Saturday, November 29, 2008

After Turkey Soup, A Bonfire

I am fairly certain that passengers in any jet plane bound for Seattle could have looked out of a window and spotted this fire. I don't know what they would have made of such a fire in the wilderness, as it would have been tiny from their perspective. But I am positive that any pilot cruising overhead in a smaller, locally connected, airplane would have confirmed the sometimes prevailing suspicions that Chelan County has a voodoo, witchcraft, devil-worshipping cult lodged deep within its forests.

Such is the nature of a bonfire. Such has often been their history.

However, this bonfire was supplied with every piece of scrap wood totally unfit for every unforeseen purpose in the future. Burning was the only way to rid ourselves of it. Built by Christians, tended by Christians, enjoyed by Christians, the magic was in its heat and its light and in the great and good fun that can be had from a massive snowball fight interrupted only by the necessity of having a cup of hot chocolate topped with a marshmallow served from the tail gate of a pick-up truck parked at the scene.

And grounded in their accustomed places,
But at a safe distance from the fire,
The trees
Managed to keep their snowy muffs intact
While they surrendered their nocturnal privacy
To this uncommon light.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Words from Tuque: A Holden Thanksgiving

Early on this Thanksgiving morning, I was, in the usual way, placed upon my special handmade, none-like-it-in-all-the-world throne at a window in the dining hall of Holden Village. By “the usual way,” I mean that I was attended by a very public display of affection and many powerful, and also public, manifestations of the special place I have in the hearts of others, one in particular.

I do not take these outward demonstrations lightly. I know that in comparison with other rulers in this world, I am blessed beyond compare. For that, I am thankful.

From the vantage point of my throne in the window, and suitably robed and crowned, I have watched with my spidery little eyes as you have celebrated your own day of thanksgiving.

I have tracked the course of the sun as it rose through its magnificent new-every-day bonnet of orange and pink and made its way across the sky, at first up, up, up but always just below the ridge line of Buckskin until it broke free into the open sky to put this little village awash in its warming light. Only a short time later, it seemed to me, it disappeared behind Copper and moved on toward the west, taking its light, packed-up in a satchel, with it.

I have watched over the street, noted the comings and goings - up and down, across and back. There I have seen the raven beat its black wings against the cold air, the sound of the movement audible, in order to traverse the street from one end to the other, looking right, looking left, ascertaining that all is well in its chosen place of habitation.

I have witnessed all of your preparations for the late-afternoon feast, the setting of the tables, the stuffing of the squash, the trussing of the turkeys. I have heard all the chopping, the mixing, and the splashing. And the smells! AH! The smells. A fragrant potpourri to a royal nose!

And I have heard your voices. The voices of angels, they were, lifted together in songs of thanksgiving and praise. And I have overheard your talk at the table. I heard voices joined together in laughter, in the exchange of holiday greetings, and in the sharing of memories of past Thanksgivings.

Later in the evening, you would all return for the desserts you could never have eaten comfortably had they been served immediately after your dinner. There were pumpkin pies and apple pies with plenty of fresh whipped cream for a topping.

After your dessert but long before you left the dining hall, I had been taken from my handmade none-like-it-in-all-the-world throne and put to bed. As I fell asleep, I said my own payer of thanksgiving. As I did so, I remembered these lines from the worship service before the meal:

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land,
a land with flowing streams,
with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills,
a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates,
a land of olive trees and honey,
a land where you may eat bread without scarcity,
where you will lack nothing,
a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.
You shall eat your fill
and bless the Lord your God for the good land that the Lord has given you.

Before I fell asleep, I gave thanks also.
For lighthouses.
For race cars,
For sideburns.

And most especially, I gave thanks for the one who loves me.
Without thought for tomorrow.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Before You Complain

Before you complain about the bill for your Thanksgiving groceries, or about how you had to fill the trunk of your car with bags of "fixin's" (as we say in the south), or about how long it took you to unload your car and get everything put away in kitchen cabinets, just check out the Holden Village preparations for the Thanksgiving feast.

The turkeys had already arrived. The produce and the perishables would arrive closer to the holiday itself. But the rest of the "fixin's" arrived Friday. And they arrived via a barge trip up Lake Chelan. The barge was met by two large trucks from Holden Village and the "fixin's" were offloaded onto the trucks by a team of indefatigable "mavericks" assisted by a crane to lift the flats onto the truck bed. The trucks then drove the 12 miles up the road to the village where they were met by every able bodied soul around to offload them at the loading dock and move the goods, one thing at a time, person-to-person along a human chain into the proper storage place.

It was daylight when the operation began. It was dark when it was finished.

And I have no idea as to what the bill might have been.

The first truck pulls up to the loading dock. (And yes, I forgot to add that we had just had a rather substantial snowfall the night before so these truck had to make the trip up on a snow-covered gravel road.)

The trucks were piled high with boxes and bags of food. Admittedly, most of this gigantic order will be used over the course of the coming months and not just for Thanksgiving, but it was a huge task to get it to Holden and offloaded into the proper storage areas.

Lead Cook, Mary Sather (in the yellow hat) was the person chiefly responsible for making the order and then for checking an itemized list to make sure that everything ordered was delivered. She is assisted in checking in the delivery by Carole Young.

The human chain responsible for unloading the truck stretched from the loading dock down the long hallway and past the 3 large lockers where food is stored. Dave Sather, Paul Haines, and Andrew Dutcher wait for the next item to come down the chain.

Just at dusk, the second truck arrives.

Sarah Gustner, Bill Somerville, and Dawn Coffey await the goods from the second truck.

Dave Mietzke takes a look at the back of the second truck. Those large bags were 50-pound bags of sugar and flour...heavy and unwieldy.
Hard work has its rewards at Holden. When all had been put into place and accounted for, everyone went in to the dining hall to enjoy a dinner of spanokopita...and ibuprofen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow Jobs: Getting Ready for Winter

Last week we had our first real snowfall. It was a wonder of a day with 7" falling before it finally stopped. We thought perhaps that it was the beginning of the winter that is usually experienced at Holden Village, a winter in which the snowfall is measured in hundreds of inches (last year over 300 inches), with accumulations of snow measured in feet, and with a ground covered by snow until spring (here that would be in late April or early May...just about the time "the corn is as high as an elephant's eye" back in Florida).

It turned out to be our good fortune that this first snowfall would give way to warmer temperatures and that the snow would melt and give us additional time to prepare for The Real First and Lasting Snowfall of the winter. There was yet work to be done to prepare the village for winter. (You could have fooled me! I thought we were ready to sit back and drink hot chocolate for the next 5 months!)

And just today, we have all checked on the extended forecast and beginning tomorrow night we have about a week's worth of "rain and snow" with freezing temperatures. This may be IT! With that forecast ever in mind, the last minute preparations have continued in earnest.

Rich Wilson, here as a volunteer for a week to check and "tweak" the various computer systems that keep the village running (some say that his work is "Magic," others say that he works "inside the black box") was actually out on a short hike on Sunday when he stopped by the labyrinth to see what Angela Mietzke and I were doing with all those stakes and all that frozen earth. He was soon put to work. This snow was actually from the previous 7" snowfall, and we needed to get the paths marked before the entire thing is covered by subsequent snowfalls. Then, little did I know, we will tramp the paths on snowshoes so that the labyrinth is available for walking throughout the winter. Eventually, the paths will remain flat from the tramping and the areas between the paths will rise so that you are actually walking in a trench carved out of the snow by snowshoes. We probably got this task completed on the last possible day to do it. Except for all the tramping, we are ready for the labyrinth-in-winter to take shape... literally.

If you want to see one more huge piece of road equipment, then you need to come to Holden and check out this snowplow. It has been named "Fluffy." It has been acquired since last winter and this will be its first test of keeping the 12-mile stretch of road between the village and the lake (our lifeline) open. Our jack-of-all-trades-and master-of-all-of-them-mechanic Terry Sanderson has just finished getting Fluffy into fighting form. He thinks this beast has got what it takes.

Sanjay Pakhrin, a volunteer here at Holden from Nepal, had never before seen snow. We quickly located a pair of shoes to replace the sandals in which he arrived, and he gamely carried on with his duties, never once losing his footing. Here he is carrying bags of "summer laundry" to the front rooms of Lodge 2 for storage during the winter.

Along with his wife Angela and infant daughter Aubrey, Trevor Gustafson has recently arrived to spend the next year at Holden. Trevor will be serving as the village plumber. Here he studies a fabulous piece of reading titled "The Uniform Plumber's Code." He is certainly trying to prepare against the possibility of frozen pipes.

This is an afternoon class involving all of those who drive vehicles and all of those who might be called on (i.e. all of those who drive vehicles) to use a chain saw to clear the road of fallen trees during the winter. The title of the class was "Winter Driving and the Safe Use of a Chain Saw." All of these individuals have full time jobs...say Director, or Pastor, or Head of Operations, or Teacher...but work a schedule of driving vehicles to and from the dock down on Lake Lucerne transporting guests and supplies. Following this "classroom" part of the discussion, members actually went to the road just outside the village and practiced their skills on trees that had been felled across the road. It is said that one of these "students" failed the class because he was not paying close attention and was too intent on being the "Class Clown." Can you guess which one that might be?

In the winter, a significant part of the dining hall is turned into a sort of living room for staff and visitors. A pool table and a ping pong table and shelves of books and games take the space normally taken by tables for guests. While we are preparing for snow, we are also preparing for a rather large influx of guests who will arrive for the Thanksgiving holidays. In preparation for their arrival, Joan Neslund, head of housekeeping, cleans the carpet.

Removal of snow and ice from the walkways is an ongoing process throughout the winter. Bill Somerville takes his first practice session at that job after the snowfall last week. I have been told that walkways may be bordered on either side by walls of snow 5 feet high. That is a lot of snow removal.
We watch the skies and check the forecast and await the inevitable. Soon now. Very soon. We will be ready.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Consider the Spider

Consider the spider
In its own way,
Considers its place
In a life
That is all too brief,
Even for a spider.

But in a response to
Its natural instincts,
Its urgent demands,
Its heretofore proven expectations,
The spider
Summons all that is necessary
For the task at hand
From within itself,
And trails out a single filament
Upon which it descends
With a practiced confidence,
It would seem,
Until it is suspended
Above the abyss
Which would consume it
Should all that has thus far proved expeditious
Suddenly fail.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"First Snow": A Poem by Mary Oliver

The snow
Began here
This morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.

The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain - not a single
answer has been found-walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The First Snow

The sleds are out and "The Village Kids" (as they call themselves) are already zipping down Chalet Hill. Cross-country skis stand at the ready on the porch of Lodge 4. Snow boots and gaiters have been pulled out of the closet and pressed into service.

We awoke this morning to our first real snowfall. We have had cold weather and we have had some traces of snow, but no accumulations to speak of. I know that I am from the southern regions of this country, but I have never seen, nor imagined, so much snow falling in one day. What began in the night has continued non-stop throughout the day and is continuing at the moment on into the evening.

I understand that the snow is supposed to turn into rain tomorrow. And I understand that there will be dramatic accumulations of snow throughout the winter, but I thought you might like to see a first glimpse of Holden Village as the winter begins in earnest.

Here is a sampling of photos taken today. Enjoy.