"Not Everybody Can Be a Hermit"

Deep in the woods of western North Carolina, 3,600 feet up a ridge of the Great Smokey Mountains, you will find Karen and Paul Fredette busy filling their unique niche among hermits.

"We feel we have a ministry to hermits and that's what we have committed ourselves to," Paul Fredette told CBS News Correspondent Dean Reynolds.

They do it by publishing a quarterly newsletter named "Raven's Bread" to those for whom soul-searching solitude is sublime.

"Obviously not everybody can be a hermit," Fredette told Reynolds.

According to Karen and Paul, hermits are living in plain sight among us, some even in city apartments. They're a part of society - one step removed - that desires a life of contemplation and believes quiet thoughtfulness has a social purpose.

"Simply a person who lives alone, by choice, for spiritual reasons," Karen Fredette told Reynolds.

Some have jobs. Others retired with means. But to Karen and Paul the stereotype of these solitaries as eccentrics frozen in time is all wrong.

"Even if you choose to live as a solitary, you still have the need to communicate," Karen Fredette told Reynolds.

Their newsletter now has more than a thousand subscribers worldwide, and they say more are signing up all the time from places as distant as universities in China, monasteries in Israel and maximum-security prisons in the United States.

Marte, a hermit from Tennessee, is a longtime subscriber.

"I read them, and I thought 'There are other people doing this!'" Marte told Reynolds. "That's the first I realized."

If the notion of hermits trying to connect seems contradictory, the Fredettes say that's another misconception. They frequently host them in their basement hermitage - Raven's Nest - and it's a long way from a cave.

"We put in a microwave, a refrigerator," Karen Fredette said.

"A toaster oven," Reynolds noted.

From their perch in the woods, the Fredettes will continue their efforts as long as they can, finding a way to bring together those who have chosen to live apart.

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On the Web

"Raven's Bread:" http://www.ravensbreadministries.com/
  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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