Monday, December 28, 2009

Questions, Demands, and Thinly Veiled Threats

So you want to know about the Holden version of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem...whether or not everyone and everything arrived in time for the heralded (ahem!!) event.

Some evidence of the extent to which things have gone awry may be determined from the fact that the camel has taken refuge on the second-floor porch of Lodge 2. Just when this happened and just how the beast of burden negotiated its way up the staircase remains a mystery, but the camel seems content to remain on the porch and to survey the incomprehensible scene below.

The camel loves the press it is currently being given but I want to tell all of you straight-off that some of you are really pushy about getting immediate answers to your questions. I mean you are telling me about what is going to happen and what your state of mind will be (it starts with a p and the word I am thinking of is not perturbed!) if I don't finish the story about the trek to the manger. So I will finish the story for you... even if the story fails to live up to O Holy Night standards, which it does.

A second thing I want to tell you straight off is that (no surprise here) the flamingos did not make it. Flaming-y failed to get his head out of the snowbank, and since Flaming-y is ONLY a head, then there was no rest-of-him to get out of the snowbank and go to Bethlehem.

Miss Scarlett made it to the manger but took one look at that pitiful sight and rushed Pinky right back up to Agape's porch lest he see something he ought not see and be ruined for life. Miss Scarlett was reported to be all a-fluster, vowing all the while never to leave again...bonnet and leg warmers notwithstanding.

As seen from afar (ahem, ahem!!)...say from as far away as a satellite in outer space...things seem normal... well, for the most part. There is a manger scene. The Mary and the Joseph (such as they are) who began the journey made it to the stable. There are angels. There is a shepherd. The sheep showed up. There is a baby Jesus.

But the Baby Jesus is covered with snow!! (Maybe not enough snow if you take a closer look. ) The position of the arms is not one of a baby reaching out to its mother and the world beyond. These arms are a foreshadowing of the crucifixion that is to come. And the Crocs??!! Admittedly more comfortable than the sandals of 2,000 years ago but also a foreshadowing of the dreadful things yet to come into being. And "the swaddling clothes"? (Or as the line in the recent Holden play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, went, " the wadded-up clothes.") A (putting it politely) highly whimsical fleece scarf. (The sheep were particularly interested in this fleece thing. A reprieve. Of sorts. Perhaps.)

And the cow? The same cow that began the journey from atop Chalet Hill? So far away. So far to go. Upon determining the whereabouts of Lucille, the erstwhile heifer, I discovered a pile of rubble on the path by the kiosk. Some of the objects in the pile were vaguely familiar to various parts of the original Lucille. With her hat still affixed to her milk jug head, it seems that at some point she had completely fallen apart atop her skis.

And the yellow duckling? The first to arrive? Vanished without a trace. There is obvious villainy round and about.

At the moment we await an epiphany and The Epiphany. On January 6, the Wise Men arrive from the East. (For real. They are, we hear, en route.)

It will take the combined talents and all their wisdom to sort this out. And in my humble opinion, if they arrive with a ham!! in lieu of gold and frankincense and myrrh (also from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) they won't need to sort it out! We can all sit down and eat! Ham!

If and when...but only if and when...there is any more to report regarding these extravagant events, I will report. The world needs to know all the possibilities of madness that can befall it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Luke 2: 10-14:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Glimpses of a Holden Christmas

It is the morning of Christmas Eve here at Holden. It is a Christmas Eve that will be, by virtue of the fact of its isolation in terms of its location in the wilderness, a very different Christmas Eve from that celebrated throughout most of the nation. The buses bringing guests, food, and the mail arrived yesterday. We will not be able to make that connection again until Monday.

With all that being said, we have to acknowledge the fact that modern technology connects us via the Internet. It was my thought that on this, the morning of Christmas Eve, the world in which the telephone connects each of you to friends and family you cannot be with, the world in which you can rush out to buy that last minute gift, the world in which you can make a quick trip to a grocery store for an item needed for tomorrow's feast...that your world might like some glimpses, some snapshots, if you will, of Christmas at Holden Village.

For starters, there is this sweeping and wondrous view of Buckskin Mountain as seen from "the second level." Where we are serves both to limit the things we can do and the things we have access to and at the same time serves to expand the mind and the spirit, nourish the soul.

One of the Advent candles in the Advent wreath in Koinonia Fireside.

A Christmas ornament hung outside in a snow-laden evergreen tree.

One of the kite paper stars mounted on the front window of Koinonia.

The Christmas tree in the dining hall. It is a custom at Holden to decorate the tree with warm hats and scarves and mittens, most of which are knit by Holden guests and staff members. Early in January, the handmade items will be distributed from a local homeless shelter to those needing them to protect themselves against the cold of winter.

Reed stars, made by members of the Holden staff, hanging above the Koinonia winter worship space.

A strand of Christmas lights at the east end of Agape.

A "hotel pan" of hand made tamales made and celebrated in the feast following Las Posadas. There are no words to adequately describe them.

Looking up the Railroad Creek Valley on a frighteningly cold day. Temperatures had been below 0 degrees all night and would not get out of single digits during the day.

Frost on the window of the Hotel, looking out on the road and Koinonia on the other side.

Advent candles decorate each of the tables in the dining hall.
Merry Christmas from Holden!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Waiting on the Others to Arrive

From atop its post on the loading dock, this unassuming rubber duck is in "the catbird's seat" for the upcoming Nativity scene. It seems that it has had to endure an ignominious coating of snow and ice, but its travel time to the manger scene is zilch.

Soon, the camel and the cow and the sheep and the flamingos and the mysterious figure on skis and Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men will arrive at Koinonia.

The duck has been looking across the road at Koinonia for weeks now.

Who knew?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Flamingos on the Move

Sensing the overall migration of all sentient and non-sentient beings toward Bethlehem, the resident flamingos made a determined effort not to be "left behind" .

Flaming-y, all head and neck and no heart...literally...beneath the snow, there is no there-there...wants to prove that he is more than just a silly party animal, more even than just a gauge to measure the depth of a day's snowfall. Wearing a cap of melting snow and ice to cool his overactive brain, he calculates how best to transport himself from the environs of The Gustafson House and how to make his way to Bethlehem. He was counting on taking his direction from the stars, but the weeks of persistent cloud cover have negated his efforts in that regard. He is (excuse me) having to "wing it." When last seen, he was taking a bead on the Gustafsons' porch...facing the east, correctly enough, but this particular "Bethlehem" seems to lie south of poor, clueless Flaming-y.

Adorned in her Robert Monsen bonnet and her Carole Young leg warmers, the inimitable Miss Scarlett has decided to leave the comfort and the security of the Agape porch and to take young Pinky to see what is going on at the stable.

Many of you may remember Pinky's unfortunate beginnings and his miraculous discovery beneath Chalet 13. You will be pleased to know that this "mother-and-child-reunion" is one that has been richly blessed by the altogether unlimited powers of the human imagination.

On Approach

Unlike the story in the Bible, Joseph and Mary approach Bethlehem from opposite directions. Joseph makes his way along the road from the east end of the village. Mary slowly moves along the road from the west end of the village.

Also unlike the story in the Bible (or like it in ways we may not have guessed) both of them are filled with images of those of us here at Holden, young and old alike...Joseph with the males, Mary with the females.

Very soon now, they will be together in Bethlehem. A manger awaits.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Week before Christmas: A Question

The countdown to Christmas Day has intensified. There is only a week left. And although at Holden the countdown is directly and definitely associated with Advent, the ideas that elsewhere are more normally associated with the Chistmas season do find their way into expression here in the wilderness.

So the question is this: what do the children here do to celebrate Christmas when there is no "hot toy" to be scrambled for, no blockbuster Christmas movies to see, no TV to whet the appetite for the acquisition of more "stuff," no Santas everywhere, and no what do these children, normal children, DO on a Friday night, a Friday night one week before Christmas?

They go throughout the village, house to house, Christmas caroling!!
How is that for an old-fashioned idea?

We did not know that they were coming on this night...the event was not, you see, on the schedule. But from afar, we could hear the singing as they moved through the village, stopping at each house.

They stopped downhill from Agape and began to sing "Silent Night"...all of the verses! It the Lutheran Way to sing all the verses, even when caroling. (I approve.) They added a rousing rendition of "Deck the Halls" before turning downhill (past the angel with the traces of strawberry jam around her mouth) to an equally rousing delivery of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

And oh, I need to mention...there was a lovely accumulation of fresh snow, and they processed through the village bearing candles.

Who needs a mall?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And There Was an Angel with Curly Red Hair

Sometimes she appears to people in a dream...telling them things that they never thought of on their own but things they really need to know.

Sometimes she just shows up when people are lurching along through the hum-drum of their daily lives...telling them things that they never thought of on their own but things they really need to know.

Sometimes she just shows up...for no apparent reason...and unidentified persons assist her in her journey to Bethlehem.

Before she arrives at the manger, someone needs to inform her, angel or no, that what appear to be smudges of strawberry jam in the vicinity of her mouth are a blight on her otherwise radiant appearance.

Last seen having rounded the corner of Agape and headed down the hill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Concerning the Matter of Grilling Your Own Meat in Winter

You gotta do whatcha gotta do!

If having ribs marinated with a Hawaiian marinade means building a fire in an outdoor grill in a snowstorm, then so be it.

If grilling means tending the meat and basting it in the beam of a flashlight, here's hoping you have spare D batteries for the flashlight.

If temperatures at grillside are hovering around 20 degrees, wear enough layers of protective clothing to keep you warm at your post. You won't be able to leave it until the meat is "done."

And the smoke from the sizzling meat?

Pleasure. Pure pleasure.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Three-in-One: A Weekend to Remember

On the weekend of the Third Sunday in Advent, Holden celebrated three major holidays.

Festivities began on Friday with the recognition of the first day of Hanukkah. Susannah Goodman provided a menorah and lit the first candle of the week. On Thursday, she will lead the village in a more in-depth celebration.

About 20 of our friends from Yakima who were here for Abriendo Caminas returned to the village to lead us in the enactment of Las Posadas.

Led by Mary and Joseph and a band of angels, members of the community processed through the village in search of "a room at the inn."

At each of the sites designated as a possible resting place for the night, Joseph rapped on the door and was met by a band of gruff and grumpy "innkeepers" who would inform one and all that there was no space there for them to stay. Mary patiently waited behind Joseph, only to be repeatedly turned away.

A small angel accompanying the couple receives the news as well.

Members of the community gathered at the doorway to yet another "inn" have their parts to sing as well.

At the end of the posada, Mary and Joseph are finally allowed to stay. There was much celebration, and the celebration was followed by a fiesta! Hand-made tamales, music, and pinatas!

The very next morning at breakfast, it was time to celebrate St. Lucia's Day. All of the children in the village, residents and guests alike, participated. The girls were dressed in long white robes and wore on their heads a wreath of evergreens decorated with candles...lit candles! It was an amazing sight.

Karolina Vass, serves her mother Sylvia. The children served the platters of food and the coffee to each of the tables. The celebration calls for saffron bread which the cooks had somehow found the time to make after the fiesta meal of the night before.

The boys, also dressed in white robes, wore tall pointed hats and carried their lit candle to the tables to light the candles in the centerpiece there. They were the Star Boys.

The children were very intent on serving the tables without mishap and seemed to transition smoothly from a Mexican tradition on Saturday night to a Swedish tradition on Sunday morning.

Having finished serving the adults, the children pose for a group picture before sitting down to enjoy their own breakfast.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You Can't Always Rely on Duct Tape

To "keep a good head on your shoulders" you sometimes need more than just duct tape...or perhaps, you just need more duct tape!

Gravity wins. Gravity always wins.

The leg-work is impressive. The arms seem naturally positioned.

The direction is admittedly downhill and more or less in the direction of the stable.

But the point at which the head joins the neck?...a horror.

Little children, turn away.

It is generally hoped that the second biggest star will lead this poor pilgrim on his way to Bethlehem to an Emergi-Clinic along the way.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Shepherds Have Left Their Fields...

... and both fearful of being "left behind" and excited about escaping (even briefly) their nubby fields, chewed down by their own doing, the sheep are "ON BOARD"! (ha-ha) to follow the shepherds wherever it is the shepherds are going...even an inn in Bethlehem that is, as yet, unrated by either Michelin or AAA.

Their first stop on the road to Bethlehem was in front of Pastor Nancy Winder's house.

Or was it? Did the flock perhaps gather together for the journey and wait for the star AT Nancy Winder's house?

And where are the shepherds who are supposed to be "keeping watch"?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Also on the Way to Bethlehem

Looking a bit the worse for the wear and tear, this cow has made it from the top of Chalet Hill to just between Chalet 5 and Chalet 6.

If it makes it all the way to the manger on Christmas Eve, this is one time the innkeeper will be justified in saying, "There's no room at the inn!!...or in the manger either!"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Headed for Bethlehem

Say what you will about probability or improbability...propriety or impropriety...this is one funky camel...

And it is headed...with a little help from its a stable where, it is purported, a great thing is about to take place.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Moonlit Night in Winter

This cold
And dreadfully
Winter sky,
Send forth
Of glittering,
Splinter-edged light.

Ever rising,
A full
Ripe melon
Of a moon
And discernible
The incandescent
Of the covering snow.

The whole of it
Is neither
The promise
Nor the hope.

It is the now.
It is what is.