Story by Bekah Porter | Photography by Scott Rogers
The deer were here, nibbling on nascent green shoots and binging on the bushes. The bees and the butterflies came, too, flitting and floating, while birds and squirrels gently warred over who got to perch in the branches that bend across the babbling brook.
A quick jaunt around NaMestoy Farm reveals nothing but serenity and solitude. A sense of calm descends in these woods, and peace permeates every inch of the acreage.
It’s exactly what Nancy Amestoy and her husband, Martin, dreamed of when they planned for their retirement. They envisioned intimate walks in the woods, nights spent staring at the stars, and moments of meditation with the breeze wafting through their windows.
And in 2011, they finally had it. They had their dream — a 14-acre property with a flowing creek, rolling pastures, a barn and a 11,000-square-foot house.
“We were so happy,” Nancy said. “So happy.”
The couple moved into their new life at the beginning of May that year. A week and a half later, Martin was dead.
In the five years since Nancy’s husband died in a biking accident, the 70-year-old Cumming resident has chosen to focus on life outside her grief. She admits that it would have been easy to fall into despair and retreat into herself. It even might have been preferable on some level to leave the haven that she and her husband hadn’t even had time to make their own. Rather, the former school teacher chose joy, seeking a life of spiritual well-being, and she built a community of like-minded spiritual folk to fill the void left by her husband.
“It was all so overwhelming,” Nancy said when asked how she felt when she got the news that Martin had been killed on Stone Mountain. “I really couldn’t even think. I was just in shock. I just kept thinking about what had happened — that he had been biking, that there was a walkathon, that sawhorses were put up without notice, that he swerved to miss them, that his back wheel got caught, and that it was all over in that moment.”
She recites this information now with the practice of one who has shared her story often.
“He was the type of guy who would have lived to be 105,” she said. “He was active. He was training for a long-distance ride. It just goes to show that life is out of our control. It just goes to show that life has a way of happening.”
Nancy could be bitter. She knows that. But she says it’s not in her nature. And in the weeks after Martin’s passing, she sought comfort from the property her husband chose to be their home.
“Here I was with this estate, and it really was too big for me, and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said. “But I knew I needed to get my mind in the right place.”
She turned to her lifelong companion — meditation.
“I got into that silent stillness, where thoughts and feelings emerge, and I got direction that way, and I took one little step at a time, reaching out to people and connecting,” she said.
One such connection changed her entire life path. As Nancy managed her mourning, a friend contacted her, asking if Nancy would be willing to host a Tibetan Buddhist monk who practices the energy healing known as Reiki. Something about the opportunity sparked a familiar passion in Nancy.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve been one to try to build communities. In every house I’ve ever been in, I’ve brought in groups of people, whether it be a meditation group or a reading group,” she said. “What can I say? I’m a groupie.”
She knew practically nothing about Tibetan Buddhist monks, she said, and she knew even less about hosting one who had a following of Reiki patients, but she wanted this new house to be a place for groups, too, as that desire to build community had been her and Martin’s plan all along.
“I knew Martin would’ve loved it,” Nancy said. “When we were doing our estate planning, we always talked about leaving a legacy that would help people.”
So Nancy opened her doors to the monk, and she agreed to open her doors to his followers, even though she worried whether they would appear.
“But on that first day, the place was packed,” she said. “People were looking for something other than the traditional conservative approach to spirituality, and from that group of people who showed up on that first day, we’ve bonded as a community of healers and seekers of truth and higher consciousness.”
It’s not a business. It’s far from that. Rather, Nancy says, NaMestoy Farms is just her home, and she enjoys welcoming people who are seeking that same sense of community.
“I’m just a person who is creating opportunities for people to get together,” she said. “Anyone who is longing to have that feeling of home can come here.”
That has resulted in numerous gatherings that Nancy said she never anticipated. Music concerts, cancer symposiums, meditation groups, writing workshops, Reiki workshops, Tibetan bowl circles — when people need a peaceful place to share their creativity and positivity, they can unite on Nancy’s property.
“My life has always been about loving people,” she said. “In fact, I’d say that my life’s mantra has been that I want to make life more wonderful for everyone I come into contact with, and (this property) has helped me do that. It’s become a place that people can call home.”
Musicians have stayed there when they wanted to compose music. Writers have stayed there when they wanted to work without distraction. And people have come when they seek wellness, both on a spiritual and physical level.
“I certainly think that wellness is mental, physical and spiritual,” Nancy said. “It’s not just one aspect. It’s all of those things.”
Martin had that balance, according to Nancy.
“He was physically well,” she said. “He was a runner and then a biker, and he was physically fit. But, like I said before, life happens, and being physically healthy isn’t necessarily enough. We’re not going to be in our bodies for eternity, but there is a part of us that is going to live for eternity, so where do we want to invest most of our time?”
For this reason, Nancy says that she will keep her health, incorporating quality foods and regular exercise into her daily routines. But the rest of her time, she’ll spend in meditation, in nature, and in welcoming the people Martin would’ve loved to call his community if he’d had the chance.
“To gaze at the moon, to listen to the birds, to walk out into the trees that are alive and have been standing a lot longer than we’ve been here? And then to share that? That’s enough to bring me joy. That’s enough to make me well. And I know Martin would be proud,” she said.