My last editorial for the Sylvan Lake News is about a love story and the devotion required to build a life from the ground up. True love stories have many cycles of beginnings and endings and this one is no different. My love of the lake brought me here to begin a process of learning and growing that has spiraled around from a beginning to an end that will turn into another beginning.
The story is of Eugenie Marie Marguerite Henriettie Thomi and Raymond Archambault, French immigrants who were part of building a foundation for Sylvan Lake. Eugenie’s family did not take kindly to the couple’s love and kicked the couple out of France after they were married. Interestingly, Eugenie’s father, Francis Thome was the composer who was best known in 1890 for having composed the incidental music for Romeo and Juliet.
Their home, also known as the Château de l’Amour or the Castle of Love, is a testament to the devotion that can be present in building a living space. The castle is currently hidden behind a wall of trees located at 5031-50A Avenue. Over the years the structure has been added to; the original form hidden and enclosed. There is an eerie sense the castle hasn’t been able to “breathe” for years.
I see the castle as a physical structure representing devotion to a relationship forged in freedom and mutual respect that was somehow lost throughout history or not respected because it didn’t fit the status quo. To dive into the archetypal world, it feels to me like the playful, flowing energy of the feminine was covered up and forced out of sight by masculine energy out of balance, not meeting her to create the blend of energy necessary for the cycle of life to move smoothly, allowing for both clear direction and playful spirit in their dance together.
Like Eugenie did it her own way when she chose to marry Raymond, I have had to do my life in my own way, crossing the ocean of ideas about what others think “should be,” often going against social and religious conditioning, using my own words to express myself personally, truthfully and with clarity. This process of writing and sharing from a deeply personal place is a type of devotion to life I know starts to change how we relate to ourselves and one another. It’s the kind of devotion that allows the space for others to breathe deeply and exhale what’s true for them, trusting they will be respected for sharing what is honest even if it’s not what the listener would prefer to hear.
It’s the kind of devotion that, like the brothers Raymond and Charles Archambault, would initially do the hard work of dragging stones from a nearby lake on a deerskin to get the castle started, would contribute to the beginnings of the Town by starting the first grocery story, would establish the first stagecoach line between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer, would start the first newspaper, The Sylvan Lake Times. It’s the kind of devotion that was used to start the castle before Eugenie arrived so she would have a place to create in her own way.
That’s the kind of devotion that gives the feminine and masculine a physical structure to dance, sing, play and create in. That’s the kind of devotion alive in me that knows what to do even when it means figuratively hauling stones by hand until others join in to create a space where the creative principle is honoured in all its forms, not just in those that fit the current collective state of mind.
Although the castle took an incredible amount of work and dedication to create, Raymond and Eugenie still had to let go of their structure and all it represented to them, moving to Montreal three years after they started their life together in Sylvan Lake. In a similar vein, it’s time for me to let go of what initially drew me here, and open to the next turn around the spiral of life. I honour the gifts of wisdom and expression that have developed here and honour whatever may come to expand those gifts and deepen my devotion to the creative principle as it ever shifts and teaches me new ways of being.