Artwork by Annelinde Tempelman
There is so much intelligence in this world, and such a lack of it too!
Where there is genius, there is also a deficiency; that is the ultimate balance of all that exists in Nature. This applies to all aspects of our world; from politics to scientific breakthroughs to super bright children; each would have an area of weakness that creates the skew that in turn, creates the strength. After all, each microcosm is made whole, each with a unique disposition.
So witnessing such a polarity in our world, how do we as individuals navigate the big decisions in our lives? Who leads the way for us? What does true intelligence look like in our day to day as we battle the complexities of today’s earth?
The short answer is: out of necessity now more than ever in the history of our planet, our conscience has become our role model.
Some would call it ‘Guru’, some call it ‘Dharma’; whatever works really, as long as we are talking about an internalised point of reference that connects us to the Whole. Here, we may as well refer to it as Wisdom. It may look like it is free, but actually, it comes at a high cost: the cost of our life’s experiences, our life force, our learnings, our strains, our falls, and our efforts in picking ourselves back up. In fact, in light of this, we realise wisdom is actually a very rare commodity after all, and certainly not a one size fits all.
So what does it take to access this well of wisdom?
Perhaps this is ultimately the definition of empowerment: taking our destiny into our own hands and being actively involved in the process of co-creativity. Some people have to work at it, some people are a natural at it.
An example of the latter is Nikki Shields. An Australian, Nikki has been living many people’s dream in the French Alps for the last 32 years. In this picturesque setting, together with her Irish husband, Hugh Quinn, an ex-professional cyclist, they run their chalet as a bed and breakfast and cooking school. So what is an Australian and an Irishman doing here in the Alps? How did they make it happen?
Nikki has always had a thing for old architecture, food, wine, mountains. It made sense to go to a hotel management school in Melbourne. For her 21st birthday, she asked her parents for a trip around the world.. and never returned. Her mother says “it was the worst thing she ever did, to offer her that.”
She worked in London for one winter and that was long enough to know what she didn’t want: the city and the pollution that goes with it. She grabbed the first opportunity to leave those behind; and took a job working on super yachts travelling from Morocco around the Mediterranean. She then joined a chalet company full time and ran their program in ski resorts around France, all year around for 18 years.
It was towards the end of this period that Nikki and Hugh decided to invest in their own home. When she first visited the old 1900 abandoned barn with the real estate agent, the only things she saw were vaulted ceilings and solid walls. It had character but little else. The road leading to it was so bad that she left Hugh standing at the property with the agent and drove her car up and down it 3 times to make sure she could actually make the drive.
From that point, the creative process was a true labour of love. Because they had very little money and did not like the idea of being in debt, they refused to take out a loan from the bank and bought the property outright. They tackled each room at a time, and progressed as fast as only their pocket would allow them. In fact, it took them 10 years to renovate the entire house. But in doing so, they did it their way, making sure they chose the design, with floor to ceiling windows to capture the incredible views from every possible angle.
While Nikki kept her full-time job, Hugh took down every piece of wood, removed the screws, retouched and polished them and put them back. He is naturally very creative and so handy that he did everything with his own bare hands, recycling and upcycling, and working with natural materials as much as possible. Doors, frames, walls and floors were all made out of the discarded wood. His inspiration? His love of treehouses. His French is ‘zéro’ as they say, but he could converse enough to buy screws and building materials on his own. Everything in the house, except for the tiles, is second hand, sought from typical French ‘brocantes’ like flea markets and local antique stores nearby. The house has soul on tap.
But Nikki is also blessed with other talents. One of her gifts is her absolute attention to detail - she is very proud to offer ‘beds which are so comfortable that you don’t want to get out of them’, bedding and quilts all made in natural fibres and matching linen is an absolute must. She is also very conscious of what she eats, where her food has been sourced, and how they have been grown, all of which the French are especially good at. In her cooking school, she prescribes a mostly vegetarian or pescatarian diet and sources a lot of her ingredients from the local weekly organic market and from her four retired neighbours that maintain their own vegetable garden. She pays them either in freshly baked cakes, soups in winter or salads in summer. A delicious win-win really.
Many tell her how lucky she is to live this life but Nikki replies it is a conscious choice.
“People have lost sight of what is real and what is important.” She has always been clear on what she values: being at one with Nature, breathing fresh air, avoiding consumerism, modern day pressures and pollution, being kind to others and enjoying an organic lifestyle. All of which we can say, she has succeeded in achieving: the outside reflects the inside.
Care to explore your creativity in a playful way and with an encouraging circle of people? Catherine and Natalia are running a “Picturesque Alpine Creative Journey” at Nikki and Hugh’s “Chalet Savoie Faire” in the French Alps from 7th to 15th September 2019.
Details under ‘Travel’ on www.saffronrose.com.