Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wonderful Week at Holden Village

Sunday night we returned from a wonderful week at Holden Village. Holden bills itself as an "ecumenical retreat center rooted in the Lutheran tradition." I describe it as a remote, sustainable mountain community, completely away from civilization as we know it. To reach Holden, one must get to Lake Chelan in the North Cascades (a 6+ hour drive for us from Portland), take a 2-hour boat ride, and ride up into the mountains for 45 minutes. The village is a former mining camp nestled in the mountains. It has no televisions, telephones, cars, or internet or cell phone access. It provides a wonderful getaway from society as we know it. For example, we didn't realize that Michael Jackson had died until some "villagers" arrived the following day from outside (and we weren't really positive that it was true because it was unverified). I didn't learn about Farrah Fawcett's death, the DC Metro accident, or the South Carolina governor scandal until I'd been back in Portland for a day.

We went to Holden with a group of more than 60 people from our church (plus family members and friends associated with Mission of Atonement). For the past several years, we've gone as a group every 2 years. For me, this was the best trip we've ever taken, because my sister and her family came along. (Nadine and David hadn't been to Holden for 10 years, and their boys had never been.) The "cousins" had a fantastic time hanging out together all week...it was the most time they'd ever spent together. In addition, our friends from Boise, Shelia and Ken and their kids, drove over from Idaho to join our church group for the week, so we had a great time catching up with them as well.

We left on Saturday, June 21, to drive up to Lake Chelan and spent an uncomfortable night camping near the ferry dock. It was uncomfortable because of the camping situation--it was a state park, and the campsites were EXTREMELY close together, with absolutely no privacy or sound barrier. So it was very loud late into the night--Chelan is a partying, happening place apparently. Then of course the sun woke me up at 5:00 a.m. I think it will be the last time we camp the night before Holden. The kids loved it, of course (especially the donuts for breakfast), but none of us were very well rested.

They also loved wrestling in the tent...sigh...

Nick has been asking to go camping again...he loved the whole tent idea!

Hanging out in a Chelan park after meeting our Idaho friends for dinner downtown

Me and Shelia on the boat to Lucerne (where we would catch a bus up to the village)

Each morning through the week, Mike would go down to the river to write--this was taken by zooming in on him--he didn't know until later that I had taken a photo of him! Good thing he wasn't slacking off! :)

One of my favorite things to do at Holden is crafts. Here is my 7-year-old nephew Ryan and my sister doing an inkle loom weaving...

Me with my weaving--I made several bookmarks; last time I made myself a mandolin strap!

The cousins in the middle of the village (after being picked up at "Narnia," the wonderful morning kids program)

Chris hanging out on the playground--this year he was in the middle school group called the "Junior Miners"--they had organized activities such as s'mores, "dock day" (when they jumped into Lake Chelan!), and forming a "junk band."

Chris with two younger friends from church--Matthew and Beck

Each night the villagers are encouraged to attend vespers in the village center--this was Nicholas' typical pose at 7:30 vespers after playing hard all day long!

Nadine and I volunteered one morning in Narnia and we had a great time! Here is Kieran with his cousins, Daniel and Garrett, in class together.

Garrett and Nicholas listening to a story during Narnia time

Nicholas and Daniel leading the "Marching in the Light of God" song!

One night they had an open mike event in the "Lift" (a small performance area in the basement of the village center). Several members of our group performed, including Kieran and Mike--here they are singing "Hippopotamus." Kieran then did a song all by himself, called "Tony Chestnut." He amazes me with his confidence in appearing before a crowd!! In his end-of-year report card, his kindergarten teacher wrote that she expected to see him onstage someday. The time has already come, I suppose!

Four of us from "Consorting with Papists" sang one of our favorite irreverent songs--"Our Father (Revised)" by Susan Werner.

We took a group of lots of kids on a 2-mile hike back and forth to Ten Mile Falls. Here we are at the falls--Kieran with his walking stick. Lots of people in our group did much longer, more ambitious hikes in the area. We were lazy villagers for the most part!
With Mike at the falls

Nadine and me at the falls

Nadine and David and kids

Shelia, Ken, and kids

Nick playing the drums on the trail guide box
The food at Holden is very "low on the food chain," mostly vegetarian, organic, and healthy. We had fish two days and meat on two days (brats one night, and pepperoni on pizza another night). The food is WONDERFUL but simple. Then there was the snack bar, where for a mere $1.50, you could get a "Holden scoop" (read: GENEROUS) of ice cream. We made regular visits to the snack bar...figuring that we were eating lightly the rest of the time!

Ryan and Nadine indulging

With our Holden scoops

Nicholas always gets vanilla!
The boys getting ready to sing before vespers

Nadine and David

I think this is the only photo I have of my parents at Holden! Actually, we didn't see a whole lot of them because they were in the same lodge as Nadine and David, and we were in a different lodge. They also spent a lot of their time going to classes and spending time with some friends of theirs.

The boys singing with actions--again, Kieran displayed his dramatic prowess!

Chris got to play drums with the band at vespers one night--and loved it!

One night we had a party just for our group--where we celebrated our pastor and her husband's wedding anniversary, ate (more) ice cream, had everyone reprise their Open Mike acts, and just hung out. Fun!!

One of many sightings of Holden deer--a few people also saw some bears! I'll stick to the deer myself...one deer even took a bite out of Kieran's ceramic tile, which was drying out in the sun. He has a wonderfully unique souvenir now.

Kieran flying down the zip line on the playground, shouting "I love Holden!!"

Waiting their turn for the zip line

My littlest performer!

Chris performing in the junk band...another of my favorite things to do is to sing in the choir. The first 1/2 of the week the village musician was a very serious musician, and the pieces he chose were very challenging and heavy. The second 1/2, the village musician was a young dad and a statistics professor at Yale, and he chose much more lively musical selections. He was also wonderful with the children! He worked with all the middle schoolers and high schoolers to develop this band made out of junk. It was great!

Moon over the village one evening

My little St. Nick--Holden has a wonderful costume closet, which is always a hit with the kids. The kids found this perfect costume for my Santa-obsessed Nicholas. I will have to try to recreate it for Halloween!

One of the final days in the village, Mom and Dad offered to watch the kids so Mike and I could take a walk. We walked down to Ten Mile Falls and found a wonderfully cool, peaceful spot by the falls where we could sit and talk. This was our view! I can never get enough of waterfalls!!

I think this is my absolute favorite photo of my sister and Nicholas!!!

Many of the kids took a tye dyeing class one afternoon, and here they are showing off their efforts. I made a tye-dyed hat for Nick, but he wasn't wearing it that afternoon...

Nick ringing the dinner bell, helped by his cousins

Here is another great photo--Nick with his cousins--here you can see his tye-dyed hat!

The last night we were in the village, they had an outdoor singalong "Sound of Music." Kieran wanted to take one of the posters (which had been plastered around the village) as a souvenir. We stayed for some of the movie, but then retreated to a porch while Kieran watched much of the movie with his cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandparents. (Another one of my favorite things to do at Holden is to sit on the outdoor porches in the evening, drinking boxed red wine we'd brought from home, sometimes singing, always laughing, and hanging out with wonderful friends! This was truly a highlight of my week!)
I have always enjoyed my time at Holden, but this year I found it especially hard to leave. Here we are hanging out on the ark (the main wooden platform in the middle of the village), waiting for our bus down the mountain.
Shelia and me

With Mike
Our group shot before departure
David and Nadine on the bus
With Mike on the bus
It's been a hard few days of reentry. I think next time I'd like to stay longer. Many people live and work at Holden year round, and I'm not sure I'd ever want to do that (perhaps when I retire!), but I could certainly stay up there for a couple of weeks. I love letting the kids run free, getting good outdoor time without watching TV...hanging out with friends and not feeling the pressure of everyday life. I savor the feeling of being away from it all, in a beautiful mountain-peaked wilderness setting.
And hooray--I finally finished my first piece of knitting!!! (in addition to making a tye-dyed hat, some beautiful bookmarks, and some earrings and a bracelet)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anniversary Getaway at the Sylvia Beach Hotel

This week we took our first romantic getaway since Nicholas was born, to our beloved Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. For the uninitiated, the Sylvia Beach is a "hotel for book lovers," where every room is designed and decorated for a different author. (As two English majors, it's almost as if the hotel was made for us!) Each room is en suite, but contain no televisions or telephones. The hotel in fact contains only one telephone and no television. Instead the lobby has a book and gift shop and a scrabble table. It's not a hotel for everyone--there is no room service, meals are served family style, and the building is old and rustic. The hotel also has two hotel cats. The third floor contains a library with comfy chairs, free tea and coffee, and beautiful beach views. The Sylvia Beach Hotel (named after a book shop owner in Paris) has that undefinable quality for us, and for many others--as soon as we walk through its doors, we relax.

Mom and Dad watched the kids for us so we could get away. I knew they were having a great time because when we called to check in, they were not terribly interested in talking to us!

Fortunately Mike had recovered sufficiently from his previous weekend's bout with vertigo to go on the trip...although he had me drive all the way down to Newport. He was still feeling slightly wobbly. We stopped at the world-famous Otis Cafe for lunch--it's been written up in the New York Times and USA Today, and we've driven past it each time we've gone to Newport but we had never stopped. They have phenomenal hash browns and molasses bread! (We stopped again on our way home and bought a loaf for Mom and Dad and one for the kids, but the kids said it was too sweet--ha!)

Mike with his omelet and yummy hash browns

Me with my simple strawberry waffle with whipped cream

Mike outside of the Otis Cafe

We arrived at the Sylvia Beach in mid-afternoon, and as has been our experience, the first day of our visit was beautiful--sunny skies, no rain. When the rooms are not occupied, hotel guests and visitors are welcome to wander and explore. Three of the rooms had been changed in the three years since we had last visited, so we were especially curious about these.

We had to take a photo of the new Tolkien room for our Hobbit-obsessed Kieran:

Mike was very embarrassed because while we were in the Tolkien room looking around, the couple who had the room arrived! I teased him because although he said he would have been horrified if we had arrived to discover other people in our room--even though he loves to poke around the rooms himself! I think it's the great illusion that he is the only one to stay in a particular room!

After checking into our room, we went outside to absorb the sun, in case it was short lived!

That big teal building in the background is the hotel--we've decided that we want to paint our house that color!

A mongo jellyfish we saw on the beach!

We saw a very interesting flock of dark birds--we weren't sure what type they were, but they flew in formation and swooped down into the ocean like cormorants.

We had dinner in Nana's Irish Pub in Nye Beach, down the street from the hotel. Here is me and my Guinness head:

And Mike and his hard cider--he avoids beer because of his wheat sensitivity:

Here is the Herman Melville room, where we stayed on the first night. It's one of our favorite rooms, but right next to the library so it can be a bit noisy.

Here are some of the lovely views out of the Melville Room windows:

Here's the beautiful sunset viewed from the library deck that evening:

The next day we moved into the new Shakespeare room, and it's now become one of our favorites! The ocean view is not nearly as great as on the other side of the hotel, but the room was elaborately and lushly decorated. I've always wanted to sleep in a four-poster bed!

The bookcase was full of carefully gathered props, each with a tag indicating the Shakespeare play and act, scene, it had been in!

That afternoon we went to our favorite Canyon Way bookstore for a wander and then down to the Newport bayfront to look in some galleries. Here's Mike riding a $4K hand-carved rocking horse from New Zealand! (The gallery owner was encouraging people to ride it!)

On the bayfront:

The view out of the window of the library that afternoon--cloudy! But I still love the views...

Sitting in the library in the cloudy afternoon:
That evening we had dinner in the Tables of Content restaurant, with delectable food and entertaining company. Food is served family style and you are encouraged to play a game with the other people seated at your table. The game is "Two Truths and a Lie," in which you tell two truths and a lie about yourself, and others have to guess which is the lie after asking three questions each. If you fool everyone, you get a standing ovation.

We were seated with six other people: a mom and her daughter and her friend, and three women who had service dogs. One of them was in a wheelchair (cerebral palsy, we think), one was legally blind, and the other one had a medical condition. The service dog women were unusual--they took forever to formulate the questions (very analytical personalities!), and when questions were asked of them, they were very cagey. The medical condition woman was actually British, and when we asked her how long she'd lived in the U.S., she said "TOO LONG!" Eventually she warmed up and her humor came out. Her two truths and a lie were very intriguing--1. she blew up a car, 2. she was put in jail, and 3. she'd been to every continent in the world. #3 was her lie. At the end of the dinner she revealed that she had a traumatic brain injury because she'd been held hostage in the Middle East! Mike is skeptical about this, mostly because she was so cagey about other details of her life!

At any rate--here are my two truths and a lie:

1. I rode a camel across the Indian desert.

2. I got stuck in a traffic jam on a crowded bus during one of China's first pro-democracy uprisings.

3. I studied tea ceremony with a former geisha.

I received a standing ovation! Which do you think is my lie?

Here's the view from the restaurant during dinner:

And the next day, a few last views of Shakespeare!

I talked Mike into trying on the cape and Bottom mask! Since we'd just taken the kids to Midsummer Night's Dream, we thought Kieran would appreciate the photo.

The decorations in the bathroom--to pee or not to pee!

And next to the basin:

Breakfast that final morning was especially entertaining, because the legendary owner of the hotel, Goody Cable, was in town. After many visits to the hotel, we had NEVER met her before. She is a fascinating woman. She told us about her year of living the alphabet...and being friends with Storm Large and Marc Acito (whose first novel I had just read while staying at the hotel)...and her latest project, to collect a story from each country in the world to share with her grandsons! She enthusiastically quizzed her guests to see if they had any stories we could share. We ended up lingering at breakfast far longer than typical, because she was magnetic. In addition to the hotel, she also owns the funky, eccentric Rimsky Korsakoffee House in SE Portland.

Wednesday, again, was sunny, and here is the view from the same perch in the library:

I did a final wander around the open rooms before we left. This is the new Virginia Woolf room--I LOVE the decor and the colors!

Here is Goody at the scrabble table:

Being our anniversary on Wednesday (19 years!), we asked a woman to take our photos in front of the hotel. She was prolific--these are only a few of her shots. Apparently she lives next door to the hotel and told Mike a funny story about a priest she knows who wrote a book about a naked priest!

We finally tore ourselves away from the place, sadly...here are two final views:

All in all, a delightful celebration of our 19 years of wedded bliss. We sincerely hope it will not be another 3 years before we return!