Friday, October 31, 2008

A Holden Village Halloween

All too often friends and family who are all too familiar with stories of the special treatment given by Holden Village to other holidays ( the first day of school and the 4th of July come to mind) will ask me, "Well, what do they do for Halloween?" Until now, I have never known.

Also all too often, when someone who has even just a bit of experience with Holden's celebrations will feel frustrated in trying to describe the extravagant efforts made by those in the village to celebrate both the momentous and the mundane. Before we are underway with the descriptions and the details, we want to give up and say, "Well, you have to be there to know what I am talking about."

Now that I have experienced my first Halloween here in the wilderness, perhaps the pictures I took at the various events will help you understand that whether you were in Houston or in Washington D.C., you missed out on a truly joyous celebration of Halloween this year...perhaps next year, you can come and see for yourself. You really do "have to be there to know what I am talking about."

Mid-afternoon, Chuck Carpenter, Operations Manager, began work on the wooden apple press, squeezing fresh apple juice for the night ahead.

Meantime, a significant portion of the dining hall is transformed into a Halloween setting suitable for a movie set. Here Liz Langeland, Staff Coordinator, hangs ghosts and bats from tree branches that were cut to encompass the Halloween area. She is assisted by young Olaf Coffey, Mayor of Holden Village.

A long line of fresh pumpkins extends the length of the dining hall tables normally used for a buffet line. Anyone wishing to carve a jack-o-lantern could pick out a pumpkin, pick up a knife, and have a (ha-ha) stab at this yearly transformation. Here the Mietzke family takes on the task.

Holden School students Jordyn Mietzke, Raina Rerucha-Borges, and Andrew Dutcher carve pumpkins. I might add that in the Holden tradition of saving and recycling, the pumpkin seeds were "harvested" for roasting, and chunks of pumpkin will soon be processed and will reappear as pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins or pumpkin cake. Maybe even pumpkin soup.

After the evening meal (a fabulous nacho bar), those wishing to don costumes went back to their residence...or made a quick trip by the costume shop... and arrived at vespers dressed for the occasion. (It was a most unusual rendition of the Holden Evening Prayer, the music especially in tune...or out of tune, as the case may be...with Halloween fervor.) Here, left to right, Rose Schwartz, a guest, Trish Pipkin, currently Artist in Residence. Liz Langeland, Staff Coordinator, and Ann Hafton, currently on Teaching Staff and an expert on Israeli-Palestine issues, get together after the service. Above them Royce Morrison, also a guest, here with Rose ("Rose Royce", they called themselves.) And I do believe that is a bra affixed to the front of Ann Hafton's face! A bra with large polka dots. And two holes cut out to handle the vision thing! I never saw her take it off all evening.

And then it was time to trick-or-treat. Here, young Elli Vegdahl-Crowell waits at the door to Agape.

Jordyn Mietzke is offered a bowl of Skittles. (Pillow cases were the preferred treat-or-treat bag.)

Joseph Coffey arrived dressed as an aviator. I am sure that someone had to tell him that he could not knit and go trick-or-treating at the same time. (This young man can stuff 3 skeins of yarn under his armpit and knit a Norwegian design snowflake sweater while still on the move. This is not an exaggeration.)

Rachel Weeks, in charge of Holden's publications, has already had her share of sugar for one night.

Nancy Rerucha and Mark Borges, both in the Utilities Department, arrive for their treats. Mark was dressed as a piece of toast that read, "Nancy loves toast."

Mary Coffey Sather, Lead Cook, used crinoline petticoats to dress as a runaway bride. Her husband, high school teacher Dave Sather, chased her all night. He says he only married her because she looks like Ingrid Bergman. The rest of the village believes he married her for the chocolate truffles she makes.

Art Neslund, Repair Associate, looked particularly hideous in this wicked set of dentures. He came to vespers dressed as a lighthouse, but the costume had to be modified to accommodate mobility issues. (He said that he has been saving this set of lips and teeth for years. We believe him.)

After trick-or-treating, there were refreshments and dancing back in the dining hall. I honestly do not know who this "person" was. There was conjecture regarding his identity all night. We finally found out he was a guest who had just arrived in the village. Whoever he was, he had plenty of fortitude. He never removed this complete head-covering mask. He just did this all night...just sat.

Elementary school teacher, Steve Marks seemed to have survived an attack by someone wielding a meat cleaver.

Nyrie Mietzke enjoyed the dance dressed as a butterfly. I never saw her eat so I cannot verify whether she used her proboscis or not. The proboscis seems a bit askew. Perhaps she by-passed it and used her mouth...and there was plenty to eat...caramel apples, apple cider punch, dirt cake, decorated sugar cookies, chocolate truffles...the works.

Tamara Yates, a part-time guest and part-time volunteer (in the laundry and housekeeping) for a week took on the role of Cruella De Ville.

And, yes, this is our real pastor, Erik Halland (on the right)...a real pastor, dressed for Halloween as a priest/pastor...go figure. With him, Nick Gordan, out inestimable Garbologist.

The spooky lights. The spooky decorations.

Members of the Carpenter family take a break. (Chuck, August, and Steph...and in that order.) If you want to know the true Holden spirit, consider this: as Head of Operations, Chuck had just finished...that day...the supervision of a 2-year planned construction and implementation of wiring a significant part of the village by means of underground wiring. The last stages of that operation had taken the better part of the week and necessitated long power outages...daily. Steph manages the bookstore. The end of October is the end of the fiscal year and the book store had to be the dark. Both jobs get finished and costumes get made and there is still energy for Halloween hoopla into the night.

Lauren Langley, a volunteer Area Head of the book store for the summer...staying longer to help with moving the book store temporarily and with inventory, holds the youngest member of the Holden community, baby Aubrey Gustafson, daughter of Trevor and Angela Gustafson.

During the party, Olaf Coffey enjoys a decorated sugar cookie.

Wearing an all natural and carefully constructed head covering and sporting a wispy all natural beard, Will Mitchell, a Maverick, heads for the dance floor.

One of Holden's three directors, Carol Hinderlie, came to the dance dressed as a hippie and danced to "The Purple People Eater."

High school students Andrew Dutcher, Marta Vegdahl-Crowell, and Grace Coffey get ready to leave the party.
After the activities in the dining hall had ended, children went to one location to see a scary movie ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") and the adults to another location to watch "Poltergeist."
It was, indeed, a Halloween Night to remember.
And it was such a night to remember that I would like to dedicate the pictures and the descriptions to Maija and Espen Diamond, two children who so enjoy their experience of Holden and their visits here. It was fun, guys! You will have to make it up here one Halloween. In the meantime, I will see you at Christmas! Race you to the bottom of Chalet Hill! I will be wearing my bicycle helmet and an inflated rubber crash suit!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October Sunrise

Good morning. On these late October mornings, my path down the hill to breakfast is, more often than not, dramatically lit. If it weren't for the promise of coffee waiting at the bottom of the hill, I might never make it to the dining hall until the sun was fully up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two Questions, One Answer

The questions:
Do you grow your own food at Holden?
What happens when the garden fence comes down in preparation for winter?
The answer:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wilderness Music: A Composition in Three Parts



A stream bed gradient.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Speaking of Frost

Better yet, let frost speak for itself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wood for the Winter

The call went out the night before for help stacking firewood under Lodge 6. At the appointed hour of 10:00 am on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, approximately 20 people showed up at the site to help with what has to be one of the most tedious, but in some strange way, exhilarating jobs at Holden Village...that of log-by-log transfer of firewood into the safekeeping of the underbelly of a facility that houses one of Holden's wood-burning furnaces.

This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived for our "service project." The stack of wood extended nearly the length of the lodge, was shoulder high on me, and was about 5-6 feet wide...a lot of wood. Holden utilizes (in environmentally friendly ways) the resources at hand for its winter heat source. If you check your bill for winter heating oil, then you will understand how prohibitive the cost would be to heat with any petroleum-based fuel that would have to be brought up the lake and up the mountain and into the wilderness...enough oil to heat the buildings that remain open in the winter. Holden would simply have to close down in the winter.

Some of those who showed up for this project were paying guests. Others were volunteers who temporarily left their other jobs in the village in order to help out with this task and then went back to their assigned work area when all the wood was off the ground and inside the building. Two of Holden's three directors helped as well. (The third director was driving the bus down to the lake taking guests to meet the boat.)

The simplicity of this task serves as both its main attraction and its chief liability. You line up, wood pile on the outside to wood stack within the building, and one log at a time, you pass it hand to hand. It is mind-numbing repetition but leaves you free to talk and chatter, visit with your neighbor in the line, pass the time in a pleasantries while you perform a necessary job. On the down side, it is physically demanding. You may not realize this while you are stacking the wood. You will realize it the next day no matter how much ibuprofen you took the night before.

As the wood pile diminishes, its distance from the door to the inside increases. The line stretches out until you are forced to extend a log at arm's length to the next person in line. If reinforcements fail to arrive, you may have to play "Tossie" and literally toss the log to the next person. Tossie requires the utmost in concentration and focus, on your part and on the part of the person standing next to you in line. There are matters of trust as well. One small unheeded distraction and you have a log in your face. (It is not a pretty sight.)

Inside the building, the stackers work tirelessly and often in cramped positions, to put every log in place. Here it will stay until it is used during the winter. And there is another job connected with this wood...that of keeping the wood-burning furnaces stoked. And all Holden volunteers are assigned to a Stoking Schedule. I have heard about it, but do not know the details. Maybe they keep the details from us lest we leave before the schedule is released. I am trying to imagine getting out of a warm bed and making my way through the snow to the site of a furnace at 2:00 am...there is a 2:00 am stoking.
This particular wood pile took about an hour and a half to be transferred from the pile outside to the wood stacks within.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rock Grabber, Ground Pounder, and Auto Bike

Ah, yes! Those were the commercial names inscribed on the frames of the three bicycles ridden down the mountain on the The-Last-Great-Bicycle-Ride-to-the-Lake.

But let us digress for a moment before the re-telling of that tale and talk about Leadership! Leadership? Yes, leadership. You know for certain that you possess that elusive spades!...if you can convince two other highly educated and otherwise rational-thinking women to accompany you on what was to begin as ill-advised, and was to end as ill-fated, bicycle trip down a mountain and down the switchbacks to the lake on a day that the grapevine forecast was for snow at approximately our elevation and there was already rain "spittin' " down as they say out here in the West. (In the South, we say it is "sprinkling"...more genteel, don't you think?) Well, they wavered and they wondered and they questioned and they doubted me... one of them did...I didn't see too much of the other one. She was scurrying about the village filching as many cotton hats and cotton gloves as she could find to use as wrappers for her many cameras that she is never without and would not part with for an ill-advised and soon-to-be ill-fated trip on a bicycle down a mountain in the rain! A cold rain.

There was actually some method to her madness...supposedly, the purpose of the trip, the only purpose of the trip ever stated, was to take pictures of the fall foliage along the road to the lake when said fall foliage reached the zenith of its beauty. In my leadership role, I had been gathering the data, asking guests who arrived, querying mavericks (if you can query a maverick) who go down every day to haul back the luggage and the mail and the food supplies, forever asking bus drivers who kept politely telling me that it was their sworn duty to keep their eyes on the road and that the leaves were of no concern to them whatever their color.

But time was passing and leaves in the village were beginning to fall from their zenith. Afraid we were going to miss the once-a-year opportunity, I exhibited my leadership abilities by pressing into service as a scout Todd Gulliver (husband of Tracy who was at the time thinking of accompanying me down the mountain...and later did). As he left the village on Sunday, Todd was to take an inventory of the fall foliage on his bus trip down and give us the scoop. His succinct e-mail report arrived back on Monday morning: "Go today or go tomorrow." Well, it was already Monday morning and since we are here ostensibly to work (well, I am here to work...they are here to write, so I don't know if that occupation is a subset of the term work or not) we couldn't so easily slide our assignments around and slough off (without the appearance of sloughing off )while the work day was already well underway. In short, we opted to make the trek on the next day...the "tomorrow"...the last day...of Todd's scouting report.

The only problem was that forecast for inclement weather, and I had to spend a considerable portion of my energies in convincing the other two of the fact that this would be our "last chance of the year", our "probably last chance ever" to make this trip. Wavering and waffling, they bought it...went back to their rooms and threw on their cotton clothes, picked up their ponchos and packed their backpacks, which would be to no avail, and pumped the tires which would eventually throw up a stream of water and dirt that would produce a skunk-stripe of cold mud up their backs to approximately an end-point between the shoulder blades.

Sans GoreTex, sans neoprene, sans even plastic bread wrappers we were to hear so much about later from The Experienced Ones, we became prisoners of gravity and we were off! So confident were we that not even an obligatory pre-adventure group photograph was taken...besides, all of Debbie's cameras were swathed in hats and gloves resting inside her backpack for the moment they would be pressed into service to take pictures of the beautiful fall foliage. There is a long tradition at Holden Village of celebrating the ridiculous and the absurd and of honoring the whims and ideas of unusual people, but with hindsight, I now wonder why no one stepped into the path of our trek to inform us that what we were about to do was suicidal!

About a mile or so down the road, we stopped to make some last adjustments to whatever we were wearing that might be loosely referred to as "gear." I took off my water absorbent fleece jacket and put on a thin rain jacket. Debbie did likewise. Tracy pulled a poncho out of her backpack and put it on. We would not stop again...for anything. The "spittin' " increased to a steady, but gentle, rain which in turn increased in volume and intensity to a veritable which time we had already passed the Point of No Return! The only option was to continue to head for the lake and hope for the best. We were tending to go faster and faster as the descent toward the lake is steeper (we still had to negotiate the switchbacks) and with all our cotton layers soaking up rain, the weight aboard Rock Grabber and Ground Pounder and Auto Bike was getting heavier and heavier.

And the leaves! What about the leaves? As far as we could tell, there were no leaves. In fact, as far as we could tell, there were no trees! Our focus was solely on the ever-increasing downpour, the roadway immediately in front of the front tire, the cramps in the hands and fingers caused by the constant squeezing of the brakes, and the ice cold rain filling every orifice of our clothing, including our shoes (tennis shoes to be sure!). The hearty laughter and camaraderie subsided into muttered curses and personal prayers.

In sodden disarray, we arrived at the lake. Holden maintains (I use the word loosely) an A-frame there for just such emergency purposes. Overlooking its less appealing attributes, it had what we needed...a Franklin stove, matches, and fire wood, dry fire wood. Her glasses rain-slicked to the point of making her look like Mrs. Magoo, Tracy immediately began striking matches, never mind building a fire, still in her helmet and her poncho, she was just striking matches.

Eventually, we managed to get a nice fire started in the Franklin stove. The sight of the wine bottle stirred our hopes and our interest also, but it was empty.

A most unusual thing happened on the trek down the mountain. Just before descending the switchbacks, Debbie called out, "I'm bubbling!" I maneuvered my bicycle over to see what she meant and to my disbelief saw the front of each of the legs of her jeans covered in soap suds!! Apparently, the previous rinse cycle had not removed all the soap residue, and the copious amounts of water soaking the jeans and the churning of her legs against the material of the jeans had re-activated the remaining soap and turned them into suds.

Debbie removes Tracy's helmet. Underneath that helmet, a soaked cotton hoodie and rain-streaked glasses.

Debbie unpacked one of her cameras and went outside to take a picture of the fall leaves outside the A-frame. Photographing the only fall leaves available was not what she had envisioned, but hey! a yellow leaf is a yellow leaf. The viewer of the photograph need not know its origins.

This variety of tree is called the big maple. A look at the leaves will give a clue as to the origin of the name. The leaves were huge. This would be the only photo of leaves that I would manage to take on this particular day. Ironically, on our way back up the mountain, we were able to authenticate the veracity of Todd's scouting report...the roadsides were a wonderland of fall foliage, a wonderland we were able to view from the inside of the bus!

Meanwhile, back in the village, our steadfast friend, Joan Neslund, must have guessed our difficulties. She retrieved blankets from the laundry to send down on the bus and made a thermos of hot tea to warm us up after the ordeal.

And what lesson did we learn from this experience? It was this: save your plastic bread wrappers. Wear them. Under your hat. Under your gloves. On your feet outside your socks. Invest in Gore Tex. Buy neoprene. Then, stay in your room and practice your knitting!