Chapter 7 of "Finding Heart Ridge" : The Place with the Glass Chapel and the Anatomically Correct Wooden Boy Statue
We were not through with the Rutherfordton area. It had so many other possibilities. It is beautiful farmland in the foothills of the mountains. Within a short drive you are at Chimney Rock and other mountainous parks as well as whitewater rafting and zip lining. The next place we found shortly after we decided against the last place, we truly thought "was it." This place had it all and for a very, very reasonable price.
It was 60 acres of mostly wooded, gently sloping land, with a small creek, small pond, and open pasture. It not only had this beautiful glass chapel, and a couple of other outdoor chapels (which we thought could make some cool shrines) but a large house, a sharecropper's house, and 4 log cabins. In fact, the 4 log cabins were all authentic log cabins from before the 1800's. Two of them were on the property originally. The other two were bought and moved there.
Everything seemed in relatively good shape. The log cabins had been recently renovated and used on AirBnB. The larger white house, actually started out as a log cabin itself, but had been added on, and added on, and added on.
We brought some of our friends here. They loved the place. We made plans and tried to figure out if this place could support what we envisioned for our retreat place.
One of the most important aspects we wanted for our retreat place was to be able to host Family Camps over the summer. We had attended different meaningful versions of family camp with our own family, mainly the Marianist Family Camp, but also the CL Vacations, and to a certain extent, the annual Home school Camporees at Devil's Fork. With this property we figured that we could get almost 10 families there at a time. We also were thinking about starting a Catholic Artist in residency program, where a small group of artist could come and live together and work on their respective arts. Finally, we wanted a performance venue or event space. We figured a way to make all of this work here.
We attended the local parish mass and met with the priest. It was a stunning, recently built church, and we found the priest very supportive. We also noticed some nuns at the mass and tracked them down. It ends up that these Benedictine nuns recently moved to the area, too. We visited their small community just a hop, skip, and jump away from the property we were considering. We loved these nuns and small farm they were beginning. They also held days of recollection at their place and retreats for small groups. We couldn't have asked for better neighbors. They told us about finding their current place after a long search and encouraged us with these words, "You'll know the place when you see it," meaning that once we find the right retreat place, we'll know it.
Although we loved many aspects of this property in Rutherfordton, we were a little unsettled about a few things--first of all, the history of the place. It's former owner who had passed bequeathed the place on to his niece. She was doing a great job keeping the place clean and in order, but was very ready to sell it. The former owner was an Episcopalian priest. He was responsible for bringing the Episcopal church to the area and also responsible for supporting the arts and culture in the area. This was why the place was filled will all kinds of art--there must have been over 100 hand-thrown pottery goblets, among many other kinds of collections. Tons of religious items. Antiques galore. Unfortunately, this priest had been accused of molestation. We can't find if he actually went to trial for this, but he was dismissed by the diocese. Evidently, he returned to his family farm and built his own church. He had many supporters and continued providing places for people to come to visit.
There were many other weird things about the place. We found some random graves, for example. Some of the art, like the wooden carved naked boy, freaked everyone out when we were showing them the property. Could these things be overlooked?
We thought so. This is why we were going to pay such a reasonable price.
The priest had trails, even a Stations of the Cross, set up winding through the woods and babbling brook. It was a beautiful piece of property and one we could afford.
We decided to pray super hard over the weekend and make an offer on Monday.
At church on Sunday, we ran into my good friend, Paula. We think she is a living saint. We shared with her our recent discovery of a potential retreat place. We also told her we were really spending the weekend discerning and were planning to make an offer on Monday, unless we got some kind of sign or something. She immediately said to us, "Let's pray." She prayed very specifically that if this were not meant to be that we would hear the word "no."
Later that evening, when we were at home, we got a phone call from our son, Seth. He said he was calling to beg us not to buy this place in Rutherfordton. Seth had not been in contact with us for a couple of weeks and did not know that we were getting ready to make the decision. His motive was simply because it would mean that we were further away from him. He and his wife were looking to buy a home somewhere near Clemson University where he works. He was hoping we'd find something closer to him. He just wanted us to try harder to find something closer to his family.
To us, with it's timing, it seemed like a definite "no," or at least let's wait and look some more.