"No roads lead to Holden,” I know this to be true, I have been their many times. For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamt of someday trekking the Pacific Crest Trail to complete the pilgrimage on foot but all my arrivals to date, have begun with hours of dark overnight driving, a magical morning ferry ride meandering 16 miles up the enchanting Lake Chelan and sometimes, at least as I remember, a near death 11 mile climb in a questionable semi-retired school bus up the famous (or infamous) Wenatchee Forest Switchbacks.
The journey to Holden is always an adventure but the feeling upon arriving is difficult to put down in words. It’s a sense that goes beyond the surface to a personal place of discovery, an inward thrill of anticipation, an awakening of passion, and a deepening of the rhythms you feel at your very core. Growing up is hard. So many people, both young and old, come from very pressing places. Places that for some had a rampant lack of kindness, few friends and even fewer encouraging words. Places of neglect, hurt, abusive and degrees of pain. Age has little to offer when one is longing for even a half a mad second of peace. A time to feel encouraged, loved, balanced and free.
“Everyone deserves a brave space, filled with love, kindness and support, to be who they are intended to be!”
I’ve heard these words and words like these many times. I have pondered this thought and soaked in its meaning allowing my thoughts to be driven by a warm and rising curiosity. What could be? What has been lost? What can I do? What is my role…my work? What do I owe and how can I serve those who could be influenced, or encouraged by me? How do I love those I don’t easily find love for?
For what now seems like only a moment there was a time when Chalet One was my house, and the village was my home. This was where I discovered my “brave space” where I learned to learn. Where I found the courage to explore. Where I ventured off, lost my way, found myself, where I failed, and where I had the strength to try again.
With a whole village at my side, I learned to pray and seek the face of God as I saw His divine nature reflected through the wild and raw wilderness. I pursued His love for me as I wandered paths that led me to waterfalls, meadows, lakes, mountain passes and scree fields.
The calm, the strength and the balance of God’s grace became my story, His new mercies became my every morning. I could know God! And all that was required of me was to believe. And so I did! I am one He counts as precious, one of His dear ones that He will never overlook or misplace.
Many of my most cherished memories and most of my favorite childhood things were found during the times I spent at Holden.
Two of them are Cloudy Pass.
Weighed down by 30 pounds of gear but feeling free as bird, my friends and I left the village behind. Passing the old miners ball field, the trail head sits just beyond the clearing. Here is where the forest thickens and during each hike without fail, here is where I would remember my deep need for trees.
Hours into the hike, the forest starts to thin; we skirt the waterfalls as we pass into the scree fields that drop us into the Hart Lake basin. Counting waterfalls as we pass, I unconsciously tip forward to find my point of balance. We stop for a brief break, some water and homemade granola. The goal is to overnight at the pass, so we push on towards Lyman Lake. The difficulty of the hike intensifies as the trail steeps up towards the daunting incline. The landscape changes from forest to scrub and back again giving us all emotional breaks from the breathtaking views.
Looking through the expansive meadows we catch a glimpse of Middle Ridge. Just as the sun begins to set, we walk the last steps to Cloudy Pass, our base camp. We all hold our breath for a moment, in awe and wonder. The beauty and the wildness of this place will always speak to me, humble me. Leaning in to hear God’s story, standing witness as the earth in all its glory gives recognition to the Creator. Tears of joy are shared in this moment of inspiration overcome by His loud whisper. Moments later my pack is thrown, my tent is up, my boots unlaced, the fire started; it is time for tea!
Cloudy Pass is the perfect combination of mint, orange peel, and chamomile. This has been my favorite blend for as long as I can remember. Breathing in the delightful aroma I love to ponder the strange truth that tea somehow encourages reflections and the forming of big dreams.
In the village, as a student enrolled in Holden High, along with my seven classmates, I spent my days between the library, the dining hall, the wood shop, the pottery shop, the “Hike Haus” and the quaintest, straight-from-the-nineteen-twenties bowling alley. Always so much to do and so much to learn. My place, my favorite spot, was fireside in the Koinonia Lodge. It was considered the heart of the Holden Village Learning Center.
Most of the village guests would hang out in there reading, weaving (Inkle looms were very popular that year!) visiting, and waiting to share their passions and experiences with anyone interested in listening. I met the most amazing folks. Authors, artists, researchers, lecturers. Some were there to teach in a more formal manner, others were on sabbatical but teaching was who they were and they just couldn’t help themselves.
These are some of the people whom shaped my way of thinking and taught me to value the remarkable interconnectedness that comes with living in community.
I was growing up. But I believe I became me in the quiet times. When the lodge was still you could find me wearing one of my many favorite sweaters and sporting the warmest of wool socks. Shoes off and feet up with a hand-thrown pottery mug filled to the brim with Cloudy Pass tea, deeply engrossed in a copy of Wendel Berry’s Unsettling of America, Josh McDowell’s More than a Carpenter or CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. The ideas I adopted from these readings are still ones that continue to define me.
It was not long before our time at Holden came to an end. With sad goodbyes and promises of letters and future visits we loaded up our gear and what seemed like a lifetime of memories and headed home. Down the switchbacks, down the lake, back in the car and back to our home.
Each time I journey back to Holden whether in person or in my mind, I am reminded of my unusual schooling and the somewhat-odd personal baselines it created. I have been so blessed and I have such a deep heart felt sense of gratitude to have lived in a place where unkind criticisms, careless words and judgmental glances were rare, and truth, love, attention, kindness, empathy and support were plentiful. A place where brave spaces could be found.
God chose to use the forest and a small group of villagers to shape me, sharpen me, inspired me, and in recent years compelled me to awaken all that I discovered at Holden and apply it here, to the 60 acres I now call home.
It has been a great privilege to be able to share our home as the base camp for Stable Days. For the past 10 years, through thousands of one-on-one sessions and hundreds of field trips, we have been purposeful in helping the kiddos that visit our ranch find their brave spaces. Walking the trails, riding the horses, or floating downstream we are looking for inspiration and giving them room to connect, a place to contemplate what they hope for and the courage to dream not just big, but grand ideas for their future!
Stable Days, like Holden, is "A Place Set Apart”. A place where kiddos, their families, ranch volunteers, and our mentors can all lean into our personal potentials, be stirred, challenged, tested, measured, or simply be found. A place where calm covers chaos, grace covers criticism, prayers can be spoken, hurts can be healed, laughter can be heard, and the adventure that is life can be explored. If you’re not already a part of Stable Days, we’d love to meet you, serve you or perhaps serve along side of you. The journey is brighter and the burdens are lighter when we walk it together.