Where we met…
Looking down from that vantage point…
As I eluded in ‘Chapter 2 – France Itinerary; October 4th – October 18th, 2013’, our house had a ghost. While I am a Shaman and have had psychic tendencies all of my life, I do not always ‘see’ with my human eyes, so this was unusual for me – but then, nothing in this process thus far has been ‘normal’. There is a part of me that also believes the searching and finding of this property has been years in the making – even long before I ‘knew’ it.
Everything about this has been on instinct from the years of interest in my ancestors, the research and searching for my husband’s genealogy, the sudden ‘knowing’ we needed to travel to France to continue this research, to the belief this country was a possibility for a retirement haven, followed by the deep-seeded sense the Bordeaux region would be the place above all others, and on to connecting with just the right people to assist with our search and subsequent renovation. When I saw the ghost standing at the top of the stairs I was not only undeterred, but I was convinced he would somehow be instrumental.
After facilitating a distance clearing of the property we had just viewed, I focused my intention on learning what I could about this specter. I introduced myself, stated our intentions, laid out plans, and began the dialog that would last the better part of the next ten months. “You can call me Padre,” he said, and then the thing that surprised me, “and I’m going to help you with this.” He further stated he would ensure the work was done as it should be and the right contractors for the job would be found. In essence, he would be my general contractor.
Upon our return to the house two days later to begin photographing and measuring, we were all surprised, pleasantly so, that the house felt lighter and far less ominous. It would be difficult to linger in any spot for more than a few minutes – especially on the second floor, but now the energy of the house felt receptive. I didn’t fully have Padre’s approval, but we had definitely made great strides. I will say, if you are intent to renovate a very old home, it is a good idea to clear the stuck or old energy before embarking on the work. If you cannot facilitate this on your own, find a qualified expert. House clearings can be done remotely as well, so don’t limit your sources to a person who can physically come to the house. Basically, if you don’t clear out the old, you can’t make way for the new.
The first order of business would be to make an offer on the house – and though it was fraught with ups and downs, we never once believed it was not meant to be ours, so we persevered through whatever it was going to take. By June, our offer had been accepted and we could get down to the business of planning, so between June of 2016 and September 2016, we worked on the plans. The first was the demolition plan outlining any and all fixtures, finishes, walls (yes, there would be one wall) that needed to be removed to make way for an enlarged kitchen. Our primary intent was to return this beautiful house back to its former glory. We would modernize it, for certain with the kitchen and bathrooms, but the house as a whole would retain it’s vintage charm resplendent of its late 1800’s time.
Once the potential was outlined, the plans could begin and at every juncture I met with Padre to show him what we wanted to do. Each and every time, he was in agreement. The one time I worried about what we had planned was with the kitchen – which would be very modern. I nervously showed him the plans and told him it was quite different from the original but I was hoping he’d approve. He looked at the plans and then stated, “Everything you have planned here has been with love…as long as it is with love, it will be good.” The kitchen with all its changes would be done, and with his approval.
So what’s it like working with a ghost? Well, it’s not much different than working with a flesh and bone person. You approach with respect, keep it honest, develop a rapport – ask questions and listen for answers. By the time the plans were completed, there was an excitement, an energy for their ultimate fruition.
This was his proposal to me: “I will remain with the house to ensure everything is done right and when the work is done and I am no longer needed, I will move on.” Over the months I visited through Shamanic journeys, I would see him, but then began also to see my ancestors. They had come to celebrate and watch over the house with Padre. This was something I needed to address – while Padre was there to guard and care for the house, the last thing we needed would be additional ghosts taking up residence and each time I visited, there were more and more ancestors. I respectfully spoke with them about the fact they had a place they belonged, and it was not here. I would continue to honor and visit with them in the sacred places when I needed to. I do know their hand was at work to facilitate this work, though, because each and every time we faced a challenge, I would meditate and ask for their wisdom, guidance and assistance, and every time I received an answer. Never forget your ancestors are an unwavering source of strength and guidance.
We really believed we would return in September for the closing, meet with a general contractor and get the ball rolling, so to speak. I had been given the name of a contractor who is Australian, but now living and working in France and thought this would be quite perfect. Someone who speaks English, (well, sort of), yet with the ability to also communicate in French. Despite my ever increasing French skills, I was still not at the point where I felt comfortable communicating clearly and fully our intent. We had thoroughly detailed plans, elevations and details, had taken care to prepare them with metric measurements, and had numerous notes in French thinking, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Those were our best laid plans, but clearly, not the path we were destined to take. The Aussie contractor was unavailable for a project the scope we had planned, so we moved on to plan B.
Our hosts and new friends in the adjacent town were insistent we could do this without a general contractor. They would provide a list of names of contractors they felt were ‘serious’ – ones they themselves had used or knew of – and if a site visit was needed, they could simply run over and have a look. In September, we started with these contractors, with a couple of them also introducing us to others we would also need. At this point, we have our carpenter, electrician, painter, and need a plumber and tile contractor. All contractors reviewed the plans with us with the assistance of our friends, but we would need to wait for the devis/proposals to review before the work would commence. And yes, as expected, the proposals ranged from a bit more than we had planned, to a LOT more than we had planned. There was one proposal in particular that was significantly higher than anticipated – so you do need to be careful of the opportunistic contractor who will gladly take advantage of the ‘rich American’. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or not – the fact you’re American is enough for some. We would not find these plumber or tile contractors until my return trip late January 2017 – and I just knew the plumber was the one when Padre appeared to me as we were walking through the house and pointed to him and said, “Him, hire him – he’s the one!” The tile contractor, it turns out was also the ‘right one’. The quote from this plumber was half of the first quote – both a relief and a welcome respite from everything else being higher than anticipated. I suspect this home, being built by French tradesmen, needed to be renovated by French tradesmen.
Serious is a word we would hear often, and have come to know as meaning “one who has integrity, takes pride in their work, shows up when they say they will, and does a good job”. We hired several ‘serious’ contractors who I would not hesitate to use again or recommend.
Were there struggles? Mais bien sur! But each and every time, I would center myself, confer with Padre, and make the decisions needed. I am a big believer we are all here to learn – so whether something is going as we expect or not, it is our responsibility to open our minds, expand our consciousness (however you frame this process for yourself), and review all possibilities – not only the ones you previously had in mind. If the discussion is with a contractor or more, ask them for their insight – and listen because you might just learn something new. Think opportunity rather than challenge. It was not always easy and I will admit to having a few silent meltdowns before facing my crisis of the moment, but I truly did learn a lot I didn’t know before – both about construction in another country as well as construction practices in general. We all have something to learn.
And Padre? Well, at times I wondered if he was on vacation when crisis would come up, but then, it was also MY job to show up and learn. The last time I saw him was in July, 2017, when final trim pieces were being installed, painting was well under way, and I was hanging the last big chandelier with the electrician. As we’re placing the crystals, I saw him walk through the dining room/salle a manger as though he was accessing, pleased, and acknowledging to me he was no longer needed here. From this point on it was in my capable hands. That is the last time I saw him – true to his word, he said he would also leave after his work of supervising was done. I’m sure he’s sharing a glass of fine wine with my ancestors and toasting a job well done. And that stairwell? Well, check it out for yourself – I think it came out pretty grand!
Here are the newly finished stairs and railings that lead to the second floor.
This is the view of the newly finished stairs from the First Floor.