Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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What's the place like? Is it a monastery?

Well, Markus, if you hadn't asked, I would never have thought to use the "monastery" word, but since you did, I'll just have to tell the world it was your idea, not mine... 
From about 1937 until 1957, Holden Village housed about 600 people, who formed the working community of the Holden copper mine.  The main village had lodges for single men, a hotel and dining room, 14 houses (for the management?), a main building with a large auditorium, and a school.  Farther up the road you see below, there was the "Miner's village", containing about 150 houses for families, now  gone except for some concrete walls and stairs.  Walking around it, you can almost discern where the roads were, but the forest growth obscures most of it.
When the mine closed in 1957, the owners looked for a buyer (the price was $100,000), but no one bought, and the property was given to the Lutheran Bible Institute.  After various reorganizations and mergers, the property passed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which owns it today.  People of all (and no) religious backgrounds are welcomed equally.  (So, Jason, the answer is yes, you can come...)

The Village Center holds the auditorium where the community gathers for Vespers and Eucharist in the evenings.  It also has the ice cream!


Farther in past the Village Center, the Koinonia building holds classrooms, the library, administrative offices, and some guest rooms.


Turn right at the big tree.  Notice these three cute little pine trees.  My first job as a gardener was to free them from the long grass that was choking them and to rebuild the rocks around them.  Now they belong to me!


OK, now here is where it happens!  The kiosk contains the schedule of classes and events, and other areas have signup sheets for hiking, crafts, spiritual direction, whatever.  Latest info on how to handle a bear encounter also appears, though the actual bear sightings are logged at the Hike Haus, down the street.  I memorize the instructions and pray never to need them.
So, Karl, Elizabeths 1&2 (the two of you can decide who is who), Christian, Diane, does any of this look familiar?



Surrounding this text on three sides are pictures of Lodge 1, the building where I lived.  It's on the other side of the hotel, the better to stumble out of in the morning to the dining room, where the coffee was brewing.  The porch you see was usually filled with college students volunteering for all or part of the summer.  Especially interesting was the group of Japanese students working for the month of August, although there were many others.  We all used to sit in the living room you see, knitting each night.  My roommate Eileen, the head of the sewing room, taught those of us who didn't know how, and those who were experienced knitters joined us.  It was great, and I knitted my first garment ever - a cute little dark green hat.
Marge is so proud of me, and she even complimented me on the hat!
Across the street is one of the lodges.  Someday I'll use Photoshop or something to put these pictures together, but not today.


And across the street is the Hotel: the dining hall and kitchen, storage, registration, bookstore, laundry and post office.  Where it's happenin'


Another view of the same area, but from the right.  What you see here is the closest thing to the center of town that Holden Village has.  Notice all the grass.  It doesn't want to grow in the thin topsoil, but we made it grow anyway.


The deck is called "The Ark" because of the way it's constructed, with a pointed end resembling the prow of a boat.  Yes, the chairs were made in the carpentry shop, and I wish I had had more time to spend in them.  One evening, a trio of 2 violins and cello were playing some Haydn; another evening, a group was playing jazz - guitars, sax, drums, singers.  You never know what you'll find here music-wise.
(I'm sure, Rod, that you are rolling your eyes!  No comment...yeah, I know, no comment from you either, huh?)




Now for a little scenery.  Turn right when you enter the village and go up the hill, and you come to a circle of small houses they call chalets (no, don't ask me why, I don't know).  This is where the long term staff and teaching staff live.  It's also the site of my first job.  I watered all their lawns (there are 14 of them), plus the center area, plus the areas in back.  I'm up at 6 and out here by 6:30 am, freezing, before the sun makes it over the mountain.  Once it shows, then it's time to peel off the outer layer and raise the water bottle.


Except for one thing.  See that staircase above by the blue house?  Climb it, and turn around. 


Whatever was I thinking?  Despite the spectacular scenery, I am bone tired from hiking up this hill six times a day, scampering around the top, and hauling hose.  I'm covered with dirt and mud, and I'm soaked through.  The temperature gets up to 90 every day, and it saps energy.  I have none to hold a conversation, and I'm afraid I'm becoming quite isolated.  Not like me at all.  I have said farewell to the last bit of femininity I used to exhibit.  So, what I lack in ribbons, lace and bows, I may make up in muscle.  But I'm too tired to think about it.


Then you'll have to sit down.  And close your mouth.  And stay for a while.  'Cause this is your view.


The workday in Lawns & Gardens starts at 6 am when we all stumble into the dining room to meet.  There's Nicole, the head of the group, and Roger, David and me.  In a week, Heidi will join us.  In another week, I will leave to do housekeeping.  The coffee is good, and strong, and there is homemade bread for toast.  But at 6:30 we are out of there, and I am on my way up the first climb of "Chalet Hill".
I arrived on Tuesday, August 5, and started work the next day.  By Saturday I am bone tired.  Friday was the killer - all that hill climbing, and then dish duty at dinnertime.  Everything hurts, and I'm walking very slowly.
I am too tired to talk, to tired even to think.  I can barely manage to crack a smile, much less to laugh.  I feel only half alive.
Sunday, August 10, I'm up at 6 again.  No rest for the weary, even on Sundays.  But Saturday I took a 3 hour nap, then slept for 10 more hours, and I am a new person!  Of course, my legs are still aching, but it's a good ache - the kind you feel when you get back from a long hike.  The hill climbs are easier, and the spring in my step is back.  I can have conversations again and enjoy my surroundings.
I volunteer to serve communion at the evening Eucharist, and since we are speaking Spanish in church now, I actually remember, "El cuerpo de Cristo, dado por ti."  Today marks the beginning of the "Abriendo Caminos" week, in which many Spanish speaking people from around Washington have joined us.  The entire village is now bilingual, and it feels good to be surrounded by that culture again (hey, it really was getting a little too white bread for me...).
Evening ends with a cup of herbal tea, reading and knitting til after 11 pm.  Unheard of hour for me around here!
A word about Abriendo Caminos (in Spanish, it is literally "Opening roads" but might be better translated as "Opening ways" - Albert, do you agree?): Holden staff have worked very hard to bring this particular group together.  We are now hosting families and teaching staff, many of whom speak only Spanish.  The Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador is here, there is a poet with his high school students who left their families in Mexico in search of a better life in the U.S, among many others.  Kids are all over the place.  We would learn that for many of these families, this is the first vacation they've ever been able to take.
It's hard.  Those of us who speak no Spanish, or who, like me, speak enough to get by, don't really know which language to use.  Classes are in Spanish with English translations.  Dining room conversation is conducted primarily in Spanish.  It's tiring to try to catch all the words when people are speaking rapidly.  It's hard to sing the songs at Vespers, because there are lots of notes, lots of words, and in Spanish many words are elided, so you only pronounce part of them - and of course, the music is then two or three measures ahead of you.  (I know, Diana, I'm not that good at this stuff yet; we'll just have to do more of it at St. Mark's...)
People are complaining.  I say, "Hey, welcome to their world.  You're learning what it's like for them all the time!"
We have a fiesta on Friday, and there is chicken for dinner.  Pollo!  And flan for dessert!  I place my food on my plate, and take one of the flans.  Someone from Minnesota (who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this exercise) has also taken one. 
He says, "What IS this?" 
I give him a quizzical look.  "It's flan." 
He says, "I'll taste it, but I'm not sure I'll like it." 
I assure him his flan will not go to waste.  Sure enough, he doesn't like it.
"It's the texture." 
I say, "That's the point.  You have to let it melt behind your front teeth." 
He thinks I'm weird.  I think I'm a flan connoisseur.  (Am I mixing my languages?)  He hands it over, and I get two desserts!  (And I'm not feeling guilty either - remember all that hill climbing?)  Now, maybe all of you don't eat flan the way I do, but if you don't, you should try it!