Finding Sanctuary – A Journey of Self Discovery
By Teri Leigh Teed
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust
Serendipity was in full swing. After signing up for a writing course newsletter, a message arrived with an intriguing house sitting offer. Would I be available to look after a 15th century chateau in the heart of the French countryside for a month, or longer?
My reply was swift and affirmative, and within a few weeks I was landing in London and on the Eurostar for Paris.
By having always viewed travel as exciting and enlightening, Spirit opened doors for me. A soul receptive to new growth is blessed with all kinds of adventure to help in its progression.
My goals were two-fold for my month-long residence. First, I planned to keep a journal and second I wanted to use this opportunity to look for furnishings and fine art for my new business as an antiques broker. Having spent two years in London studying at Sotheby’s and getting a masters degree in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors, this seemed like a match made in Heaven, the perfect opportunity for the start of my new career.
The day after my arrival in the City of Lights I rented a small, trusty Citroen and headed southwest to my house sitting assignment, in the area known affectionately by the locals as “La France Profonde”.
Just around Orleans, the heavens opened with a blizzard. What I expected to be a pleasant afternoon’s drive turned into a seven-hour marathon of grit and endurance. Thank goodness I had lived and driven in a snow belt in the U.S. and was accustomed to these conditions.
From Poitiers to Montmorillon to the chateau, I traveled in darkness. Finally reaching the chateau, which was now invisible in the blinding snowstorm and howling winds, a friendly female figure emerged from the front of the gatehouse.
I rolled down the window and was hurriedly greeted by Chantal, who immediately directed me, in half English, half French, to follow her in my car as she stepped quickly toward the chateau, inside the main gates.
Opening the chateau’s side door, Chantal politely ushered me inside and shaking off the snow in the narrow corridor, I soon emerged into the large kitchen. Chantal’s husband, Pierre, soon appeared, speaking French rapidly. This friendly couple quickly admitted me to the inner sanctum, the fold of France. Language and customs are no barriers to the heart and soul.
As the month progressed, I would learn that there was indeed a Divine hand playing a part in my time here. For as I opened myself to learn another culture and absorb and accept all that La France Profonde had to offer, the rewards came quickly and in abundance. My diary grew and the new camera I had purchased to take photos of antiques was instead used for a new, unexpected endeavor — photographic art. This happy circumstance developed during my month’s sojourn, and was brought to an epiphany on a weekend visit to several chateaus in the Loire Valley.
First Chambord, built on a former marshland, with its pepper pot shaped chimneys, one for every day of the year. And then to Blois, Chaumont, Amboise and finally Chenonceau, following in the footsteps of pilgrims before me.
On a winter’s day, I entered the grounds of Chenonceau and stepped back in time. Guarded by sphinx statues and spanning the River Cher, I was led by a welcoming, unseen guide from one photographic opportunity to another. Through the manicured gardens and up through the levels of the chateau, until the piece de resistance came in view.
Stepping into the bedroom of Louise de Lorraine, sunlight began to stream through the southern facing window, and I felt the mighty presence of an enlightening and transformative power. And a story began to unfold.
Centuries ago, a beautiful, young French queen lost her heart’s true love, her beloved king. In the depth of her sorrow, she sought comfort in the healing spirit of God, through prayer within the sanctuary and solitude of her private quarters. Robed in long white gowns, she spent the remainder of her own life within the somber dark walls of this self-imposed exile.
Little did I know when I shot this photograph that like this queen, my life would also begin a spiritual journey that winter’s day. A ray of sunshine burst suddenly through the window of this royal apartment, and illuminated not only this brief moment in time, but also my soul.
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“Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.” ~ Isaiah 58:8
Featured photograph, award winning “Sanctuary, Chenonceau” by Teri Leigh Teed