Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Little Snake

The diameter
At its largest part
And the color nearly the same
As the Sunday morning brunch
Breakfast sausages,
The little snake
Lay curled on the pathway,
Gathering sunlight
Unto itself.

Peering out and across the meadow
Rather than down,
I very nearly
Planted my foot
Along the middle
Of its length.
Stopped just in time
To see it uncoil,

And with its
Obsidian speck
Of a reptilian eye,
It unblinkingly surveyed its prospects,
Then slowly made its way
Off the path
And into the meadow,
Feeling its way, the whole way,
With its underside.

Under the cover of weeds,
Over rocks,
Between flower stems,
It was itself a proper brunch
For some predator
Needing a snake,
Even a little snake,
To provide sustenance.
To stay alive.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today's Weather

All day,
The mountains have been bandaged
By a gauzy haze.

All day,
The sun has been a glare,
Though its heat has waned.

All day,
Insect noise has been diminished
To random punctuation.

And now,
At evening,

Clouds lower
Into place.

Stars hide
Their light.

The air trembles
In expectation.

Chilled air.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pastor Returns to Village: Smites the Golden Calf

Holden Village's Pastor, Erik Haaland, and Staff Coordinator, Daniel Holmgren, returned today from a month-long "out". Both have been at Holden already for two years and have agreed to remain for another year on the long-term staff. In such cases, it is customary for the individual to take an extended break from village life before beginning their third term of one year.

Today was the day they were scheduled to return. As far as I can determine, there is no set protocol as to when there will be a big celebration, or when members of the community will "dress up", or when they will stage an elaborate scenario. It seems to me to be more of a "happening" than a well-orchestrated plan. A general outline was announced at the dinner meal yesterday...and here is the sum total of that plan..."Pastor Erik is returning and he will return to find the village worshipping the golden calf." The rest is sheer improvisation.

The drum line (not your Friday night high school band drum line...well you can see for yourself in the photo above) gathered to begin the drumming as the bus bringing up guests and staff from the lake could be seen making its approach. They also provided the rhythm and the beat for the dancers swirling around the Golden Calf.

The Golden Calf was set upon an altar adorned with candles, incense, flowers, fruits and vegetables...all offerings from the villagers to the new idol. Since it was placed in the middle of the road, the bus could not pass this point.
In front of the altar bearing the Golden Calf, the new god of choice, the faithful knelt in the street to worship at the altar. The pained expression in some of the faces indicates the presence of rocks and stones digging in to knees unaccustomed to kneeling on such a primitive surface. The fact that they did so anyway is testament to their new-found faith.

Whirling and swirling about the Golden Calf are the white-robed attendants at the altar. But wait! There in the background is the interim "Resident Pastor" Larry Houff. You may remember him from his picture in the "First Day of School" series of photos. He seemed at the time to have lost control of his flock...this is only further proof. He also seems to have lost the blond hairpiece he was wearing for the "First Day of School" activities. The faithful gathered around the altar raise their hands in a fervor of praise...never mind that there seems to be a child being placed on the altar in sacrifice to the Golden Calf.

The bus bearing the Pastor on his return to the village must make the usual stop and get the usual instructions from the Former-but-Returned-Registrar Nancy Johnson. Moses (Holden Village Director Tom Ahlstrom) must wait his turn to speak to the passengers. But wait! Didn't that beard on the face of Moses once serve as the hairpiece for Larry Houff, the Interim Resident Pastor?

The Mayor of Holden Village, Olaf Coffey, is always trying to figure out what the adult members of his community are doing and why they are doing it and here seems to have more than one thing on his mind. Upon his return to this strange community, Daniel Holmgren is greeted by Moses.

Pastor Erik, in a formidable show of wrath, raises the rod given him by Moses and prepares to smite the Golden Calf. The gesture is too late for Jordyn and Nyrie Mietzke who have already been sacrificed upon the altar.

After the Golden Calf has been knocked into the dust of Wes Prieb Boulevard, Moses, still wearing the hairpiece as a beard, comes down from some high place or another and proclaims to one and all the new laws of the community. The laws have been inscribed into two tablets of clay and are here presented to Moses and Pastor Erik by Angela Mietzke, who has just lost two daughters as a sacrifice to the Golden Calf.

Speaking over the hairpiece-worn-as-a-beard, Moses reads the new "Ten Commandments."
1. Thou shalt not be late for dish team.
2. Honor thy directors.
3. Thou shalt not use the sauna while naked.
4. Thou shalt not skip garbo duty.
5. Thou shalt not feed the squirrels.
6. Remember thou the "stop day" and keep it holy. (I would explain if I knew.)
7. Thou shalt not stream any video.
8. Thou shalt not hike without "the 10 essentials." (I would explain if I knew.)
9. Thou shalt not sleep through fire alarms.
10. Thou shalt not mix "landfill" with "burnables." (I would explain but it would take too long.)

Meanwhile, the staff coordinator, Daniel is besieged by staff members wanting to take an "out" themselves. So anxious are they that he consider their request that they tape their completed "out slips" to his person. (The slips have to be filled out and approved prior to departure.)
The altar has been removed from the street.
The Golden Calf has been moved to the VC (Visitor Center).
The costumes have been returned to the costume shop to be used in the next celebration.
Larry Houff has retrieved the hairpiece from Moses and has secretly packed it in his suitcase.
The 2 young girls were miraculously restored to life.
The fruits and vegetables have been returned to the kitchen.
The incense was all consumed by fire.
Pastor Erik has given serious thought to changing the topic of his upcoming Sunday sermon.
Pastor Erik does not know what the topic of that sermon should be.
Staff Coordinator Daniel says "A pox on you all! You can all leave any time you want!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Signs of Holden

In any community, Holden Village no exception, a system of signs is vital to the health and welfare, the safety and security of those persons living there. Signs are used here in much the same way they are used in other places. They give directions on how to get from one place to another, they provide information, they name places such as buildings and streets, they provide necessary warnings.

Holden has all the requisite signs used in all the ordinary ways, but there are instances in which it can be truthfully said that creativity supersedes necessity and our signs get, shall we say, a little out of the ordinary...well, OK, way out of the ordinary.

Those of you who know Holden well, are already racing ahead of me and the pictures, already knowing which signs I might choose to include in a piece titled, "The Signs of Holden," for at Holden, you certainly have the ordinary, but here the ordinary always exists side-by-side with the unusual. Any Holdenite can tell you that.

For those of you who have never been to Holden, just enjoy. This is a particular and highly focused, and somewhat unusual look at Holden you might never see again. As always, you are invited to come and see for yourself.

This old tub decorated with flowers, and reading the same, hangs at the entrance of the storage area under Lodge 2. It is the area where the "Lawns and Gardens" crew stores all of their gardening tools and supplies and seeds.

About a mile from the village, there is a wooded area next to Railroad Creek that is a campground for hikers and for those who come to the village for the purpose of camping. The campground itself is slightly off of the trail, but a sign points the way.

These signs are affixed to the front of the compost bins just above the garden. Holden composts all of its waste food, and after a long and complicated process of "cooking," the final product is placed in these bins for use nearby on the lawns and gardens. Very politely, with a "please" and a "thank you," the passerby is asked not to add anything to this particular bin.

A friendly and hand-painted sign welcomes one and all to the garden itself. An additional sign beneath is the "mama" to all who enter, "Close the door!" The garden is surrounded by an extraordinarily high fence necessary for keeping out the deer and other wildlife which would delight in eating the vegetation down to a nub.

A series of curiously written signs gives instructions at the entrance way into the "Linen Technology Center. " This unique style of writing is posted within the laundry itself...more directions and instructions.

One of the most curious signs at Holden is not in any way the result of any decision made by those in charge of these matters here in the village. It is a sign on a metal plate affixed just next to the opening of a commercial washing machine. You can see for yourself that it reads, "Do not put any person in this washer." Enough said. We won't. Never happens.

The bowling alley and the pool room were favorite recreation areas for miners and their families when Holden Mine was open and are favorites even today with guests. At one time there was a barber shop inside. While the barber shop is still actually there, it is not possible to get a haircut and a shave as it was in former times.
The Village Center, as the name implies, was and is the center for village and spiritual. Used in the summer for worship services and concerts and plays, in the winter it serves as an indoor basketball court. The bowling alley and pool room are located just beneath
the main area of the Village Center and many a concert has been punctuated by the sound of bowling balls rolling down the alley and hitting the pins.

Holden Village sits right on the edge of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. This sign is alongside the trail to Hart Lake and Holden Lake and informs the hikers that they have entered a wilderness area.

New to Holden Village this summer are signs atop the various monitor wells warning anyone so inclined, "Do not fill."
The directors have made a concerted effort to rid the village of these signs which at one time were placed squarely in front of every toilet in the village. One of them, however, is still in place (I am not saying where). It is true that the signs were not very welcoming to guests...or rather the results of following the directions on the signs were not very welcoming to guests...but the real reason for their being banished is that it was found the drain field needed more water in order to function effectively. I am certain that children left Holden without learning a single Bible verse, but every one of them remembered this particular little couplet. For a time there were even tee shirts (yellow tee shirts) with the slogan "Let it mellow" written on the front.

One of the favorite activities at Holden is hiking, and once you are out of the village a bit, there are signs pointing the way to the more popular trails.

The Hike Haus has a unique arrangement of signs to distinguish it from the entrance ways of other similar buildings.

Across the road from the Hike Haus is perhaps the most famous entryway of all. This is the Garbage Dock where all of the separation of the garbage into its various components...recycle, landfill, burn, etc. takes place.Composting is done away from the village, understandably.

Outside every lodge are 3 labeled trash cans for guests and staff to use to separate their trash as they throw it away. We do not have a garbage pick-up service to do a drive-by-and-pick-up which means that we are responsible for the proper disposal of every piece of trash thrown away. The separation begins at the trash cans with signs reading "Burn," "Recycle," and "Landfill."

Placed across the road from the real snack bar is this whimsical sign for Squirrel's Snack Bar. I have no idea where the sign originated.

The real snack bar, famous for its "Holden scoops" is (maybe) the most popular place in the village. The ice cream is delicious and the scoops are monumental.

This sign is at the foot of the original steps leading from the road up into the miner's village which was called Winston. The homes had to be destroyed as they had become a fire hazard in the middle of a National Forest, but the sites are still there.

Each of the food storage lockers has its own name. Jaws is used to keep frozen foods.

A safety cabinet located beneath Agape. It holds a variety of small safety gear items, goggles, gloves, ear plugs, and the like.
We did not need a sign posted on the Forest Service message board to remind us that we were in Bear Country. We could see bears everywhere...and often.
The bears have been so active in and around the village that new and specially worded signs of warning had to be placed over the outside garbage cans. For a time, the bears were coming right up on the porches at night, brought there on a whiff of something they thought they might like to eat.

The sign over the door at the Holden School. A small school in the wilderness, it is, nevertheless, a part of the Chelan School District.

This elaborately carved door is actually the outside door to what is called "the city sauna." The other sauna, a bit outside the village is "the river sauna."

And, finally, the sign that says it all...that sums up the feelings and the attitudes of most all who come here and thus motivates them to take special care of this place..."We have this treasure." The words are carved onto the face of the handmade lectern used in the Village Center for worship services and for vespers.


The moon
Full risen
Is at my window,
A sliver
Of its silvery side
Shaved away.

No matter
That its fullness
Is diminished,
Its light
Illuminates the mountain ridge,
Brings the spiky fir tree into full relief,
Casts pale shadows on the grass.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Silence, Only Silence

Above me,
The limitless
And uninterrupted
Of the sky.
From horizon
To horizon
A taut tent
Filled with
Warming sunlight.
I took
My gaze
Away from this immaculate sky
And brought the vision
Back to earth.
Just at my feet
And stretching up
The hillside,
A ground cover
Of purest gold.

Soon, now,
These same skies will lower,
Become a leaden gray.
The sun will pale.
The air grow cold.
Soon, now,
The snow will begin to fall.
And it will leave
No visible evidence,
Not a trace,
Of what before, might have been here.

There will be
No sound
To reclaim
A story
Never told.
A story
Never shared.
A story
Never celebrated.

There will be
Only silence.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The First Day of School: Holden Village Sept. 2, 2008

Here they are, the entire faculty and student body of the Holden School. They posed here for a group picture after the village shenanigans collectively known as "The First Day of School." You will notice right away that there seems to be only one student in what you would think of as "normal" first day of school clothing. That would be young Olaf (also known as "The Mayor of Holden") who was about to attend his very first day of school...ever. The others are dressed in some sort of costume or garb of their own choosing in keeping with the celebration.

There are no rules for this event. No winners. No losers. No quantifiable point or purpose. It is just a celebration, a happening. And here is what happens. All of the students live along a gravel road leading up from the main road through the village. The school itself is at the bottom of the hill. But on the first day of school, one of the school buses normally used to pick up guests at the boat, and to take guests back to the boat, is put into service picking up students living along Chalet Hill Road. It is the first and last time students will ride the bus to school all year.

The road up the hill is a straight line up with a circular curve (a cul de sac if you will) at the top. The bus drives up the hill, stopping at each chalet where there are students. From the time the bus turns to drive up the hill, mischief-makers along the way do everything in their power to delay the inevitable arrival of the bus at the school building. The mischief-makers are the other villagers (all of them) who dress up in costumes and act out various scenarios in the road in front of the bus, at the house where the students wait, (parents get into this play-acting as well), and all along the route.

And here are the pictures to prove just how bizarre "The First Day of School" can extra encouragement needed. It is a day to "do your own thing".

It's a one-arm Rolf Vegdahl (the registrar), father of 2 students who, dressed as a blue M&M, waves the bus on up the hill.

Art and Joan Neslund, dressed in HAZMAT suits, warn students of the dangers of school book dust hazards. They would repeatedly "decontaminate" the bus all the way up the hill and down.

Here the bus has made its turn onto the road leading up the hill, and Joan is there to block the way in order to make sure the bus is properly rid of "book dust" before proceeding. You will notice to the right of the bus a line of monks, complete with incense and holy water, accompanying the bus and offering blessings and protections.

To one side of the road are 5 Holden School "alums" down on their luck and offering to work for food...and strong drink...and cigarettes. Not exactly an inspiration for those young ones already on board the bus.

Speaking of inspiration! This is what was visible the first time bus driver (Nancy Restucha-Borges) opened the bus door to pick up her first passenger! She was a wild woman with her back-combed hair, her ever-present cigarette, these empty beer cans which kept falling out of the door every time it was opened, and a Cosmopolitan inside a calculus book in the front window. Never mind her surly comments to the students.

Bob and Laura Norton had a difficult time letting Maya and Nate get on the bus. Every time they moved toward the bus, Laura would screech and remember something else she had forgotten to pack in their bags...a pack of Kleenex, band aids, their name it. Gundula Houff, wife of the Resident Pastor, but disguised as a who-knows-what, tries to take a group picture.

Dressed in togas, decorated with war paint, and armed with tree pruners and other implements of possible mayhem, these young men blocked the road and threatened the bus. Their maverick partners were soon to burst out of the makeshift fort in the background and impede the progress of the bus up the road.

Young Olaf seems to be trying to figure out if he really wants to go to this school or whether to resume his mayoral duties instead. He is with the boarding student, Inge Chiles, who is living with the Coffey family, and his brother Joseph (pointing), and his sister Grace (wrapped as a package).

Chuck and Stephanie Carpenter (dressed as a bride and groom...I don't know why) stand on their porch with their children and a young guest watching the bus make its way up the hill.

Outgoing garbologist Abby Dibble and incoming garbologist Nick Gordon are prepared to hurl beer cans at the bus when it passes by. (The garbage cans were reassure you.)

Ellie Vegdahl, Nyrie Mietzke, and Jordyn Mietzke wait for the bus to make it to the top of Chalet Hill...their parents were involved in "the last camp-out of the season" blocking the road just before the Mietzke's house.

Resident Pastor, Larry Houff, here for a month while the Village Pastor is away on a brief sabbatical, seems to have lost control over himself, his hair, and his flock.

Boarding student, Andrew Dutcher, resident of Agape and decorated as a slice of Pizza is protected by his sponsor, Liz Langeland, and two other members of the Agape Security Force, Gail Johnson and Aneta Bunke.

Two of the monks continue to bless the bus as it makes its way back down the hill. Holden Director, Tom Ahlstrom, swings the censer (by now out of incense) and Pastor Nancy Winder of Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle sprinkles holy water from a "red bucket brigade" bucket (used to wipe tables in the dining hall after meals) by means of a paint brush...a used paint brush....very stiff.
Mary Coffey-now-Sather (by only a week) stops the bus from the porch of a chalet. Even though she married only a week ago, she sees to be already with child and has a couple of babies (make that triplets) in addition. Her husband, Dave, is the high school teacher and was on the first day of school apparently having trouble getting up and out the door.
Rebecca Swanson and Hannah Goldammer stop the bus on its way down Chalet Hill to offer small cups of Tang to the students.

In the time it has taken for the bus to go to the top of the hill and back, a major road construction project has begun at the foot of the hill. Passage for the bus is completely stopped.

The road construction project brings the bus to a complete halt. A piece of heavy equipment has even been brought in to block the road.

The bus finally got by the construction project but the bus driver got lost and the bus with all the students on board was driven up to what is called "the third level" on top of the tailings where they were finally able to get turned around and back down. The bus returns here with all students on board and ready for the official first day of school photo.

BUT WAIT!! There was the school lunch dished out by a spectacular crew of "lunch room ladies" in hair nets. Menu: tater tot hot dish, plain tater tots, carrots, applesauce, red jello, milk in small milk cartons...sound familiar? Very.
And a good time was had by all.