I had no use for a house; I already had one, on the adjacent Cooper farm. But I saw at once that the two hundred plus acres around this farmhouse, fairly flat and wide open—they had once been corn fields—and the proximity of the throughway would mean this farm would be developed.
It seems odd to call it “development” when what is really meant is destruction: destruction of land, trees, water and air for more of the malls and subdivisions that already cover hundreds of acres east of Louisville.
I couldn’t bear the thought of giant earth-moving machinery scraping and tearing and roaring over those fields. I couldn’t bear the prospect of more houses, more stores, more roads, more middle-class white people fleeing the city with its mixed population. And so I bought the house and its acres although I couldn’t really afford it. This happened before the sale of my father’s companies, allowing me to fund the Kentucky Foundation for Women, which has run the house as a retreat for women writers who are feminists (or some version of the same) for almost three decades.
The residencies are free. Those chosen must have transportation and bring food to cook together in the big country kitchen, one of the ways women bond. The farm is available for walking, the views from all the windows inspire day-dreaming. Laundry and housecleaning is taken care of—a rare luxury for most women—and our manager lives in a cottage next door to provide any help that might be needed. The aim is simple, and sublime: to give women space and time to write, space and time to connect and support each other across the lines of race and class that so often separate us.
I named it Hopscotch House because I want the women there to have fun.
We were almost derailed in the second year when a man who has never been identified or charged burst in through the unlocked front door—we were casual about locking in those early days—raped one of the women residents and robbed the others. We closed the house, installed an alarm system, and wondered, privately, whether we would ever be able to reopen, whether the stain of that violence would remain forever. But the group of women who had been abused helped us to put the incident in perspective (they were the members of a Rape Crisis Center in Louisville), and we reminded ourselves that violence against women exists everywhere. In every corner of this world, and that our only mistake had been to think, briefly, that our haven was exempt.
We recovered, the house recovered, and individuals and groups have been enjoying the precious opportunity ever since—as this video makes clear. Women are good, it seems to me, at not only surviving, but thriving, in daunting circumstances, insisting on the good that exists in such close proximity to evil.
[For much more about Hopscotch House, and the retreats and residencies offered there, visit the KFW Hopscotch House page.
For more on the founding of the Kentucky Foundation For Women, please read my post Birth: The Kentucky Foundation for Women.
More of Nicci Mecheler’s photos of Hopscotch House are available on her Flickr page.]