Friday, June 22, 2018

Cottage Conundrums

I have a small cottage in my backyard, which is a small backyard.  We think that the cottage was once a garage, but for years (decades?), it's been a cottage with a small kitchen, a medium-sized living room, and a bedroom with a closet and a bathroom.  The cottage is 440 square feet, small for a U.S. living space, but many people across the globe would find it spacious.

When we first moved in, we had a friend who needed a place to live, and we offered it to her.  For the most part, the arrangement worked well, and then she decided to move to Utah.

We haven't done much with the cottage since, although we've had ideas.  We could make a lot of money if we rented it short term, but we'd spend a lot of time getting it ready for each visit.  We could rent it to a long-term tenant.  We know people who wish they had office space, and it would make a nice office--which would probably result in less wear and tear on the space.  We've thought of moving the dining room suite out there and eating there during the few times a year we have people over; that scenario wouldn't preclude keeping it as space for overnight guests.

I am aware of the aching need for rentals for people with moderate income.  Those people often have whole families, and the space doesn't really work for more than 2 people.  I am also aware of how many immigrants would feel like they'd won the lottery if I made it possible for them to live there.

With the recent hurricane, I hesitate to rent it out again--especially to people who would have no other resources if a storm came and the cottage couldn't be fixed quickly, a scenario which is not only possible, but increasingly likely as sea levels rise.

Two weeks ago, I volunteered the cottage to house Luther Springs camp counselors who are coming down here to be in charge of our Vacation Bible School next week.  I needed motivation to do the hurricane clean up that was still to be done.  We discovered that the AC had stopped working at some point, and since it was just installed in March, we had the AC company back to fix it.  So far, so good.

As we've been working on getting the cottage ready for the camp counselors who will be arriving Sunday, we've also been talking about what to do with the cottage. We were talking about what it would take to get the cottage to anything rentable, particularly on a short term basis, like Air BnB. Rustic-cozy might not appeal to that crowd.

What do I mean by rustic-cozy? No TV. Perhaps no wi-fi. Concrete floors--but with a rug on the floors. Flowered curtains and quilts. A serviceable shower, but not a garden tub. A serviceable kitchen without a lot of work space.

Suddenly, I had a vision of a monastic retreat house, something for everyone who has ever yearned for Thomas Merton’s hermitage. Those are the type of people who might be reliably quiet.  They wouldn't complain about the lack of luxury.  

I have no idea how to find those people or if they’d be willing to go on that kind of retreat.

I also thought of offering optional retreat exercises, mostly along creative lines.  We could create a vision board.  We could make creations with beads that would help us pray.  Could the back parking pad be transformed into a labyrinth?  It's barely big enough for many vehicles--the thought of a labyrinth makes me smile.

So many possibilities, so hard to know what to do.  I will spend the week-end on the most immediate task:  finishing the cleaning, so that the cottage is ready for those counselors.

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