Holden Village

HoldenNight1“Every now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

 That quote by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was posted behind the ticket counter at the ferry dock north of Chelan, Washington. We were on our way to Holden Village and it’s a journey to get there. A 1,529 mile drive west. 20 miles by boat up a wilderness lake on the edge of North Cascades National Park. 11 miles up a gravel road on an old, repurposed school bus named Linnaea.

A first time visitor to the village noted that if you type in Holden Village into Google Maps, it says, “No route found,” and that’s part of the appeal. No phones. No email. Just an intentional, rotating community of a few hundred people who want to hike in the mountains, learn and explore new ideas, and re-center themselves before going back down the mountain.

 That’s what you say when you have to leave. “It’s time to go down the mountain.” You don’t say “I’m going back to the real world,” because as magical as Holden is, it is just as real as anyplace else. The decisions that allow this unique place to exist in this remote mountain valley can be worked into our lives once we come down as well.

 This was my fourth year at Holden as part of the teaching staff and the company is always humbling. Over these two weeks, the staff included a rabbi, an imam, an ELCA bishop, resident artists and musicians, professors exploring race, religion, and climate change, a poet and a theologian from Northern Ireland who lead a center for healing and reconciliation after “The Troubles” in their country, a pair of lawyers who champion reform of our criminal justice system, and a public theologian named Nadia who challenged the church’s teachings and expectations on sex.

 The conversations pushed up against comfort and convention and sometimes crossed that line. Differences of opinion were held in grace. Dialogue challenged expectations and norms and asked how the world we live in could be reimagined to work better for everyone. The theme of the summer was “fear not,” and we spoke of where we have found courage in the past and where we will need it in the future.

 When we weren’t in session, we hiked in the mountains. We read and napped in hammocks. Watched bears, deer and chipmunks. We ate ice cream. We gathered in glorious musical jam sessions on porches each night and when the music wound down, we walked into the silent darkness to stare up in wonder and awe at the vastness of the Milky Way, framed by towering pines and rocky peaks.

 We were happy.

 And we were refreshed. Renewed. Restored. And ready to roll. We stand at the edge of a ridiculously and wonderfully busy fall for A Peace of My Mind. The world is filled with challenges. I believe that change is possible, and we are called to it.

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