Sabbatical Stories

Wishing for the Peace of Holden!

posted Jul 25, 2017, 2:50 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

I know people without a TV!  No NCIS, no PBS, no HGTV!  It seemed appalling in this day and age! But then I went to Holden Village and was shocked into “disconnection.”  In the same day, TV, internet and cell service were stripped away.  I was in a remote area of the Cascade mountains at Holden Village.  Even print news was not timely.  Newspapers arrived several days late if at all.  Suddenly I did not know what the POTUS was doing or how the world was responding or even what NOAA was predicting for the next day. It is said that if the world ended Holden would not find out about it for a couple of days!   Holden and its people were the only world I knew!  I read more, slept more, visited with Larry and made new friends.  I just sat and enjoyed the scenery or took a walk on one of the mountain paths.  We played board games – no internet opponents! I lingered over coffee and good conversation with a new friend or a good book.  I wrote and read and worshiped and painted.  I had no clue what was going on in the world outside Holden.  All I experienced was the world that touched me and the world I touched.  My back no longer ached, the cold sore and heart palpitations that I had when I entered Holden quickly went away.  I breathed deeper, slept better and laughed more.  We have been away from Holden for a week and a half.  Back in the world of cell, and internet and TV.  We are frustrated by poor internet connections, irritated (and shocked) by the state of world affairs and angered by the unfolding events in our own country over which we have no control.  We have been hooked once again by Facebook and email.  We have been to Seattle, the Oregon Coast and now San Diego (in a week and a half!) Everyone is in a hurry to see the sights, to find the next meal, to visit another shop so they might find that one thing they just can’t live without.  There are no more new friends or lingering conversations with strangers or a good book.  Now my back aches, I am not sleeping well, and we are eating and drinking too much.  I am becoming anxious and irritable.  The peace of Holden appears to be gone!  So this morning I am up before most of the hotel’s revelers, there is a gentle breeze, I hear the birds but little else.  I have read a chapter of a good book and sat in the quiet with a cup of coffee pondering how to return to the peace of Holden in the midst of a connected and chaotic world.  Maybe I should begin with the TV!   

Sun in San Diego and beyond!

posted Jul 25, 2017, 2:42 PM by Grace Lutheran Church   [ updated Jul 25, 2017, 2:43 PM ]

The weather in San Diego is beautiful!  I can see why one would enjoy living here, if only for the weather.  We have enjoyed our stay though very different from the slow pace of Holden or the windy Oregon Coast.  We took a wonderful tour of the historic Del Coronado Hotel and learned more about how the “beautiful” people of the past… and present vacation.  It is a remarkable facility and the setting could not be more breathtaking.  We had no commitments in San Diego and took the time to relax, walk the beach, eat well, read and do a bit of writing.  Since my computer died, Larry has graciously been willing to share his with me a bit.  We had a balcony on our room that looked out on a courtyard.  There we sat often enjoying the warm breeze.  One morning the lock to the door to the balcony broke.  It took most of the day to get a maintenance person to fix it but not to be deterred from enjoying the beautiful day.  I climbed out the window.  Walking on the beach on our final morning there, we witnessed Navy seals distance-swimming on the horizon beyond the beach.  Well, we saw the boats accompanying them and some very black dots moving through the water.  We were told, and must believe, they were Navy seals.  We also were told that sometimes they can be seen running on the sand in full gear.

From San Diego we had to return to LA to board the train to San Antonio.  On the way we stopped in Irvine to meet my mother’s cousin Helen Anne and her daughter.  Helen Anne is 94 and she reminded me not long ago that I should visit her now because she might not be here much longer.  So we stopped!  We had a great lunch at one of her favorite steak places!  They were trying out a new dish which they were considering putting on the menu.  It was pork tenderloin pounded somewhat thin, breaded and then pan fried.  I desperately wanted to tell them we had been doing that in Indiana for a long time!  I did refrain.  Carole ordered it and when it came it was a “tenderloin” though without the bun and served with roasted veges and salad!  But a tenderloin no less.  It was good to see Helen Anne and reminisce about a visit I made with my parents and sisters to California nearly 60 years ago though she didn’t seem to remember it!  She is 94 after all.  We caught up on the news of family and then boarded the train for the next leg of our journey! 

The Sylvia Beach Hotel

posted Jun 30, 2017, 7:04 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

A good rest in a historic Portland hotel!  The hotel was built in 1906.  Though now it is an Embassy Suites, it was once the pride of Portland – the Multnomah Hotel.  Many rich and famous had slept here including many presidents.  Though the hotel had been modernized over the years, the lobby has been restored to its original beauty.  We rose early and found our way across the street to pick up our rental car and head to the Oregon coast.  On the way south we picked up Sue.  I have known Sue since birth.  We were next door neighbors.  Sue is one of my “oldest” friends! After loading Sue, wine and luggage in the car we headed down the road to Wilsonville where we met Lorin, a seminary classmate.  Over breakfast we caught up on the ups and downs of our first 11 years of ordained ministry.  We shared our highs and lows, laughed and nearly cried.  It is cathartic to share with one who has walked in the shoes you have walked.  We parted vowing to meet up again before the next 11 years have passed. 

On down the road, we passed several wine tasting venues…they called to us as the Sirens of the deep called to the sailors.  We were lured in to taste and to buy some of the delicious nectar of the vine!  Then continue our journey winding our way to the sea!  Our destination was Newport, Oregon and the Sylvia Beach Hotel.  Built in 1912 it maintains much of the charm of an earlier day but has been renovated to provide the comforts of today.  The stairs creek, and the floors are uneven.  No room is alike in size or arrangement.  And each room is decorated to reflect the theme of a different author. We stayed in the Collette room.  She was the French author of Gigi and known for her romance.  The room was pale pink and somewhat frilly but we picked it for its view, balcony and shower. There were rooms for Hemingway, Seuss, Fitzgerald, Austin and many more.  (On the morning we were leaving I passed the Agatha Christie room and the door was standing open.  There was a pale, thin woman wearing a long beige dress, lying on the bed.  She appeared to be dead.  It seemed so appropriate! As it turned out she was not dead just tired from her journey but it gave me a bit of a start!) 

The weather was changeable – mornings grey and cloudy and the first 2 evenings were beautiful and sunny.  But it was always windy.  The last couple of days were cold, rainy, and windy and no one made any excuses… “This is the Oregon Coast!”  The plans to sit on the balcony and read were out so we became tourists – watching for whales, going to a whale museum, watching for whales in another spot, eating, buying postcards, finally seeing some whales at the third stop and eating some more!  Our room had a fire place so we lit a fire to drive away the chill, drank some wine and played cards! 

Meals in the Hotel were a community event.  An abundant breakfast was part of the package.  We met people from France and Ohio and many from the Pacific Northwest.  Most times the conversation was light and fun and everyone shared a bit of their story.  Occasionally one finds oneself at a table with a few who feel the need to compete for the title of most knowledgeable, well-traveled, well-read. Such a spirit dominates the table and silences much other conversation.   I guess when the theme of the hotel is books and people come there because of their interest in books, reading, intellect…that can happen! 

As one is invited to do at Sylvia Beach, I explored the hotel and found, on the third floor, a wonderful cozy library full of books, comfy chairs and couches, and big windows that looked out on the ocean.  A neighboring room held coffee, tea, and a puzzle table.  But the best find was up another flight to the attic where, under the eaves, was nestled a cozy chair looking out on the pounding waves where I settled in to read and write in my journal.  I could have spent hours there.  But it was soon time to move on.  Back to Portland and to the train to head toward San Diego!

The Grandeur of Nature

posted Jun 26, 2017, 10:20 PM by Grace Lutheran Church   [ updated Jun 26, 2017, 10:39 PM ]

 “One feels the insignificance of man when he sees the grandeur of nature."  My grandfather, Henry Solum, 1893 January, speaking of the Black Hills.  (Photo Holden Village June 2017)

Next Stop Seattle

posted Jun 26, 2017, 9:38 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

After we reluctantly left Holden Village, we made our way by bus, boat and car (thank you Sara and Russell for taking us to the hotel) to Wenatchee.  Early the next morning we boarded the Amtrak train for the relatively short trip over river, woods and mountains to Seattle.  We arrived midmorning, checked into the Westin Hotel, grabbed a snack, unpacked and headed for Pike Market.  The Market is known for its fresh fish, produce and flowers.  It is also jam packed with little souvenir shops and restaurants.  We found an Italian market that sold every food “stuff” Italian including a wonderful deli.  We grabbed a sandwich and joined others at a communal table.  Once again we were surprised by the connections made in conversation with strangers.  The family across the table had been many times to Holden.  Good conversation was  the highlight of our lunch.  Following lunch we were joined by Angie.  Angie had formerly lived in Fort Wayne and worked with Larry.  We continued our stroll through the very crowded Pike Market and then took the ferry to Bremerton across the bay. I am not really sure what body of water we crossed or what direction we were going but the afternoon was warm and sunny and the conversation was good so the trip was delightful.   The afternoon was filled with wine tasting and wandering.  We ended our excursion with supper in a Greek diner.  As we returned to the hotel we passed a Target in the middle of the city!  It seemed an unusual location and appearance but we found that inside it was the same Target you would expect in the suburbs. 

Sunday we took the monorail to the site of the 1967 world’s fair to see the Chuhuly Glass Exhibit.  Larry was a bit leery of the whole concept of the monorail.  He seemed to wonder if it could even stay on the track.  AND he hates heights!  But we didn’t fall off the rail and we got there without harm.  The exhibit was beautiful.  The imagination and skill of the artist with blown glass is remarkable.  After we returned safely to city center, we walked once again to the nearby Pike Market to get some of the fresh cherries for the train!   What chaos.  The place was packed, lines long and the people pushy! We did escape with our lives and decided to recover at a nearby gelato stand!  On the way back to the hotel we made a stop at Target to buy a suitcase.  The wheel on Larry’s suitcase had broken and there were miles to go before we got home.  A limping suitcase would make the trip much more difficult. Early tomorrow on to Portland and the Oregon Coast.  

The Holden Story

posted Jun 23, 2017, 3:20 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

Just a bit about how Holden Village came to be…
Holden Village was the community of the Holden Mine from 1938 until 1960 when the mine was abandoned.  During the time that the mine was running the village housed the mine workers and their families.  Because of its remote location, it had to be self-contained.  Besides housing for approximately 450 people the town included a hotel, snack shop, post office, barber shop, bowling alley, pool hall, school, hospital, dining hall and recreation center.  It was felt that competing religious organizations would create dissension in so small a community, so there was no resident, paid clergy.  Visiting clergy, however, were welcomed on a rotating basis to offer monthly worship services.  Beyond the village that still stands today, was Winston, an addition of approximately 100 houses that were burned down when the US forest service took over in the 1962. 

In 1957 a young man who would soon be a student at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle, saw an article that the Holden Mine was closing and the village would be sold. He thought it would make an ideal retreat.  He sent a request hoping for a “deal.”  The initial response was: yes for $100,000.  After repeated proposals to the mine superintendent over the next 3 years, the village was donated to the Lutheran Bible Institute in exchange for a letter recognizing the value of the donation at $100,000.  Over the next several years the Lutheran predecessor bodies of the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod planned and prepared for what we know today as Holden Village.  (An odd connection with the LCMS, but the church body virtually ignores any participation by their members.)

Holden is truly unique.  Its isolation has generated a radical care for the creation around it.  Everything is recycled, composted, burned or hauled out of the village to a landfill. (You think I am a recycling fanatic.) Deer roam the streets and bear are often seen nearby in the woods.  The rushing Railroad Creek that runs through the village provides not only their water but their power.  The food served is often vegetarian because the waste disposal system does not deal well with animal fat!  At one point I panicked because I didn’t know what bucket the dental floss had to go into.  (Biowaste – the only garbage that is not sorted by the garbology team.)

The isolation also requires a very deliberate effort to “get along.”  The staff and guests come from all over the country in many shapes, sizes and backgrounds with all sorts of baggage.  Differences are unavoidable, but realizing this there is a very strong effort to communicate, to understand - to get along. 

Tradition is important at Holden and it is the tradition that many look for as they come back year after year, generation after generation. Worship, welcome, fellowship and learning all are connected to that tradition but with and eye on how this place can remain a refuge and place of peace and healing in the midst of a very chaotic world. 

As we left Holden we were hungry for a good burger and pop! We NEEDED to check email and look at face book (there was nothing much to see) but in fact longed to remain!  We will be back.

Holden 1

posted Jun 23, 2017, 1:16 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

We arrived at Holden Village on Friday June 1 after a long and somewhat delayed train ride which began in Waterloo, Indiana, passed through eight states and ended in Wenatchee, Washington.  A late train means missing the bus.  Being late means you wait…for the next bus…maybe to the next day if we missed the boat! Getting to Holden means a bus from the train station, a boat up Lake Chelan (at 15 miles an hour for 37 miles) and then another bus.  Honey, the old school but took us up a steep grade in a series of 9 switchbacks to a place like no other, Holden Village.  Even before we boarded the bus at the boat dock we got a sense of the unique nature of The Village.  Old and young, staff or stranger every on pitched in as a human chain to transfer the luggage and assorted boxes and bags of Village staples from the boat to the bus.  Once on the bus the driver, an elderly woman with long grey hair, led introductions.  There were only a few of us.  It was the first week of guests in 4 years (another story).  Summer staff was still arriving.  The bus was welcomed back to the village by…everyone…waving and smiling.  We soon learned that all gather twice each day in the heart of The Village, once to say goodbye to those leaving and again when the bus returns to greet those just arriving. 

The scenery is breathtaking.  A valley surrounded by tree covered, snowcapped mountains.  My song for that day – “How Good Lord to be Here.”  I began to breathe more deeply.

Lunch was the first order of the day – routine: wash hands, head through the cafeteria line, find a spot to eat!  Peg, who greeted us at the bus, ate with us.  We later found out that Peg and her husband are the directors of the camp.

Chalet 2 was our home for the week.  It was simple but comfortable.  Lots of storage space for our clothes! Comfortable beds.  Bath and good shower down the hall. On the main floor there was a nice gathering space with a fireplace and a large porch with a swing.  A quiet couple whose daughter was on staff had the room across the hall.  A young mom and her 2 year old were down the hall.  Upstairs were Catherine and Zander who loved to play board games.  Cat and Zander had just graduated from college.  Zander is working at a winery in Wallawalla, Cat is heading off to the Peace Corps.  When they found out that we were making a train trip they decided we needed to play Ticket to Ride!  It was a new board game for Larry and though I had played a couple of times I had never won.  We learned that Cat and Zander are VERY competitive and I am sure they thought we were easy marks.  I won the first two game…needless to say the gloves were off after that. During her time off Bri, the registrar and longtime friend of Cat, joined the competition. After a couple of days Catherine’s parents arrived.  With Catherine, Zander, Sara, Russell and Bri we continued to play games, share stories and refreshments, and get well acquainted.  Holden is a good place to make friends.

Meals were served in the big camp dining room.  You sat where ever there was an open spot, though we soon formed the habit of eating with the same people.  Larry, his friend Patty, Dan, and Paula.  Occasionally others would join us.    

There was no schedule.  Though meals were served at set times, there were evening vespers, and the chance to take part in a variety of activities, nothing was required.  We didn’t miss a meal of course and vespers were a real treat. (It was a special experience to sing Holden Evening Prayer in the space for which it was written.) We read and played games and visited and napped and just relaxed.  We exchanged stories and made connections with other guests and staff alike.  Holden is a very nurturing, soothing place where you experience God (though usually without naming it) in the people and the environment and the  history and the spirit of the Village.

For a short time we became part of The Village but on June 9th when we gathered outside the hotel in the heart of Holden, we were the ones leaving.  I now understood the tradition. We had grown close to other sojourners as well as staff and this leave taking was necessary for the community and for those leaving…a this deliberate time of saying good bye…recognizing the relationships built in this unique place and the difficulty of the parting.  

The Journey Begins

posted Jun 23, 2017, 1:09 PM by Grace Lutheran Church

As promised, I am sharing our Sabbath Journey with you. The blog has been delayed by the isolation of the Cascade mountain retreat and then the demise of my computer.  Now I write from the porch of the hotel on a beautiful, warm, sunny day I San Diego, California. 

May 31 – Up at 5 AM for the first leg of our Sabbath train trip around the West.  Amtrak is notoriously late so we were a bit surprised when we checked in the early morning to find that it was running on time.  In the “old days” we had to call an 800 number and listen to an automated update to find out the status of the train.   Now, there is an Amtrak App for your cell phone that with a few quick taps tells you when the train will arrive.  Repeated searches indicated that the train was arriving on time.  As soon as we headed out of the station to the bus hut by the tracks we found out that it was going to be 30 minutes late…then 40…then 50…  We watched down the very straight approach (I hear you can almost see to Bryan, Ohio) until, an hour late, the headlight appeared.  No problem we had hours to wait in Chicago before boarding the Empire Builder to head north on our journey to the mountains. 

Following lunch with an “old” friend in Chicago we boarded the train and settled into our Viewliner Bedroom for the 39 hour journey to Wenatchee, Washington.  I have learned that the smaller the living space the more organized you must be!  The space was small and we had too much baggage but it was home for the next two nights!  Too much baggage, don’t we all have too much baggage? But then that is a message for another day!  During the day we had a relatively comfortable couch, small table, a chair (but we could not use the chair because we had to fold it up to make room for our luggage), and a toilet, shower, sink combo all fit into a space the size of a walk in closet!  At night, it made into 2 bunks.  The bottom left only inches in front to the sink.  The shower and toilet are in the same tiny pod.  You could use both at the same time if you wished! But having said all that, it worked quite well.

On the first morning I looked out the window of the train and the song that came to mind was “I can see for miles” by the Who.  We were in western North Dakota!

Meals are included and eaten in the dining car.  You are seated with another couple and it is fun to exchange stories.  Meals, however, have changed since our last trip about 12 years ago.  No more china, the linen table clothes are covered with paper and the quality of the food has slipped. (But we still ate plenty and enjoyed it.)  There are no more regional specialties, or freebies.  In spite of the changes brought on as Amtrak tries to keep train travel economically feasible,  it is relaxing and enjoyable and the sleeper affords privacy from the noise and chaos of the other cars. 

About 6:35 AM, Friday June 2 we arrived in Wenatchee, Washington one hour late.  At 7:15 AM we boarded the commuter bus with ALL of our luggage to begin the next leg of our Journey to Holden Village. 


The Cat

posted May 17, 2017, 6:00 PM by Grace Lutheran Church   [ updated Jun 11, 2017, 5:38 PM ]

The Hermitage, Three Rivers, Michigan  - A Silent Retreat, a time of relaxation, pondering and rest!

At the Hermitage was a cat – she was an outdoor cat it seemed.  She was mostly white but her eyes and the subtle coloring of her legs hinted at some Siamese in her blood line.  I don’t much like cats! The first time I saw her she was lying on the sidewalk –right in my path – in front of the entry door.  She just looked at me – I don’t know if it was with suspicion or with welcome.  I stepped around over her but didn’t really pay much attention to her.  The day was sunny and warm so after I unpacked, I found a chair under a small tree and enjoyed the sunshine and the gentle breeze.  A gentle brush on my legs surprised me.  There was the cat. (Did I tell you I don’t like cats?) But she made her presence known – a greeting if you will – and then wandered off to lie in the garden nearby.  I would return to that chair often during my stay.  I would sit quietly with my tea and my reading and when I was lost in my reading or my thoughts – surprise! The brush of her being.  A pat on the head and she was off to another place.  Never expected, she always appeared.  (Did I tell you I don’t like cats?)  Hmm, I wonder – today I sat and petted that cute white cat and said farewell.  She is different from other cats somehow.  It makes me remember how often we say we don’t like… a group of people…show distain, distaste, complain about, judge, fear people because of their skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, politics economic standing, tattoos, piercing or age.  Maybe if we allowed ourselves to be touched by them, allowed ourselves to know the other as the child of the same God – loved by the same God that loves us, we would find we could love also.  I was blessed by that little white cat and the love she offered me.  

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