In front of Goshen, MA‘s Good Time Stove Co, a two-story tin man stands watch over the antique stove store. Behind, owner Richard Richardson has spent the better part of his life creating a sprawling art environment he calls Three Sister Sanctuary.

Named in honor of Richardson’s three daughters, the Sanctuary is designed in part as a place for people to gather. It combines perennial plantings, butterfly gardens, works by local artist—and fire-breathing dragon.

Connecting Point’s Dave Fraser stopped by the Sanctuary to learn more about this unique environmental art experience.  

This segment originally aired on June 13, 2018.

Read the full transcription:

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Richard Richardson runs an antique stove shop in Goshen, Massachusetts. Behind it, Richardson has spent the better part of his life creating a sprawling art environment he calls Three Sisters Sanctuary. It combines perennial plantings, butterfly gardens, works by local artists, and a fire breathing dragon.

Connecting Point’s Dave Fraser takes us there.

Richard Richardson, Three Sisters Sanctuary: Sometimes in life, it’s clear what your purpose is. In my particular case, destiny drove me to the land of Goshen, and my purpose in life has been to build these gardens as healing gardens for the public.

My name is Richard M. Richardson. I am the creator and caretaker of the Three Sisters Sanctuary in Goshen, Mass.

Destiny brought me to Goshen. Within 24 hours of being in Massachusetts, I drove through the town, and I fell instantly in love with it. And I thought if I could live anywhere, this would be it.

Unfortunately for me, I lost my eldest daughter 15 years ago and she gave me the vision to call it the Three Sisters and to continue to build it.

Nature itself has been my collaborator through the entire project. So, everything that I do as an environmental artist takes so long that by the time I’m done with that one section, something is dictating what I’m supposed to be doing next.

I’d like to take all the credit for it being my imagination, but I feel like I’m being channeled and it’s always pretty clear to me what I’m going to be doing next. I believe that this is my purpose in life, and I keep putting it out to the universe, with the belief that somehow, it’s all going to fall into place.

Physically doing it — good thing I started it when I was 44 years old, that’s all I got to say! You know, because as I am getting older, I am discovering that it’s a little bit harder, physically, than it used to be. But on the other hand, I love — I love creating with nature and I love taking these beautiful stones and standing them up.

And so, it really inspires me to — to put in whatever labor and whatever money it takes to — to make the magic happen so that the sanctuary can be a gift to the Pioneer Valley.

Most people come and they are very moved by it, and they feel that this is a gift that they couldn’t imagine was here and that they’ve discovered it. And then some people come and they just think, I’m a very eccentric man and they don’t quite get what it’s about, and they shake their head, and usually they don’t spend much time here.

It’s kind of like going to a museum, you know? Go to MassMOCA, you know, either you get it or you don’t get it, but the more you go, the more you get it.

And that’s how art is, you know, you can’t — the first time you see it, it doesn’t necessarily talk to you, but the more you get exposure to it, the more it does speak to you. In this particular case, I don’t know how nature can’t speak to you. It’s a beautiful, beautiful collaboration that is happening here.

I’m not done. This will probably go on for the rest of my life. This piece of property, I hope, will be a gift to the Pioneer Valley, to western Massachusetts. I hope other people will come and enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed building it. It’s a magical space. No matter which corner you turn around, there’s something to see that’ll take your breath away.