Every New Season

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter
under heaven
(
Ecclesiastes 3:1)
 

ESSAYS ON LIFE
AT HOLDEN VILLAGE
BY MARY KOCH

This page is dedicated to the memory of my late husband, John E. Andrist, who died at the age of 75 on Sept. 25, 2007. Now I am living for the two of us, having moved from our home of more than 30 years to  Holden Village in Washington State's North Cascade Mountains. It is said to be the most remote, year-round community in the lower 48. I invite you to join me as I explore Every New Season in this spectacular setting.

If you would like to receive my essays directly by e-mail, or if you would like to respond to me, please e-mail:

marykoch@marykoch.com


Previous essays in this series:

A hard crust on top of the snow means that the season for making snow angels is pretty much over ...

It’s been a week of bridges, of recognizing how much we need them ...

Friends write to me of spring’s arrival in the Okanogan lowlands: warmer temperatures, bird songs, forsythia and balsamroot blooming, bulbs sending green shoots skywards. Here in the North Cascade mountains, the harbingers of spring are different ...

 “MAAARRRYYY!” My name echoed through the old building called Koinonia, where my office is one of several on the second floor, tucked above meeting rooms, library and the “craft cave.” I wondered how many people besides me were being alerted that something was up ...

Holden Village takes hilarity seriously. Thus S.O.B. Day is celebrated religiously every February ...

“Three days coming, three days here, three days going”—the traditional wisdom about colds that I learned decades ago...

 “All that motion, and so amazing because it’s in total silence,” said the woman at my lunch table as she gazed out the window at falling snow. Poetic, but there’s something in me that won’t let a generality pass without scrutiny ...

  How cold has it been? Three sets of pajamas worn one on top of the other, two pair of heavy socks and five blankets are all you need for a good night’s sleep...

The late Mollie Ivins, a wise and witty journalist, described her beloved home state of Texas as a place where “too much is not enough.” I believe that description applied to the entire country last Sunday—even at Holden Village, where excess is tolerated only in moderation...

The most challenging part of living at Holden Village is not the remoteness, lack of cell phones and TV, extreme weather, frequent power outages, nor scarcity of hot showers ...

 “This is the way it should be!” a young man shouted. Snow was falling ...

This new year of 2014 seems nicely rounded to me ...

 “Cold December flies away …” and not a moment too soon ...

Go? Stay? For the past forty-eight hours I’ve been dithering over whether to leave the village ...

  Surely everyone, especially as we grow older, experiences times of angst when we wonder whether our existence has made any difference in this world ...

I lost a friend last week, the oldest friend I had. Old, not in the sense of age but longevity ...

My first trip to Holden Village was Holy Week 2011. I came to honor the memory of my father, who loved Holden, but I admit that on that first visit, I didn’t quite get it ...

After nearly two years of proving myself to be an earnest, responsible member of the community—steadfastly showing up for my shifts of sorting garbage, stoking wood-fired boilers and scrubbing crusty pots and pans (all in addition to my real job as communications coordinator)—I was finally given the position of responsibility for which I yearned ...

Last week we had heavy rain along with thunder and lightning. Consequently there’s a water shortage. It’s the kind of paradox you get used to here ...

I stripped bare naked, thinking I’d go swimming. But the instant my foot went numb as I slipped it into the glacial waters of Holden Lake ...

I knew my day of “Grace” would come eventually. Not “Amazing Grace.” Grace, in this instance, is a 23-foot inboard speedboat ...

    This is postholey season ...

“Aren’t you proud?” Rebecca asks as we eat lunch in a high mountain basin, gazing at vertical glaciers that feel so close I imagine reaching out to touch them ...

About a mile west of Holden Village is a large clearing in the forest, the site of a labyrinth fashioned after the famous one at Chartres Cathedral, near Paris, France ...

This village takes fire seriously, aggressively protecting its historic wooden buildings that are well dried after 75 years. Therefore I have no excuse when, supposedly participating in a fire alarm last week, I fell into a pile of powder snow, laughing so hard I couldn’t get back onto my feet ...

Thanksgiving weekend at Holden Village is similar to many American households: football preceding a sumptuous turkey dinner, earnest prayers of gratitude, cross-generational card and board games with the staccato of ping pong in the background, and finally, the snowy and solemn processional to the Blessing of the Composter. The huh?

Seasons do not evolve here in the mountains. We do not slowly rotate from autumn to winter, luxuriating in lingering sunny days, watching golden leaves drift slowly into piles. No. It’s more like someone clicked a switch ...

 Poof! Summer has vanished like multi-colored soap bubbles that briefly shimmer and then disappear ...

What does a hiker on a hot day in the North Cascade Mountains have in common with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner?

A guest asked me, “Do you get so you just take the mountains for granted?” ...

    I wonder what it is that makes a house a home. I’ve lived in a number of houses, but didn’t always feel “at home” ...

“All you can do now is pray.” So often, we hear those words in a medical setting – the examination room, the hospital corridor, even at the patient’s bedside. It is said with a tone of resignation ...

 Sometime or other, when I was distracted with other matters, the splendid silence of winter dissolved into a short and diffident spring from which summer has suddenly emerged ...

I spent my 68th birthday yesterday trying to recall the previous 67 – or as many as possible ...

The surest sign of spring at Holden Village is the arrival of two busloads of workers ...

Spring at Holden Village is both a state of mind and an exercise in determination ...

During a brief visit home last week, I realized that while my neighborhood looks the same, it will never again be the same ...

Last week – Holy Week – marked a one-year anniversary for me ...

 Perhaps someday I will live in a senior citizen community with folks my own age ...

If Holden Village, with its Lutheran roots, were to have a patron saint, I would nominate Katharina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther ...

You may be lingering at the table after a meal, or you may be waiting for a meeting to begin or the boat to arrive, or you may be out on the trail on a snowshoe trek, when more than likely, someone gives you a gift: their story ...

In addition to our regular jobs, all volunteers and staff at Holden share three rotating assignments to keep the community going ...

Even at Holden Village, one dresses for the opera. Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte was playing Thursday night ...

Holden Village is so remote and tiny, it doesn’t even merit a dot on the map. Yet I feel as if I’m at the crossroads of the world ...

Just when I was finding my groove, we had “Stop Day” ...

To get home you have to go out – a strange turn of phrase for someone raised in a family of baseball fans ...

 I had a dream the other night about Holden Village. Most people here would classify it as a nightmare ...

My first snowshoeing trek was neither what I anticipated nor desired ...

Thursdays are "Hunger Awareness Day" in the village, which means we get rice for
lunch ...

This cozy little village snuggled in its mountain valley can be a scary place ...

If I thought I would escape the ghosts of Christmas past by coming to this isolated mountain village, I was dead wrong ,,,

When I told a younger friend that I was moving to Holden Village, she asked with confusion: "What is that? Some kind of assisted living?" ...


This is my third series of weekly essays. The first series, Journal of Healing, described my years of caregiving for my late husband. The second series, A Widow Bit, explored  a caregiver's life after her loved one has died. To read essays from these series, go to:

Widow Bit Index

Journal of Healing Index


Mary Koch is a veteran news reporter and editor. She was an Associated Press editor before marrying John E. Andrist in 1979, when she joined him in editing and publishing the Omak (Washington) Chronicle. They sold the newspaper in 1996. She continues to work as a writer and editor, currently living in Holden Village, Wash.


Copyright Mary Koch, 2013


                                                                Late winter forest begins to reveal itself

THE IDEAS OF MARCH
Every New Season – April 6, 2014
By Mary Koch

          “I’m tired all the time, grumpy and irritable,” confessed one of my usually cheerful hiking companions. Then she uttered the village-wide mantra I’d been hearing for weeks: “It must be because it’s March.” I reluctantly pointed out that March is over.

          We at Holden Village do not get spring fever because, well, spring is pretty much a missing season. But we do get this weird kind of angst because SOMEthing is happening. The road is mud, the paths slush. Yet there’s still nearly four feet of snow on the ground, and shaded snow banks can last into June.

          I was raised to believe that robins are the definitive declaration of spring’s arrival. Saturday morning, after slip-sliding along a hundred or so yards of mushy path to the dining hall, I peered skeptically at a robin perched on a snow bank. It peered back.

          “What!?” it seemed to say. “WHAT!?” and flew off.

          By afternoon, I hadn’t seen my above-mentioned hiking companion. I suspect she spent her day off hunkered in her room, reading a book or sleeping. A day of solitude is balm when you live in the close quarters of a tight-knit community and winter won’t go away.

          A guest, an Episcopal priest from North Carolina, mentioned she was going snow shoeing, and I offered to join her. A number of guests who usually come in summer are visiting now because of the mine remediation project. Holden will not be able to accept guests after April 21 as construction gets underway again. This guest was better acquainted with the summer village.

          We walked a quarter-mile or so along the muddy road before we reached a trail and donned our snow shoes. Trails close to the village, which when I first arrived seemed exotic and even scary, have become routine. Now I walk them because I’m on my way to somewhere bigger, more challenging. 

          Our snowshoes kept us on top of the thin crust of ice most of the time. Occasionally, with no forewarning, the ice would collapse and we’d momentarily struggle to maintain footing. I walked through the familiar landscape, occasionally missing the path but not concerned. By now I know the territory. Just another day in the wilderness.

          Suddenly my companion called out, “Oh, this is so beautiful! I love this in winter! Maybe even more than summer!”

          I thought about how it looks in real winter. How the trees are smothered in blankets of white. How you glide silently through feather-weight snow instead of crunching on top of a not-to-be-trusted crust. I thought about trying to describe to her how much more beautiful it can be. And then I saw it through her eyes, and I had to admit: this late-winter forest, just beginning to reveal itself, has the allure of a stripper shedding her first item of apparel.

          My companion was having one of those it-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-this moments. And because she was, I could too. March is over, and yeah, it will get even better than this.