I spent half a day at the Silverton hospital recently while Kathy, my partner, underwent a surgical procedure. There I met the vivacious elderly manager of the visitors’ lounge before I colonized the corner chair overlooking the Japanese gardens and began to work out of my briefcase. An hour later I was still there, working away at important but now forgotten details, when the elderly volunteer approached me asking who I had come with so I’d get the word when she was out of the procedure room. Kathy, I said.
From that we got talking about our lives—mostly she talked and I listened. She’d been born in a farmhouse just a couple of miles from this very hospital. She’d visited every state in the union before settling down in her hometown to retire and live the good life with her husband. She observed knowingly that Silverton is a close-knit community, why there’s a dozen churches within a mile radius of the hospital and a lot of people volunteer in the community. After awhile she asked me what I did for a living. Business Director at Breitenbush Hot Springs, I replied. Beautiful place she said, she and her family had visited there many times over the years, what a wonderful old hotel lodge, and that giant swimming pool! Too bad the hippies got ahold of it, though. Now she has a friend who owns a store up the Metolius…..and on she went, apparently not noticing that she had dissed the very organization that I had just told her I work for.
Am I a hippy? OK, so I lived in the Haight-Ashbury during the summer of love and burnt my draft card and had a beard & hair back in the day. But I always meant well and have felt quite patriotic about the Jeffersonian principles upon which the country was founded. What’s weird with that? Maybe she was talking about the organic vegetarian diet we serve our guests. Maybe she was thinking about bathing suit optional hot springs? I’ll never know. What I do know is that she’s a good person and so am I. I know that those things we hold in common are far more important than what divides us. And I know that my conversation with her left me perplexed as to why it was too bad the hippies got ahold of Breitenbush.
Breitenbush today is a small and close knit community—a lot like Silverton when you think about it. Everybody knows everybody, we all have various jobs that, taken together, manage to keep our village functioning; from cooking to cleaning, maintenance to management, educating children to electricity production, it all gets done here. People pitch in to help if someone gets sick or needs to get their cabin painted. Breitenbush is a small human community in the forest, one that receives and serves some 20,000 guests each year.
Breitenbush is also a sanctuary, a place to bring life into balance. In a world that is so paved, so planned, so pushed out of shape, the sense of sanctuary is a threatened concept, much as the Spotted Owl is a threatened species in the disappearing ancient forest. But sanctuary survives and thrives here. You come to this place with no phones, no TV, no radio, no internet, no street noise, no sirens…and it throws you into a state of relative sensory deprivation. All that you see and hear and smell are the outpourings of the present moment, right here in the Oregon woods. You sleep when you’re tired. You savor your food. Your massage is an hour & a half of bliss. The hot springs open you to cosmic reality. It’s really quite simple.
At the end of the day, I’m glad the “hippies” got ahold of Breitenbush, though I’d call us “pragmatic visionaries” if I were choosing the label. After all, community, sanctuary and good old-fashioned hard work are enduring values, and service is a virtue. I honor all my relations, from the furtive black bear recently seen near Breitenbush to the vivacious volunteer at the Silverton hospital.
– Peter Moore. I welcome you all.