear ones’ and community projects imbued with joy, as our singing group journeyed through a wide repertoire of world music. I wrote in cafés, sipping cappuccinos and greeting villagers. Sydney, as a cultural hub, was one hour’s drive, and the cinema five minutes away.
It is true that there wasn’t a man in my life, but there was nothing ‘missing’ in terms of fulfillment, for creativity provided much enjoyment. So whilst adventure called, there was also ‘much to appreciate on my plate’ – nothing rational could enter the debate as it wasn’t dissatisfaction that lead to the result, but ‘opening a door’, unsure, and letting the new unfold. Unfurling my own wings, waiting for my spirit to soar – “why am I here, where is home?” was the guiding force. Following my nose to see where it would take me, listening to my intuition and trusting its prompting.
Languedoc Roussillon, I’d been there before, a very long time ago without really exploring: this is what came up on the map when I decided my itinerary by instinct alone, asking ‘the universe’ for an opinion, as there was no other – no goal or bucket list, just this intangible outline; something to be accomplished.
Cathar castles were the first port of call; their towering edifices dramatically perched on cliffs that defended them from invasion, yet one by one they had fallen, victims of the inquisition. And the coast – the glistening Med – summer meant warm waters and balmy nights strolling au bord de la mer. Yet in my chamber, above the bed, was a large photo of Canigou in all his splendour – the mountain and a monastery, high on a ridge – and it was he who had the next say and changed my itinerary…
…So off to the mountains, without a plan, passing a sign marked Castelnou which seemed vaguely familiar – enough to encourage a U-turn and send me in the direction of this urge, a medieval town, and charming it was too, with tiny streets of cobblestones, and a rating of one of France’s most lovely villages.
Winding my way, on foot, to the top of the hill, I arrived at the gates of a château, and remember exclaiming “I don’t know why I’m here, what is there is to see?” which was greeted with a smile, of course, and an explanation, and after my visit was finished, an invitation to join the guide and his colleague for lunch, if I’d like. A little table in the sun; a fresh melon and goats cheese (recovered from my car), added to the fare on the table and the afternoon’s discussion – before I headed off to find accommodation, promising to return the following day and continue our conversation.
And the rest is history, I can now say, as a few days later I had got to know Prince Charming and been off in the mountains camping. Yet as with all fairy tales, there are often twists and turns, and a few complications, for my holiday had come to an end and I had a flight to catch, and all that could be decided in the time left was “how can we continue to get to know each other?”
To accept the hand that fate had dealt when the odds seemed against it – returning ‘home’ was inevitable, yet would it be for long? It was clear as absence created a rift, that ‘loose ends needed to be tied up’, and I would jump on a plane, once again embracing the unknown and leaving the door open; to write a new chapter.
Thus it seems an eternity has passed since the moment or decisions that lead to where I am now. And had I not taken a chance, there would not be a tale to recount… staring my decision in the eye I opted for the choice that lead away from all I’d known, not even sure of what I’d find, or of the real character of Prince Charming. In stories it is evident, the prince of course is perfect and rules a kingdom; he commands respect and has a good income. Mine was yet to be ‘proven’ and nothing logical contributed to the picture. He lived in a mobile home, and had so many previous partners, yet more significantly, was already a father with two grown lads – adolescents who come to stay with Dad. Hardly part of my wildest dreams, neither was there a bolt of lightning – “this is the one you’ve been waiting for”. There was only the choice of ‘what if’, as the unknown set up an opportunity to be taken or left.
Life often presents us with a dilemma; we can stay where we are, content with what we know, or shake things up a bit and get on with the show… so voila, here I am – things ‘didn’t look great on paper’, but I came here all the same. And if I thought that all would be resolved, there was nothing to convince or reassure me. Only the persistent feeling that wouldn’t go away ‘I am meant to be here, no matter what happens’ – that destiny has come into play.
I cannot see the final act, and didn’t sign for the script that I find I am playing out – I only ‘listened’ and followed my heart, expecting that all would somehow work out. Paperwork (visa applications and administration) wasn’t part of the equation, or difficulty in communication, only ‘belief in magic’ and allowing it to come to fruition.
With time it is clear that whatever is in store remains a mystery – for there is another door and ‘happily ever after’ hides around the corner, in the wings; rather than across the other side of the world it is now closer than I could have imagined. Each step leads to its turrets and extensive grounds, as reality is only a breath away from where I am now, having already made the leap of faith there can be no regret, only the open arms that greet ‘what’s next’.