To get there, you drive up the mountain. Through the pine trees and snow drifts, you weave up and up. When you get to the lodge, the air is cold, the fog almost crystalline: There at the tree line, you're in a cloud.
For my birthday this year, we went to Timberline Lodge with our friends Josh and Keely. It had been a few years since we'd been there, but at Timberline that doesn't matter. At Timberline, it's like time stands still.
Built in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration project, the lodge perches on the edge of the south side of Mt. Hood, overlooking the valley of pine trees that stretches out beneath it. Crafted out of local timber and recycled iron; furnished with handmade tables, chairs, sofas, and beds; decorated with curtains woven from old Civilian Conservation Camp uniforms; dotted with paintings of wildflora and fauna found no further than a mile from its doors, Timberline Lodge was built by Oregonians left weary and destitute by the Great Depression. When the vast majority of the four hundred workers arrived on the mountain, they had no special building, carving, weaving, sewing, or ironworking skills. They were shown what to do by a few skilled designers, and they built the great lodge right out of the side of the mountain by hand, in eighteen months. When President F. D. Roosevelt came to Timberline to deliver the dedication speech on September 28, 1937, he said, "Now I find myself in one of our many national forests, here on the slopes of Mt. Hood, where I've always wanted to come," and when I sat in the little history room watching the video and heard him say it, I cried, remembering what it was like to sit in a wheelchair and want things, feeling what it is like, in that moment, to get them. I have always been very moved by this mountain, and by this place. I know from my own experience that making things with your hands can turn times of desperation and fear into moments of grace and peacefulness, and the objects that result have earned their sincere and soulful beauty. When I walk around Timberline, touching the banisters, I am so grateful that we've been given this gift. It's been a gift, in different ways, to so many people.
We arrived at noon.
Just in time for lunch.
And then we settled in. The head house is octagonal, with big windows on every side, and sofas set up by fireplaces. Early in the afternoon, there are lots of people visiting. I waited for an open spot by the fireplace and we moved in. Andy asked me how I'd scored the spot and I said, "Oh, I just walked up to those people said, 'Excuse me, it's my birthday and I was wondering if you could move so my friends and I could sit by the fireplace?' " And Andy said, incredulous, "You DID?!?" And I said, "Gotcha [wink]!" No.
I just bided my time like a huntress, and then we quickly set about the lounging.
Hours passed. Slowy but surely, the daytrippers cleared out. The windows turned blue, the inside more and more gold.
So many perfect hours in a row.
Swimming outside in the hot pot near the frozen trees, and then to bed, hoping for snow.
In the morning, no new snow, but pearl-gray light: We get up early. A snow jogger trots past the window.
When I was a little girl, I had a book of Russian fairy tales. So I've been here before.
From where I sat at breakfast: Our rooms were somewhere in there.
After waffles and coffee, Keely and I headed upstairs for more sofas and windows, and Josh and Andy went snowboarding. Both nurses, we figured they could apply first aid lest one of them (the gangly one who hasn't snowboarded in twelve years and almost can't stand still [talking (rather adorably) from the second balcony at the top of his lungs] he is so excited to go) wiped out.
But everything went great. I was so happy.
Except that it was time to go.
And I didn't want to go.
A place and people I love: Lucky, lucky birthday girl.