Bill Reynolds and crew building HH Kitchen addition in 1993

Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Spirit: Harmony Hill’s Kitchen

In the early days of HH our kitchen was very small and I did much of the cooking. Our beloved elder, Elaine Cook, was passionate about delicious healthy food. She shared many wonderful recipes and wrote the first cookbook printed in 1991. Elaine insisted the HH Board find a way to expand Harmony Hill’s kitchen…the heart of our home. Even though we didn’t have the funds at the time, we knew it as essential to our growth and our success. Fortunately, we received a few funds, developed a plan with help from my brother Dave, and were able to get significant building help from Bill and Cheryl Reynolds. In late 1992 Bill masterfully brought in a crew that worked intensely for 2 winter month to build out a beautiful addition to the kitchen. Although Elaine didn’t live to see the new kitchen, when it was completed in 1993, we named it “Cook’s Kitchen” in her honor.  To this day, I still feel her spirit there.



The start of the HH Cancer Program:

Roma Schodde and Dana Carmen prepping blueberries for HH

Although HH began as a small wellness center the cancer program started because of my Mother who was a 3 time cancer survivor doing well. However in 1992 in a routine dental check-up a malignant tumor was detected behind a back molar—a frightening diagnosis.  We consulted numerous physicians who wanted to immediately hospitalize her for radical neck surgery.  The whole town of Buckley was praying for her.  Thanks to Kitty Nordstrom ( who was a long term Melanoma survivor) we were able to see her oncologist Dr. Glenn Warner.  He wanted to explore further tests and strongly encouraged us to get a grip on our stress.. My folks went fishing, my brother and sister sought calming activities and I went to the garden. I was going in circles and ended up creating a “circle garden” eventually becoming our first labyrinth.

A few weeks later we went who a head and neck surgeon for a possible less radical surgery. He examined Mom and then said to her; “ You are weird”.  The black grayish mass behind her molar was now pink normal healthy tissue…she had had a complete spontaneous remission! We were overjoyed with gratitude at this amazing miracle!

The Institute of Noetic Science keeps track when they learn of spontaneous remission. Although there is no defined science/ no specific formula yet, there are components of care known now that contribute to the quality of life however long one lives….e.g. gentle exercise, nutritious food, stress management, and social support all of which we provide in our cancer retreats.

Rachel Remen, MD and Michael Lerner – Co-founders of Commonweals Cancer Help Program

         I had a great interest in learning more about healing possibilities and fortunately found Bill Moyer’s book Healing and the Mind which was featured on PBS. The last segment was about Commonweal…an incredible retreat center in Bolinas Calif. Their week-long cancer retreat was featured with the filming of 8 actual participants.  I was thrilled to learn of this vibrant program… and eager to explore it further. Commonweal was inundated with requests from across the USA for this program and quickly realized they wanted to share what they learned. HH was blessed to participate in their first “Trade Craft” program.  We have been one of the five most active in the country inspired by Commonweal as we now celebrate 25 years of service of transforming the lives of those affected by cancer.


FOR A NEW BEGINNING  by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting until you were ready to emerge. For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on, Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the gray promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent, Wondered would you always live like this. Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream, A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at one with your life’s desire. Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; Soon you will home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses the world that awaits

Quotes from Participants thanking donors:

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Thank you! Words cannot express how much your support and this experience has meant to me during this stressful experience.
  • I feel this event has helped save my life. I have never been in a slump like this from medical stress. Thank you so so much.
  • Thank you so much for providing this space and program. The space and staff make me realize how much people really care and want to support others in life. The retreat has impacted me deeply and will guide my thoughts and actions going forward. The tools I’ve taken away are invaluable.


Stay tuned—next blogs will dive further into the Cancer Retreat programs. Please share your thoughts and any comments. Thank you for your caring and interest in Harmony Hill.

With gratitude—Gretchen