The Writing Space
“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” - Henry Thoreau, Walden; or Life in the Woods, 1854
For seven straight years, Denmark has been voted one of the top three happiest countries. A Danish psychologist puts it down to the Danes valuing a cultural construct called “hygge.” Other European nations that top quality-of-life studies have words that carry a similar concept - the Dutch use gezelligheid, the Germans have gemütlichkeit, Norwegians use koselig and the Swedes have mysig.
Although hygge is usually translated into English as cosy, a more nuanced translation is that of intentional intimacy. The latter is what we have modelled our writing quarters on as well as the example set by Henry Thoreau who spent time in a sanctuary he built on the outskirts of town. He lived simply there and frequently wrote in order to find clarity as to what direction to take with his life.
Writes of Passage Retreats incorporate both hygge and Thoreau-like features.
People in Nordic regions tend to avoid carpet due to its tendency to absorb dust, dirt, bacteria and mildew. We’ve taken their steer to go with the simplicity of polished floorboards made from sustainable bamboo. There is a throw rug for those who don’t enjoy a bare floor of wood, which also adds some extra warmth and texture.
There is nothing quite like a candle to nurture cosiness and counter dark winters. Norden’s light them often and without occasions to justify it. There is no better accompaniment as you read over the writing you’ve polished off during the day.
Indoor plants keep us alert and reduce mental fatigue. They have been found to make us feel good, increasing our positivity while lowering stress levels and blood pressure. While all plants clean the air, some are known to absorb pollutants and we have chosen a range of them accordingly.
Make Yourself at Home
It is wonderful to be left undisturbed. There is something about putting the kettle on and having a cuppa that helps us unwind and take pleasure in the simple things in life. Your writing space is fully contained in terms of warming drinks.
Most of the time you’ll want to perch at the desk to knock out some great work but it is good to know there are other options, be it sitting out in the open air admiring the bush or making use of the floor lounge and cushions to lie down and ponder ideas.
Basking in Books
Books never go out of style. There is nothing odder than going to a home with no books! In Iceland, they publish more books per capita than any other nation. Hence the tradition, Jólabókaflóðið, where they celebrate the flood of new books released each xmas.
In the yurt space, you’ll find an unusual array of offbeat, thought-provoking and eclectic books as well as the entire collection of Australia’s most awe-inspiring mook (blend of book and magazine), Dumbo Feather. No matter what your passions and fields of interest, with close to 300 interviews with extraordinary people, you’re bound to find a great dose of inspiration and food for thought.
Preparation for a Wonderful Sleep
Sleep is essential for the healing and rejuvenation of our bodies (not to mention assisting ones writing) and yet so many people have trouble sleeping. Zooming through our days at light-speed, with minds running wild with to-do lists and the busyness of life does little to help us slip into peaceful slumber.
What you will find as the writing day ends is that we encourage you to embrace the slow, methodical pace of our evening routines.
Thanks to an abundance of local growers here in the Blue Mountains, you can expect hearty, home cooked meals made with seasonal veggies and fruit.
Before or after your evening meal you may want to indulge in a long, hot bath. Such a simple pleasure, yet it does wonders in helping you fully relax, particularly aided by Epsom salts, the soft flicker of burning candles and some relaxation music if so desired. Watch how your mind and body naturally embraces the rhythm and instinctively knows it is time to slow down.
Then it is time to receive some feedback on your writing or debrief around issues that have come up for you throughout the day. Complementing this period of substantial conversation you will be invited to enjoy a hot cacao, chamomile tea, spicy chai or perhaps just detox with some pure spring water that we harvest from a local spring.
While a complete digital detox is available during your retreat time, for those who relish the relaxation or stimulus that great cinema offers you will find a range of films and documentaries relevant to the themes you have worked on during the day.
Culmination of Everything
A lot of time and thought has gone into designing your writing program for the retreat. We trust you will find a wealth of practical benefit from it as well as reaffirm your vision and optimism for the future.
Complementing the writing material is the unique feel and look of the yurt. Simple, good design - a well-built space where things look clean, light and fresh. You will find it functional, yet stylish. Minimalist, yet warm. It uses light in various forms to add a bright cosiness. For those of you who are curious about the addition of a yurt in your own abode, take a look at the website of our yurt builder, Stargazing Yurts.
Diana Henry, one of UK’s foremost food writers, shares her experience of hygge:
“I didn’t have a word for it but as soon as I arrived in Copenhagen I understood the concept of hygge. Arriving at my hotel I noticed candles everywhere. Copenhagen was lit by a series of gentle glows. Candlelight, warm jumpers, great food and drink and a concern to make a good home are all part of it. I understood it - hygge, cosiness, a delight in life, the love of snuggling up in the corner of your sofa - and wished very much that we had it too. I think we need it.”
Benefits of Ecotherapy
While they are contented homebodies, the Nordics are equally happy exploring the great outdoors. Hygge is about getting back to basics and simplifying your life. Paring things back to a few timeless essentials frees us from the relentless pressure to consume, compete and always be up to date with the latest trends and fashions.
Both the spirit of self-reliance and looking to nature for inspiration are central to Nordic identity. There is nothing quite like an encounter with nature to soothe latent anxieties or fears about the future. Among its healing properties include a greater feeling of clarity and a renewed sense of purpose and focus.
Our writing space backs onto national park allowing you to admire the view while bathing in birdsong each morning.
The experience of Thoreau provides a great illustration of the link between nature and positive mental health. He came to understand the idea that it is by being who you truly are, and being so for yourself, that you can best do good for others. He felt the key was finding the particular path that is right for you. In order to do so, he took a sabbatical, where contemplation, nature and writing had an alchemical effect, providing him with long-term direction.
Being in Katoomba, the jewel of the Blue Mountains, you will be well positioned to take in the intriguing local sites or choose from a raft of revitalising bushwalks. The retreat space is also just a short walk from the majestic Minnehaha Falls. Canyoning and other activities are available for those who like combining nature and exhilaration. For those staying on a four-day retreat, there is the option to break up your time with an adventure to the otherworldly Jenolan Caves.