Friday, July 20, 2007

It Takes a Village: Holden Village 2007

It's taken me awhile to getting around to posting my photos and stories of our week in Holden Village in late June. Here is a link to the photos from the week--oddly enough, mostly of my children! Ah well...

Holden Village is set on the site of a former mining camp. It was donated to the Lutheran church back in the early '60s, and now it's a retreat center and self-contained community. People live there year round, but village capacity hits its peak over the summer months, when people come from all around the world (many from the Lutheran midwest) to visit, learn, and relax.

Part of the adventure of Holden is getting there...for us, it involves a 6-hour road trip to Lake Chelan, an overnight stay in Chelan, getting up early in the morning to catch the boat uplake, taking a 2-hour boat trip halfway up the lake, and then getting on schoolbuses to ride up a rocky, dusty mountain road full of amazing switchbacks up into the Cascade wilderness.

Once there, you are assigned a room in one of the lodges. Families stay in one or two rooms, with bathrooms down the hall. We were very lucky this year to score two adjoining rooms, while most of the families were crammed into one room. I'm guessing it's because Mike's mum was planning to come with us, but she had to pull out for health reasons. Meals, too, are done family style. The food is wonderful--low on the food chain, so lots of vegetarian meals (and always vegetarian and vegan options, if there is any meat or dairy in the standard meal). The food has always been excellent, but it was especially good this year. The current directors used to run a restaurant. I bought a food grinder so we could mix up meals for Nicholas, and he loved the food!

The village is full of things to do: people come from all over the place to teach classes, and there are lots of arts and crafts options too. The children have programs in the weekday mornings, leaving the parents free to attend classes or go on hikes, etc. Last time we went, 2 years ago, it was Kieran who refused to go to "Narnia," as they call it, but this time it was Nicholas. Chris and Kieran had a blast at Narnia, and I just kept Nicholas with me. I told Mike that he could spend each morning writing, so that's what he did--found a spot by the river every morning and sat on a rock.

We went with a huge group from our church--about 50 people. That makes it so much more fun, because everywhere we went, we saw someone we knew. The kids had a great time together, too. I really enjoyed making friends with some people from church who I hadn't spent much time with before, as well as renewing old bonds and hanging out with some truly wonderful people. One 80ish couple from our church came along, and it was so great to spend more time with them. They have known me since I was a little girl, and I love to see them with my own children.

Holden is in a beautiful setting, and many in our group took day-long hikes to lakes or into the mountains. Our longest hike was 1 mile each way! When the children are older, maybe I'll tackle one of those longer hikes. There's too much to do in the village, so I don't like to leave too much. I enjoy sitting on the covered bridge that sits over the river...what a peaceful place to listen to the gushing water running over the rocks.

My favorite things to do at Holden are music and crafts. I did a batik scarf, a tye-dyed t-shirt, and a inkle loom woven strap for my mandolin. Many people in our group did beautiful large weavings...Holden has many looms that you can check out during your stay. Perhaps next time I will tackle a larger project. Kieran and Chris did the tye-dye with me, and I must say our shirts came out nicely. Maybe one of these days I'll take a photo of our shirts and post it!

I always look forward to singing in the choir, because it's filled with incredible talent from around the world--people who REALLY know how to sing. Typically the songs are very ambitious, and we run through them very quickly, so it helps a lot to be a good sight reader and not to get intimidated. Choir wasn't as enjoyable for me this time as it often is, because the music director for much of the week was a very traditional choir director and music professor from Luther Seminary, and his style of music wasn't really my cup of tea...very somber and serious. I did really enjoy listening to him coach the choir and provide us guidance; he was an excellent choir director. If we did well, he would say "Bravo!"

One day it was announced that there would be a children's choir. Many of our kids were thrilled at the prospect, especially the very young ones. However, it was not what we imagined. No "This Little Light of Mine" or easy songs. It was serious stuff! The kids really needed to know how to read to follow along, and the music was not very kid-friendly. Sadly, Kieran and his 4-year-old pal Nora had to drop out, because it was just too hard.

My best accomplishment of the week was to learn to play the mandolin. I received a mandolin for my 40th birthday nearly 3 years ago, and I had not really mastered the basics yet. I practiced some in the car on the way up (great advantage of it being a small instrument!), and I plucked away at it on our first day there. A mandolin has eight strings with four notes (like a 12-string guitar, with double strings). They are all steel and sharp! I had to develop new callouses on my fingers. The chords are also very different from guitar chords, and I've been playing the guitar for 32 years! The second day we were there, someone asked at lunch: "Is there a mandolin player in the village?" One of our church party said "Yes--we have one in our group!" and I was volunteered. At first I thought they wanted to BORROW my mandolin, but no, they wanted me to play at vespers! I told them that I was a BEGINNING mandolinist, but I would give it my best shot.

It was the best thing that could have happened, because I was forced to learn those chords and put myself out there! That night they did a wonderful bluegrass vespers, with guitar, banjo, string bass, etc., and I was the mandolin. It was so much fun! My mom said that she could tell I was still getting comfortable with it because I looked so serious and I didn't sing much. (It's hard to multitask when you're learning a new instrument!)

Our children loved Holden--back to the title of this post. It is so freeing to go to a place where you can let them run around without fear of cars. Christopher we gave a longer leash to, and we generally knew where he was but we trusted him for the most part to act responsibly and not leave the boundaries of the village. I think back to when I was 10 years old, and I had so much freedom! Our kids nowadays don't get to experience that amazing freedom, and I think that is sad. As for Kieran, we kept him in sight at all times, but he too was able to run around much more freely than at home. Nicholas was passed around from arm to arm, and he enjoyed Holden as well.

The highlight of Chris' week was the talent show. Last time we were there, they had a talent show, and he was determined to perform this time. In the car, he memorized a song from "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," complete with motions and voices. When we arrived, we discovered that they planned the Open Mike for Friday night, after we were scheduled to leave. He pitched a campaign for them to schedule another Open Mike for Wednesday night, and he was successful! He performed his Charlie Brown number without a hitch (I seem to have a family of performers!), and many others in our group performed as well. Chris' pal Beck did a chicken impression, Sophie sang a song from High School Musical with her friends, Dave sang an original song he had written, and I sang and played "I'll Fly Away" with our pastor, Laurie, and Joene. Very fun.

Kieran's favorite things about Holden were the costume closet, which he hit daily. He paraded around the village in dress and wig, calling himself "Azalea" the witch! He also loved the ice cream parlor, which has the cheapest ice cream in the country ($1/scoop). Kieran also "married" a couple of the sweet girls in our church--Quinn and Sophie. He's already been married twice at age 4!

Another highlight was the GBLT Pride Celebration, which also had an open mike, and I was invited to accompany my friend Dave and his sister Susan on the Indigo Girls song "Closer to Fine." WITHOUT REHEARSING! We did okay in the end, and it was fun. Mike read a poem he had written, and we had the most delicious chocolate-mint blonde brownies and lavendar shortbread. The kids had their faces painted with rainbows and drew with sidewalk chalk.

We also enjoyed partaking in the wood-fired sauna and hot tub.

Best of all for me was the friendship and creativity, and watching my children have good, clean fun in a healthy, outdoorsy community. Coming down from the mountaintop was quite a shock after a week...

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