Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mardi Gras at Holden

Laissez les bons temps rouler!! Or, as they would say in New Orleans, "Let the good times roll!!" I want to reassure all my friends who are less than a day's drive of The Crescent City that we did have a Mardi Gras celebration here in the Crystal Peak Wilderness Area of Washington State.

It was, admittedly, a subdued version of Mardi parades, no "throws", no wild women on balconies waving a fan of paper money to ogling male full-of-hopes King Cake!

We had a meal of great Cajun food, face painting, some beads in Mardi Gras colors, and some dressing in costumes. And of course, we observed the beginning of Lent with the Ash Wednesday service of the Imposition of the Ashes.

Paul Hinderlie gathered the lead cooks and the kitchen staff together prior to the preparation of the special meal of Cajun food to give them pointers and instructions of the making of a roux. Chefs in New Orleans would applaud. If you fail with the roux, you fail with whatever you put in the pot afterwards.

The cooking session was a complete success. For dinner, we had seafood gumbo, rice, fried okra, sauteed spinach, and for dessert, pralines...all made right here in the Crystal Peak Wilderness of Washington State.

Carol Hinderlie dressed up in some sparking finery for the evening meal and celebration.

Starting before dinner and continuing after dinner, Rachel Weeks painted many faces that evening, mine among them.

Even little Aubrey Gustafson, held here by her dad Trevor, got her face painted. Chris Tou works to distract Aubrey so that she will sit still.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

From Agape: Looking Out

From within Agape, we look out. We look down upon a village currently adrift in wondrous snow. We are pleased to be able to do so. This star was created and left on the window by a former resident of Agape, now gone on to a new place and new work. We love the kite paper star she left behind. We also love the vase of pussy willows cut last spring and left behind by another former resident of Agape.

From the front porch we are able to turn toward amazement to see a snowfall that lasted all day.

We are learning to make our own stars out of kite paper and to decorate the windows with them.

Agape...a shelter, a place of peace, to all who live there and a window on an amazing world that unfolds itself for our pleasure on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recent Arrivals: Patti, Gail, and Snow

Those of us living in Agape looked out this morning to see the limbs of our favorite tree dressed in white gloves. It was a beautiful sight. We have been waiting for it for a long time. It might seem to most of you that an amount of snow in excess now of 150 inches with 37 inches of the total still on the ground might be quite enough snow, but there are, I think, no upper limits to the amount of snow that most people in the village desire. I joined with the others in being quite delighted when I realized that the snow had fallen all night and that there was a significant accumulation on the ground this morning.

I continued on down the hill to breakfast only to find Gail Johnson, Holden's former bookkeeper for 2 1/2 years on her way to breakfast, camera in hand, snapping pictures herself. Gail is from Richardson , Texas and arrived here yesterday for a week-long visit. You would think she already had all the snow pictures she needed after such a long stint living here, but take it from me, there is no such thing as too many pictures of snow scenes.

The snow is a heavy, wet snow and we were especially overjoyed to see the trees decorated with their flocking of snow after so long a time without being festooned with white.

And she is back at the laundry! Working. Patti Osterholm arrived yesterday as well. She had exactly the same job that I have now and was here for a year. On this visit, she will be here for 2 weeks, working in housekeeping and laundry. She has been living in the Ballard area of Seattle and found out on Friday before she left that she has been hired by the Forest Service and she will be living in the little Ranger Cabin just outside the village this summer. Her job will be trail maintenance and will require her to hike extensively on the area's trails..."Oh-h-h, ple-e-a-a-s-s-e-e don't throw me in that brier patch!!"

Along the banks of Railroad Creek, the new snow piles up on top of that which had previously accumulated.

All of the well-trod pathways and grounds of the village were instantly beautified overnight by the additional snow.

Looking down from the end balcony of Chalet 2 on the Holden School and looking up at Buckskin, the view is cold and snowy even as the sun makes a brief appearance from behind the clouds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sun Over Buckskin: A Time to Celebrate

You would have to see it to believe it...all those bottles of champagne chilling in a snowbank! There was plenty of sparkling cider for the children and plenty of orange juice for the makings of mimosas. It was a rare day at Holden Village.

It has been a long-standing tradition that the village celebrate the day that the sun appears over the very top of Buckskin, one of the mountains that forms the lovely bowl which we so enjoy throughout the year. For several months now, the sun has failed to rise high enough in the sky to actually appear above the top of Buckskin. Today we were able to see it in all its glory, a signal of the changing of the seasons.

High school students, Inge Chiles and Andrew Dutcher enjoy a mid-morning break from class in order to enjoy the Sun Over Buckskin festivities.

Stephanie Carpenter and daughter Cailan dressed in bright cheerful colors to celebrate the occasion.

The "Village Baby" (of "it takes a village to raise a child") Aubrey Gustafson arrived wrapped in a flag of Cameroon (knit by her father) and a stunning pair of sunglasses. As always, Aubrey took all the attention as is due her...she has never known it to be different...never will.

Flat Stanley, move over! Flat Elizabeth attended Sun Over Buckskin Day and gave it rave reviews. Raina Borges, Marta Vegdahl-Crowell, Kasey Schulz, and sisters Andrea and Liz Langeland give Flat Elizabeth a better view of the proceedings.

The irrepressible Doug Cushing and the love-of-his-life Sue enjoy a mimosa to accompany Doug's drumming and a few Beach Boys tunes.

August Carpenter and Olaf Coffey were first in line for a glass of sparkling cider.

I have no idea where Art Neslund found these blue-eyed-fly sunglasses. It is very possible that he made them himself! He is entirely capable of doing so.

Long-time Holden volunteers, Frank and Lydia Wise, currently here for a week of rest and relaxation, raise a glass to celebrate. Can you tell which one is drinking the mimosa and which one has settled for the sparkling cider?

If this looks just like a mid-morning outdoor cocktail party in the middle of a snowy road, you would not be wrong...and no one is looking at the sun over Buckskin!

And speaking of the sun over it is in all its glory.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


For too long
This bride
Has been with us.

Though her gown
Yet sparkles,
Its pure
Has received the mark
Of frequent tramplings
Made upon it
And has become stained.

Though her gown
Yet covers the earth,
The smooth undulations
And curves
Of underlying shapes
Have given way
To jagged edges
Made of ice
And to the lumpiness
Of unfamiliar forms.

The hem is tattered
And the sleeves dissolve.
There are gaping holes.

Significant amounts
Of new snow
Could repair
The whole
But would not restore
The pristine
The bouffant
Of a gown
By the necessities
On the passage
Of time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The reveries of a winter day

Are pierced by bird song.
The raucous cry of the one here all winter
Is joined by new voices
Singing a different song.

Toward noon,
We are flooded with a sunlight
That seems to blaze forth.
It fills a work space.

It sits in a favorite chair.

A close look at the sticks of a tree's branches

Reveals the blush of color
At the tips,

The barely visible swellings
Along the length.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dante and Mordor: A Tale of Two Furnaces

The Cast of Characters:

Dante: Furnace #1. The Big Boy. Located in its own specially designed quarters behind Chalet 2. Designed to heat 6 non-energy-efficient chalets. Eats wood like a chipmunk eats cookie crumbs at coffee break. Mediocre performance at heat retention.

Mordor: Dante's smaller sibling. Located in the underbelly of Chalet 6. A more moderate eater of firewood and a real pro at retaining heat after the wood has been consumed, thus proving itself to be understanding of the elderly female stokers who find their names on the stoking schedule.

Fluffy: The snowplow. Runs the pre-dawn road through the village clearing the road for the work of the village during the coming day. Gives merry greetings to stokers on their way from Dante to Mordor or from Mordor to Dante when they are on the 6 am to 3 pm stoking shift. A big boy for big work in overcoming a sissy name.

Wanda: One half of the Dynamic Duo Stoking Team of "Woolsey and Young". Ascribes wholeheartedly to Two-Are-Better-Than-One theory of work distribution. Does many things (other than chopping kindling) with aplomb. Her excuse is that she is from the South where it is unnecessary to build fires for purposes of heating buildings. Gets the job done however long it takes and however awkward her performance appears to be.

Carole: The other half. Hails from California but has fire-building experience, although admittedly on a much smaller scale...a wood stove in her house. Has learned to stoke while fully clad in snowshoes. Shares her experience with her team partner. Does not wish for the public to inquire what is under the pointy lavender hat with the unsightly smut marks on its peak.

In a Supporting Role

Fire Extinguisher: Just in case the flames choose to leap from within the fiery furnace and to explore the possibilities of an even larger conflagration outside the fiery furnace.

Silent Knight: The Alarm. Should a conflagration get started, the alarm can be activated. The result is that the entire village is alerted by the cacophony of wailing alarms. The Knight will speak. Loudly.

The Thermometer: Measures the internal temperature of the furnace. 160 degrees-180 degrees, good. Above or below, bad. In their quest for perfection, The Dynamic Duo Stoking Team of "Woolsey and Young" exhibits its prowess by maintaining 170 degrees at all times...or as nearly as possible to all times...never-mind-and-we-won't mention the one-time Neslund Intervention in the stoking schedule when the fire went OUT!!! as in KAPUT. OUT!!!

The Woodpile: Piled high and piled deep...particularly when viewed by flashlight at midnight when it is your task to haul a significant amount of it into Dante's chamber for use the next morning by the morning stoking team. How high? About as tall as I am. How wide the stack? about 7-8 feet. Lotsa wood. At midnight. By flashlight. In the cold.

The Plot

Act I: Build a fire.

Act II: Look for smoke. (This place is Lutheran which means that smoke coming out of this chimney has nothing to do with the Pope.)

Act III: Pay your respects to Fluffy. Always pay your respects to Fluffy.

The End

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Love Fest

For some years now, the month of January brings to the village a varying number of college students who are here to take a class or to pursue some independent study and to participate fully in the Holden lifestyle. These students are referred to as J-Termers.

This January, the village welcomed 30 students from St. Olaf College. They were here with their professors and spent the morning taking a class and spent much of the rest of their time in fulfilling their duties and obligations to the village. Each student was assigned to an area of work and worked an assigned 5 hours each week in that area. In addition, they were assigned to all of the Holden rotating team, garbology, stoking, etc. They also participated fully in contributing to matins and vespers services with their music and with their spoken words.

To make sure that they received an initial greeting that would not soon be forgotten and assuming they probably had some vague expectations as to the strangeness and quirkiness of the place at which they were arriving, Holden villagers decided to play the quirkiness card to the hilt and dress up in hippie fashions to greet the incoming buses. And as they say...the rest is history.

The young women of Holden High School took advantage of being let out of school for the arrival of the two buses and immediately raided the costume shop for hippie garb. They seem to have all the "moves" as well.

Not to be outdone, the boys donned their own costumes and welcomed the J-Termers with a bit of drumming.

As they got off the bus, students were welcomed by the entire village. It would turn out to be a welcome that would remain in place for the month that they were here.

All too soon, it was time for them to go. Before the departure, they serenaded the village with their own version of "So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Good-Bye" from The Sound of Music .

They had watched the movie shortly after their arrival, coming in costume and singing along with all of the songs.

The group divided into smaller parts and each group had a specially written verse. Here, the girls seem to be enjoying their presentation as much as we enjoyed hearing it.

Little Aubrey Gustafson, of "it takes a village to raise a child," was the object of many farewells as students began to gather to get on the bus.

"Holden Hugs," a long-standing tradition just before the bus leaves to take guests out of the village, were in abundance when the students left at the end of their stay.

Aboard the bus at last, students fill the windows to say their final farewells.

Outside the bus, those who were not leaving waved good-bye.
A few hardy souls climbed the pile of snow outside Koinonia to add some snowballs to the farewell.

And away they go!