“They call it regional, this relevance–the deepest place we have…Everything we own has brought us here: from here we speak. —William Stafford, Lake Chalen
In winter everything slows. Even walking the several hundred meters between the school where I work and the chalet where I live takes time. In Holden Village, we wear boots and Yaktrax, wool hats, and down coats. We stomp paths through snow higher than our heads. We learn the textures of our weather and dress for the dryness or wetness of each day.
I live in a Lutheran retreat center built on the site of an old Copper Mine—a place sustained by volunteers, a community centered on spirituality, service, and a desire to live light on the land. We power our buildings through a hydroelectric plant and heat our houses using wood-burning stoves. We have no cell service, no television, no radio. In winter mail comes only three times a week.
I moved to Holden Village over a year ago for a job. I wanted to teach in a setting where the woods could be my classroom. I wanted to live in a place which moves slow. I wanted to watch a set of mountains long enough to know them by their snow and shadows.
Isolation builds intimacy, with people and with the land. At Holden we’re three to five hours from the nearest pay phone or convenience store. The Lake Chelan Stafford writes about is my highway home. There’s no road into Holden. I come and go by ferry on Washington’s deepest lake: fifty-five miles of freshwater, cut into the Cascades by the slow-scrape of alpine glaciers. The deepest place we have. My car is parked on the far side of the Lake Chelan, in a space I rent where the ferry docks.
In Holden, we’re marooned by wilderness area and peaks too high and sheer to transport people over. We’re left with lamplight and snowfall, porch sitting, snow-shoeing, simple meals, community, and time. We’re left with the ground beneath our feet, the peaks above our head, our footprints, and the snow that will erase them by the time the sun rises tomorrow.