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:

“I’m tired all the time, grumpy and irritable,” confessed one of my usually cheerful hiking companions ...

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


                               Bus departures are always bitter-sweet. April 30 will be my last.

SENT AND SOMEWHAT EQUIPPED
Every New Season – April 22, 2014
By Mary Koch

          Quite possibly, the most important thing one does at Holden Village is leave town. The village mission statement says Holden is here “to welcome all people into the wilderness to be called, equipped and sent by God …” Presumably “sent” into the world to do good.

          I will leave at the end of April, seven months short of the commitment I signed. I came to Holden because I’d looked at its communications program, saw things that I thought could be changed and decided that would be interesting. I figured it would take about three years. At the end of two, my vision was not complete, but I realized I’d gone as far as I could. I was treading water, which is not my favorite activity. I either swim laps or get out of the pool. Still, there’s that sticky wicket called commitment, especially for those of us who subscribe to Horton’s mantra: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100 percent.” The question is, faithful to what and/or whom?

          While anxiously treading water, I chanced upon John O’Donohue’s blessing poem: “For The Time of Necessary Decision,” which includes these lines:

          “Often we only know it’s time to change

          When a force has built inside the heart

          That leaves us uneasy as we are.”

          In short, the rest of the poem encourages the reader to move on.

          Per Holden’s mission statement, I figure I’ve been “called” and now I’m being “sent.” But that part about “equipped …”

          It’s such a prosaic word. Because this is a churchy place, I’m tempted to recall those old militant hymns, like “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I can see myself marching down the mountain, equipped Joan-of-Arc style with a breastplate and sword.

          No. If I have any equipment to take away, it’s in the areas of humility and hope. I don’t recall ever praying specifically for humility, but this place can dish it out—proof that God blesses us abundantly with that which we don’t even know we need. I do not claim to have become a humble person. That would be an outrageous oxymoron. Yet the doses of humility tell me that like cod liver oil, it’s not nice to swallow but good for you.

          As for hope, it comes from living and working with an inspiring bunch of mature and insightful 20-somethings. One of them, knowing I’m about to turn 70, asked me for a sample of the wisdom I’ve supposedly gained over my great span of years. The only wisdom I could offer was recognition of the wisdom in her.

          When we were in our 20s, my generation was committed to saving the earth and ending war. Another commitment unmet. But it’s a legacy we’re passing on, and one that these 20-somethings seem willing to accept. Like Moses and Martin Luther King Jr., my generation won’t make it to the promised land on earth. These 20-somethings may not either, but it’s a commitment and vision worth keeping.

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End note: I’ve been asked, “What’s next?” Among other things, I’m about to enter that rite of passage for those of a certain age. It’s called “down-sizing.” I’m buying my neighbor’s house in Omak and selling mine, allowing me to continue living on the Okanogan River while moving from 3,000 to 1,000 square feet. In about a month or so, I’ll start a blog about the experience, inviting comments and advice from those who have been there, done that.