As the title suggests, I've been doing a lot of reading lately; and with it has come some extensive walks so that the fresh mountain air can counter the thousands of words consumed on page and screen.
My most frequented route winds up a road with a vineyard scenescape to the left and a vast estate to the right. Thanks to Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter, an idea has recently lodged itself in my mind, and my eyes are set on a beautiful parcel of land a mile from my home. I would love to purchase this estate one day and create a peaceful haven ripe for hospitality-- a place buzzing with community, creativity, spiritual formation, and maybe even some sheep. Most especially, it would be a place quiet enough to hear God.
Imagine a home with huge rooms for entertaining guests and hosting book discussions, collective meal nights, concerts, painting lessons, writing workshops...
... with generous green hills full of animals (sheep for wool, goats for milk, chickens for eggs, miniature horses for kiddos), along with plenty of acreage for games of croquet, volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee, kite-flying, even weddings (and maybe a hobbit worthy birthday party)
... fresh air and nutrients from a home-grown vegetable garden; an escape for those who are exhausted and lonely. A place to inspire and refresh and invigorate. Theoretically, it would resemble a cross between Jo March's school/orphanage for boys and the unique creative conferences that music artist Andrew Peterson and his band of thieves produce each year. [See Hutchmoot 2013]
There's a second home on this acreage that is used for renting out to families. It would be an ideal place to live, while hosting events and retreats at the larger house during summers. Since my brother astutely pointed out that it was probably "a two million dollar estate, easily," only good networking, vision, prayer, and other enthusiastic individuals will help get this dream off the ground. But it could happen. A steady income would also help-- preferably a very lucrative first novel. This is where Beatrix Potter serves as a great inspiration.
After publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix passionately pursued a life of writing and eventual land preservation. She donated over 4,000 acres of England's beautiful Lake District to the National Trust after settling down in her cozy farm, Hilltop. The lakes and green valleys were a place of healing for her (after suffering the immense heartache that followed her first engagement). This land provided her with a haven and the backdrop for the rest of her children's books. It was also the birthplace of new hope and facilitated the renewal of a past friendship that led to her first and only marriage. Miss Potter's legacy started with simple stories and skeptical publishers, who said: "Bunnies with jackets and brass buttons... however do you imagine such a thing?" And now, because of her fortitude, children continue to delight in her books while tourists delight in the breathtaking Lake District landscape.
This inspiration motivates me to write out of passion. And Dickens' Great Expectations reminds me that, like Pip, it's alright to have ambitions... if they're for the right reasons. I would love to make this retreat dream a reality, but my focus must be on my calling and the stories that naturally spill out of myself, rather than the sum of money it would take to purchase such a piece of property (whether that's in Greenwood, England, or Rocklin). And this home's current resident may never move out anyway. But if you have any ideas for naming, creating, or finding resourceful ways to fund this long-term project, I wouldn't be the least bit deterrent. :) Seriously though, if you have any ideas for how this type of place/community could be transforming for people, pass along your insight. And thanks for reading!