Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
This old Victorian rhyme, still honored to this day by many brides, signifies the tradition of warding off ill-fortune by the wearing of four "charms" on their wedding day. Marriage is truly an adventure, one which not only involves two souls, but the souls of their families and communities as well. And though the practice of wearing charms does not assure success in living out our vows, it does connect us to the many who have preceded us on this journey. The tradition speaks to a larger story.
As each of us share in the throes of the current pandemic, we are forced to re-think and re-imagine the meanings of our lives, our communities, our faith, and our purpose. We must do so here at St. Andrew's House as well. So, as we prepare ourselves for this new adventurous chapter, let's observe these four traditions as we vow for a new future together.
Bishop Stephen Bayne envisioned in St. Andrew's House a retreat center that would be “a gateway to a new level of Christian life.” He hoped that St. Andrew's would fulfill its promise to help our guests
To come apart from the world into the deepest of Nature’s beauty—to live in solitude and much silence—to recapture a lost simplicity and a forgotten purpose—to share in simple, country fellowship…these are the elements of life at St. Andrew’s House….So much of our daily life—including our Church life—is hurried, shallow, noisy, cluttered…here is an attempt to offer us a place where tranquility, serenity and depth are the keynotes.
The Lodge and the Cottage currently stand empty, tranquilly waiting for our guests to be allowed to return. There is a sense of expectancy, and uncertainty, in how this next chapter might look different than before, at least for a time. What will be the new challenges in our lives for the rest of this year, and into the next? How will St. Andrew's continue to offer folks to "come apart from the world?" One can ask these questions with a sense of the foreboding, the feeling of losing something cherished, or with excitement of seeing our mission embodied in creative new ways, or both.
I was talking to Chef Treacy last week about the work he is doing during this hiatus. Treacy has been instrumental in establishing a farming cooperative, called South Sound Fresh, which coordinates several local farms in supplying healthy, local produce to area providers, such as St. Andrew's, our neighbor Harmony Hill, Alderbrook Resort, and Mason County Hospital. Under his coordination, St. Andrew's is purchasing some additional local produce to help the Hood Canal School District supply food boxes to needy families each week. Treacy also noted the demand for local produce is growing during this pandemic, how people are using the opportunity to start their own gardens at home. I am hopeful that, even if we emerge from the current Stay at Home restrictions with relatively few changes, that these local efforts will continue and increase. Could the silver lining in this horrible tragedy be a new appreciation for healthy living, creation stewardship and community?
Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal. - Igor Stravinsky
Versions of the above quote have been attributed to T.S. Eliot, Pablo Picasso and even Steve Jobs. Regardless of the source, it speaks to immense debt all of us have to those who have preceded before, and to the challenge (and opportunity) to create something new from the grist mill of history. In a way, what St. Andrew's House offers is far from new; hospitality in its many forms goes back as far as humanity. In another way, we offer something completely fresh. The trick lies in "borrowing" what has been done before and "stealing" it to make it uniquely our own. In maintaining a cultural heritage, we re-create what is familiar and comforting to all of us; in offering a new experience and expression of hospitality, we create anew something that can only be found in this particular place and time.
Perhaps this phrase serves only to complete the rhyme, but I contend that it represents something more. Color represents art, the "non-essential" quality of life that makes life worth living. Specifically, the color blue, often chosen as people's favorite color, is the one found rarest in nature. "Why isn't there any blue food?" noted comedian George Carlin. "There's blueberries, but they are really more like purple." Historically, the color blue was so rare and expensive to put into paint, it was used sparingly until synthetic pigments could be developed. And yet, one need only look up to see it in abundance in the sky above, just out of reach. I have heard it over and over again, from our staff and guests, that St. Andrew's House is truly a sacred space. The Celtic tradition claims that some places on this earth possess a "thin" barrier to the heavens. St. Andrew's House seems to be one of those, in fact using the phrase "closer to heaven" as its tagline. Our God is a Creator, and creativity is the aspect of our lives that is truly divine.
This blog is an attempt to provide a creative space to explore this coming chapter of the St. Andrew's House story. I will use the above four categories as the framework, and hope that you will participate in writing it with me through your comments. We enter this new adventure together, charmed and ready. May we discover and share in the joy of the journey.