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  • Rhonda Rosenheck

Happiness, Hoops, Helpers and a Handful of Beans: Part I – Happiness

“For $600 (and a handful of beans?) I acquired .07 acre of an island....”

Poet’s Perch, my tiny house writer’s retreat, could have been for me alone on a rented concrete pad on a farm or in a mobile home park. But I wanted something different. I wanted a small version of what co-working spaces provide - a combination of Solitude, Inspiration and Community.

Pre-pandemic, I wrote at co-working spaces with greater joy and focus than when I was at home with the bills, baskets of laundry, and naps taunting me. I could get lost in my own thoughts (Solitude). I was in aesthetically pleasing, comfortable surroundings with coffee, snacks – and sometimes wine – galore and co-workers nearby who were all lost in their own thoughts (Inspiration). We took breaks and supported charities together, shared jokes, meals, difficulties, and drinks. We went to each other’s events, cheered each other on, contributed to each other’s projects, and offered wisdom as we could. Some relationships transcended the work table and became full-blown friendships (Community). I had my tribe; I was happy.

In 2020, COVID-19 and my fibromyalgia made me realize I was unlikely to return to sit up-close with so many other people, breathing closely shared air for hours at a time. That meant finding a writing venue of literal solitude. But how could it also focus and inspire me, bring me joy and surround me with community?

Long-time ambitions of embedding a service project in the local community led to discovering Albany County's and the city of Troy's community land banks. Periodically, I’d download the current list of abandoned properties and drive around imagining where I’d create a special spot – maybe a children’s café or a healthy and inexpensive grocery. Maybe I could co-purchase a two-family with a local resident who would learn property management, add sweat equity, and then buy me out to own their home with passive income flow. Since established nonprofits in the area already do various aspects of these projects, and I couldn’t sort through the complexities of adding significant value, I headed in another direction.

By dreaming beyond what I thought to be my reach, I got familiar with land banks, explored my own capacities and weaknesses, and set out to share something within reach and from my heart, filling the service gap left when I retired from school leadership. All the best features of my larger-than-I-am plans coalesced into the Poet’s Perch writer’s retreat, complete with its Little Free Library and public reading garden. It’s my right-sized solution: solitude (and modest income for me as I rent it out to fellow writers); opportunities for creatives to co-work – albeit serially – in an aesthetically-pleasing space with snacks and coffee galore; and a lovely garden for passers-by to rest, read, write, and sometimes socialize. Solitude, Inspiration and Community.

I’m happy.

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