WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A BUSINESS IN THE CATSKILLS?
I kept getting the urge to come to the mountains in the northeast. For years. In florida, I had a full time psychotherapy practice; gave workshops and retreats a few times a year. I had all the clients and students I could possibly want. But the desire to come to the NE would not go away. I thot it was so I could retire. So eventually I got a friend to come with me to take a look, even tho I had no idea what I was looking for. On the 3rd day we found 70 wooded acres outside of East Meredith for sale. I knew the minute I drove onto the property, with its plethora of trees and hilly topography, that I found what I was looking for.
WHAT WAS STEP ONE IN MAKING YOUR DREAM COME TRUE?
There was a large existing cabin with lots of windows and a wrap around deck. I thot….what an ideal place to give workshops and retreats. I told my friend “this is where I want to be”. She bemoaned, “well, I like it too.” Then out of my mouth came “let’s have a retreat center. I can’t do it by myself”. Even tho those words surprised me, I knew without a doubt that this was why I was here. On this very property. In the Catskills.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU OWNED YOUR BUSINESS HERE?
We made an offer on the property the next day, a beautiful fall day in 2002. My friend, Jana Batey, who was now my business partner, moved into the cabin right away. I maintained my private practice in Florida and flew back and forth during 2003, until moving up full time in 2004. The first thing we did was to build an 11-circuit labyrinth on the 2-acre meadow, harvesting our own fieldstone. Then she and I and her new boyfriend put up yurts, tucked in the woods, complete with modern bath and kitchen. We opened Harmony Hill Retreat Center in July of 2005.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FUN?
The whole process has been exhilarating. From choosing the name and logo, to the infrastructure and building, to the design of the website, to the opening as a lodging and retreat center, to checking in interesting and lovely guests from all walks of life.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO HERE WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING?
I love meeting people who want to preserve and care for the land and are willing activists for their way of life. And I love finding time for the concerts, plays, kayaking and horseback riding. Attending writing workshops, watercolor painting class, plein air sketching, and learning about edible plants and their medicinal properties. Dining at local restaurants. After all, moving here was my idea of retirement, but it is difficult to find time to get off the hill.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST LIFESTYLE CHANGE?
Driving a tractor to bushhog trails in lieu of driving a car thru traffic to the office. Wearing carpenter pants in lieu of skirts. Plowing with a utility vehicle in winter in lieu of hiding from southern humidity. Building my dream house atop a little mountain in lieu of a tract house on a lake. And besides, my post office knows who I am.
NAME ONE THING YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING AND WORKING IN UPSTATE
Everything I just said (in the previous two questions).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE BEGINNING TO DREAM ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS IN THE CATSKILLS?
Imagine the joy of providing a service or product that is needed and brings joy to others. Imagine the de-stressing quality of so much nature at your fingertips. Imagine the harmony of life slowing down. Imagine community that you can count on. Imagine. Knowing if you can imagine it, you can make it happen.