Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time and Light

Each day now,
We lose an additional
Minute of sunlight.
In its place,
We gain an additional
Minute of darkness.
The curtain of light
Being closed
A bit more each day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Triumph over the Switchbacks

Anyone who has ever visited Holden Village is familiar with this sign. It is posted beside the road on the way down to Lake Chelan at the beginning of what everyone refers to (sometimes ominously) as "The Switchbacks," a rather longish series of hairpin turns that allow the traveler to negotiate the rather steep ascent...or descent, as the case may be...of an altitude gain...or loss...of approximately 1,000 feet in a relatively short distance...about 2 miles. The remainder of the altitude change of 1,000 feet is spread out over the remainder of the 10 miles coming to or going from the village itself.

Some weeks ago, three of us (Gail Johnson, Debi Gustafson, and I) had ridden our bicycles to the lake, but we had lost our nerve (we had planned it that way) and rode down only as far as the start of the switchbacks and got aboard the oncoming bus there, putting our bicycles aboard also, for the remainder of the journey down to the lake. But even though we have heard our share of horror stories of over-the-handle-bars accidents and broken arms and legs and hideous scrapes and cuts from landing in the gravel of the road, we always felt we could ride down the entire way, switchbacks included, and get back in one piece.

Yesterday was the day, and we are back in one piece. Debi had to work, but Gail and I made the trek. I fear that we may never again use our hands properly. They do not seem to want to come out of the grip position! There are other noticeable aches and assorted pains that I am much too proper to mention here in a public space. We will recover from the abuse of our bodies, but I am not sure that our bicycle brakes will ever be the same. There were many moments of fear on my part when I was applying as much squeeze to the brakes as I possibly could...I was slowed down (somewhat) but the bicycle was in the grips of gravity and it was not stopping!

Just "out of the gates," as they say in horse racing, we rounded a curve and what should we see but a mama bear and her cub...worst possible combination. They proceeded to let us know that they owned the road, not us, and that they would get off of it in their own good time. This natural territorial instinct exhibited by the bears allowed us to cave in to our own natural instincts...stop the bikes, grab the camera out of the backpack, and take a photograph! of what might turn around and attack you at any minute!

The intrepid Gail, shown here demonstrating her own natural instincts of taking a photograph, began immediately to resume her descent down the mountain as soon as the bears left the side of the road and disappeared into the brush. I thought it prudent to wait at least half a minute to be sure they were indeed gone into the woods. Staying where I was, I watched in horror as a great noise and a great cloud of dust rose from the spot where the bears had left the road..the very same spot Gail was just passing. I thought for sure that they were coming back up on the road to attack her for disturbing their Sunday afternoon stroll and that I was going to have to be the witness to said event...perhaps just before they turned on me. But such was not the case. She says that they were afraid of her and that they were just going deeper into the woods. Listen to me...she is from Dallas, Texas which, perhaps, explains the bravado. It does nothing to convince me that she knows much about bears in the great forest!

Continuing on down the road, we passed through this lovely stretch of sun and shade. When I stopped to take a picture, I found it to be amazingly quiet. There was absolutely no sound at all except for the occasional sound of a bird. Such peace and such quiet is very hard to come by outside this wilderness, and I stood for a few minutes enjoying it.

Many of you remember the forest fire that threatened Holden last summer, threatened to the extent that both the guests and the staff members (all but 20..."The Left-Behinds") had to be evacuated. This is a picture taken from the road, and it shows that the fire came all the way to the road's edge. You can get an idea of what "the burn area" looks like today. In my opinion, it is quite beautiful, in its own way. There is a wonderful combination of, a deep rust-red color, gray, and of course, green where the plant life has started to emerge. The scene is a bit other-worldly.

This spectacular view of Lake Chelan is one that (if you happen to be lucky enough to be sitting on the right-hand side of the bus going up the mountain or the left-hand side of the bus coming down the mountain) you see briefly from one of the switchbacks...while you are simultaneously listening to the grinding of the gears, worrying about the functionality of the brakes, and wondering how much sleep the driver had the night before. If you are on a bicycle and if you can manage to get your bicycle to halt its race to the bottom, you can enjoy the view as long as you wish...and take a picture. This view is looking toward the very end of the lake and the resort of Stehekin, about another 30 minutes uplake from the Holden dock at Lucerne.

We would continue down to the dock and take the Lady of the Lake on to Stehekin. Our bicycles, with their partially melted brakes, would be taken back to the village on the luggage truck, and we would take the last bus up the mountain and up the switchbacks upon our return from Stehekin. Some things are possible and some things are not. We have learned that riding the switchbacks down is possible. Riding the switchbacks up is not an option.

Window box at The House That Jack Built in Stehekin.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Collecting the day's last shimmers of reflected light,
The daisies,
In concert with each other,
Nod ghostly white
Hobgoblin heads
Atop their slender stalks.
We pass along beside them
On the path,
Headed for the sanctuary
Of assigned rooms.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tender Mercies: Lavender Cookies

Today was the annual celebration of Jubilee at Holden Village. Based (, very loosely) on scripture from Leviticus detailing the various requirements of such an observance (held every 50 years, involved the liberation of the slaves, and the restoration of the alienated lands, and the omission of sowing or reaping of any kind, etc.), at Holden Jubilee is all about service and about giving...and it is observed every year.

Thus the day began early in the morning with a Jubilee service project spearheaded by our intrepid gardener, Janice Haakons. (I tell you, this woman gets up early and stays up late. I was personally awake and observed her setting the sprinklers outside my windows just at daybreak...that would be well in advance of 5:00 am. I was to learn later that she also donated a homemade lavender cake and 3 homemade rhubarb pies and lavender cookies for the Jubilee auction to be held in the afternoon.) Her morning project involved cleaning up existing flower beds between Chalet 1 and Chalet 2 and the construction of additional flower beds into which exotica like mint and lemon balm could be planted. (Wonder what kind of good things she will make with what she grows in the new beds?)

The call went out for volunteers and I showed up to work. My assigned tasks were to weed the pathways up to Chalet 2 and to weed a large flower bed. This meant that I was down on my hands and knees for close to 2 hours (ouch!) but figured it was the least I could to do for Janice and to help out on the Jubilee project. Others also weeded, and hauled rocks for the edges of the beds, spread compost, spaded, raked...another one of Holden's group efforts.

Before we got too hot and sweaty and dirty, Janice brought out and served her own version of a tender mercy...a bowl of her very own lavender cookies. Made with Holden lavender preserved from the gardens last year and with pure butter, and sprinkled lightly with sugar, they provided an excellent mid-morning treat.

At the auction this afternoon, Holden raised over $6,000 which will be donated to L'Arche Tahoma Hope, a home for developmentally disabled adults in Tacoma, WA.

It has been a good Jubilee day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Summer Morning Peace

Wherever you may be and whatever you may see when you look out your front window on a summer morning, I want to share with you what is going on in my front yard at the moment. Our intrepid gardener, Janice Haakons, rises early and starts the sprinklers on summer mornings. The sun, rising over the ridges to the east of us, enhances the view with its light. And the birds are enjoying their morning showers. Except for the sound of the quiet hissing of the sprinklers and the chirping of the birds, it is quiet...absolutely quiet.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What a Difference a Week Makes

This was the scene at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport last Sunday, a scene in which I unfortunately found myself while trying to make a connecting flight to Memphis. I was sitting on the floor under a bank of what was once a row of pay you even remember pay phones? The crowds of people were just unbelievable, even for Atlanta Hartsfield, and I thought to get proof by reaching in my bag for my camera and taking a picture. Of course, in hindsight, it is not advisable to just aim a camera at a crowd of people you don't even know and take a picture lest someone step over to you and say, "Your camera or your life!" At the moment this was taken, I was feeling my life slip away from me anyway...I thought I might perish in this mass of I might have tried to hang on to the camera and see what would happen.

It seems that prior to my arrival, the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport had been closed for 2 1/2 hours due to severe weather conditions. I was to wait there, wallowing around on various parts of the floor of the airport for 7 hours while those poor souls in control tried their best to sort out the resulting mess. Scheduled to arrive in Memphis at the decent hour of 5:47 pm, it was closer to midnight when I got there, and then there was the no-small-matter of my suitcase which was nowhere to be found on the merry-go-round conveyor belt. Since Memphis was not my final destination and I was about an hour and a half away from that, those who were so kind as to come for me at the late hour and I decided to wait for "The Next Plane from Atlanta" scheduled to arrive about an hour and a half later. We were assured that the suitcase would "probably be on that plane." It was not. We filled out the obligatory forms and left instructions as to where to deliver said suitcase should it ever arrive and drove the hour and a half south to Oxford, MS.

I had received word earlier in the week (on Wednesday afternoon) that Bob (for those of you who do not know him by name, my former husband and father to our 4 children) had died in a car accident. In a remote location myself, making contact with those who needed to be contacted was difficult. It did not help that Ben was on a ship a thousand miles out of Honolulu somewhere on the Pacific Ocean. (Ironically, it would be Ben and his family who would be the first to arrive in Oxford...thanks to some risky maneuvers by the US Coast Guard including the landing of a C-130 on the abandoned runway of a completely abandoned island to pick him off the island where his shipmates had left him off after walking the 2-mile runway and removing any obstacles to the landing of an aircraft.) Stephen was the last to be informed as he and his family were vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods of cell phone coverage. Just before we were about to try to contact the sheriff...if we could determine which sheriff...I remembered getting a brief e-mail from Stephen telling me that they were leaving the following day. I retrieved that e-mail from the "delete bin" and there was a land line phone number for the cabin. So was everyone thus informed and we began to make our separate travel plans and make our way to Oxford.

The decision had been made to cremate, but there was to be a two hour visitation with the family prior to the funeral, a memorial service following that, and a reception following that. This was to take place on Monday beginning at noon following my ill-fated flight on Sunday evening. So I did what any of the probably tens of thousands of Americans a year do when their luggage is lost...make a foray out to WalMart for the necessities. I was thus able to brush my teeth, have on clean underwear, and suitable shoes and slacks and shirt. I was, in short, presentable. In the afternoon, we would return to the house where we were staying to find my suitcase on the porch.

The occasion was, of course, a sad one...especially because of the suddenness of the accident and the unexpectedness of the death. Bob was 72 but still very active in his work and still able to travel the world on expeditions that would have caused anyone else to actively seek a retirement. All of our children and their spouses and their children were able to be there and it was good for all of them to be together and good for me to be with them.

This Sunday, one week after being a captive of an airport, I am back at Holden and very happy to have been able to return here safely. It is good to be back. Dinner tonight will be Holden's famous "pasta bar" and there will be at least 3...maybe 4...kinds of pasta that will prove to be a torture to limit your choice to just one. It is the accustomed Sunday night feast. Last Sunday night, I squirmed my way into a Popeye's and used a pay phone shelf for a stand-up table. I did not worry about the conditions under which it was cooked nor the conditions under which I had to eat it...I was glad to get it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

More Pictures from the 4th of July

It was a bit of a stretch to be in the parade and to be concerned about taking pictures as well, but there you have it. I took the camera with me and just kept turning around and clicking off pictures. They will, at least, give you some idea of the zaniness of a Holden Village parade. It is more a spontaneous "Happening" than anything else, but great fun is had by all and if you want to be in a parade, you just grab a costume or improvise a costume and jump right in.

Actually, this '"root beer float" pictured on the left was one of the more inventive entries in the parade. It was created and entered by the Snack Bar and featured Joseph Coffey (age 14) as a root beer float...froth and foam included. He was pushed down the parade route...and back again, as the parade makes one pass down the main road, then turns around and comes back down the road just in case someone missed something they might want to see for the first time or something they might want-to-see-to-believe on the second pass.
I will (I think I have figured this out) include a sampling of photos so that you will have an idea of how far we will have to go to rival, say, the 4th of July parade in Boston or New York or Washington, D.C. or San Francisco. Surely, I jest!

The kitchen volunteers elected to carry the huge alpenhorn that normally hangs on the wall in the dining hall. This thing does still work...provided you can find someone with enough wind to blow it...not a pretty sound but a sound.

Holly and Jolly, two of Santa's elves extol the virtues of the book store and remind people of the number of shopping days until Christmas.

The repair associates walked-the-walk with their tools.

Chuck Carpenter (in real life the head of Operations) was the Santa Claus for the book store entry...reindeer, Rudolph, and elves included. The sad-eyed "head" behind Santa ironically has "Share the Wealth" written on its forehead!

Nona (far left) and friends.
And I just don't know about Katie and the mouse trap affixed to her head...a story there somewhere.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Holding Forth on the Holden 4th

I actually took a number of pictures today of the various 4th of July events here at Holden, but since I had to settle on one for inclusion in today's blog, I chose this one. This one was taken as the parade was "lining up" and preparing to take off down the street. Those of you who have never seen a 4th of July parade at Holden Village can get an idea of the sometimes bizarre extremes that participants resort to, thanks to an extraordinary "costume shop" kept filled to overflowing by donations and nifty purchases at local thrift stores.
This fabulous face mask in the foreground is actually being worn by Allen Storey, a Methodist minister who is visiting Holden for 2 weeks and is a guest lecturer from South Africa. I would add that (in my opinion) he is probably one of the best speakers we have ever had. His sessions are absolutely packed. People literally sit wherever they can find a seat and if they cannot find a seat, they happily stand up for the duration of the lecture. Just before he dressed up in this fashion for the parade, he was in the dish pit taking his turn at scrubbing pots and pans. The 2 men shown on either side of him are also guest lecturers. Each hails from a Lutheran college where they teach.
As always, the day was packed with things to do; the schedule was full. The day began with the official flag raising ceremony which was followed by a fabulous breakfast of crepes...with all sorts of toppings. Then we had about an hour of proclamations and live music outside, after which everyone left to get into costume and to gather for the parade. It is customary for the parade to pass once down the main street of the village and after pausing at the far end, it passes back through the village coming from the opposite direction...just in case you missed something you might want to see the second time around.
The parade took us on into the afternoon and to ice cream sundaes served outside on "the green". It was about this time that temperatures had picked up a bit and the ice cream was very welcome. At any rate, the treat served to tide us over until about 4:00 when we had the joke session, followed an hour later by an outdoor buffet...brats! what else? (To you southerners, unfamiliar with bratwurst, that word is pronounced "brotts"...considered far superior in these parts to the lowly hot dog.)
The evening's entertainment featured a concert, a rousing vespers, the "Holden Fireworks Show," and a talent show...still in progress at this moment.
As for me, I am deadly tired and a bit sunburned from all the outside activities. I, in addition to all the planned events, broke away from the village for an hour or so for a bicycle ride and was in the full afternoon sun for most of that time.
And let's not forget that I need to get to bed early tonight as tomorrow I will undertake my first effort as (drum roll please) a Dish Team Captain! I have the breakfast shift and that starts early...I hope that it starts so early that no one will get up for breakfast and I will have no dishes to wash! no team need be "captained."
Stay tuned. That is not how it will turn out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Morning Thunderstorm

This was the view from the front porch of Agape only moments ago. I was awakened by a thunderstorm and lay abed listening to it.
A thunderstorm in the mountains is a distinctly unique experience as opposed to, say, the same weather system in the flatlands. In the mountains, you get the light show and then at some interval afterwards you get the concert of the tympanies as the thunder reverberates between the mountains...first off of one and followed quickly thereafter off the face of another. The action continues until all the sound has dissipated, traveled into space...wherever it is sound goes when earth is done with it.
I had just gotten out of bed and was trying to figure out how to complete a blog post and upload a photo into entirely new camera, new uploads, new software, and no instructions for anything...when my friend Gail came bursting into my room saying, "You're the one who says she likes mist. You better get yourself out here!" (She had been sitting in the porch swing drinking coffee.)
I snatched up the camera and got there pronto. The mist swept through the village in a matter of only a minute or so but it was so beautiful in the passing. I had only had time to take 3 pictures. This is one of them. I hope that you enjoy it.
From high atop the Holden hill, where the day starts early and the oldsters ensconced therein don't miss a trick...unless the trick happens late at night...say after 10:00 pm...I wish each of you a "Good Morning!"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weather Woes

You must know that the weather is not perfect always, even at Holden Village. Say WHAT??!!

No kidding, it has been hot, really hot, here for the past 4 days. The Village thermometer, always in the shade on the porch of the dining hall, has registered temperatures in the 90's every day at about 5:00 pm when we go in to dinner. And the breezes which normally grace the Railroad Creek Valley have quit us.

At mid-day, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. There is a noticeable lack of activity out and about. I was able to get in an early morning ride on the bicycle on Sunday but decided to go early in the morning. Yesterday, I did not even attempt a biking go-round...figured I could not carry enough water to hydrate.

Fortunately, this is not northwest Florida so we do not have the humidity to deal with along with the heat. So we are uncomfortably hot, but there has been no murder-and-mayhem by those pushed over the edge by their misery.

And an unfortunate lapse of good judgement in last night's dinner menu...chili!