Andy Bell and Gail Baker

     Spring is unfolding now at HH with a garden volunteer party this weekend to get our hundreds of zinnias, dahlias and other sweet flower starts planted in the gardens. Lois Oberg HH masterful organic gardener has brought great expertise to the Hill. Prior to our current greenhouse, we had a tiny little one created by our neighbors Sherry and George VanBoven…wonderful weavers for HH’s beginning days.  These neighbors and Gail Baker who lived in the cottage until we started the CR’s were instrumental in getting HH started.

Cindy Shank is another very special person who showed up as we started the CR’s.  She fell in love with the natural beauty and energy of the Hill after an event here & then applied to one of our first jobs: household/kitchen assistant. At that time the staff was very small, and Cindy’s job included everything from supervising work crews from the women’s correctional center to cleaning out the basement.  Eventually, she became the Accommodations Coordinator, a role in which she supervised staff, planned menus and cooked meals for groups and programs for the first five years.  She then moved into the role of Cancer Program Assistant, then Coordinator, and then Program Manager. Here are a few of her thoughts from her interview in One Hill, Many Voices: Stories of Hope and Healing: “I’ve seen so many miracles happen here: volunteers showing up seemingly out of nowhere, when we were in a major staff shortage; financial support coming right when we need it the most to keep us going through tight spots, and, of course, the incredible transformations of those who have attended our cancer program. So many times I greeted participants on the first day of a cancer retreat, often finding them withdrawn, scared and almost angry to be in this place where they feel so vulnerable. By the last day of the retreat, these people are transformed.  They’re laughing, crying (good tears), and often not wanting to leave the sacred community they have become part of a place where they feel unconditionally loved and accepted.”

Additionally, a significant part of our beginning was the way my nurse colleagues came to be of support.  A very treasured group of 7 nurses came to Harmony Hill as volunteer housemothers for the retreats and later evolved into a support and teaching community. The group was called VOICE (Vision, Opportunity, Inspiration, Compassion and Education) for Healers in Healthcare.  Together we sought to inspire the transformation of the health care culture and to promote healing for people and the health professionals who care for them.  The VOICE nurses, (Dianna Blom, Kathlene Tellgren, Leonie Wolfe, Rosemary Spyhalsky, Patty Mulhern, Linda Covert and I) formed a community that we each needed.  We provided support and compassion for one another through career changes, personal losses, and serious illness. These nurses continue to this day to be of support to HH with Kathlene & Linda taking the lead on facilitating the nurse renewal programs.

VOICE Nurses

For the Nurse

“ Your mind knows the world of illness, the fright that invades a person arriving in and out of the world, distraught and grieved by illness. ….In this fragile frontier-place, your kindness becomes a light that consoles the brokenhearted, awakens within desperate storms that oasis of serenity that calls the spirit to rise beneath the weight of pain, to create a new space in the persons mind where they gain distance from their suffering and begin to see the invitation to integrate and transform it.  …. May you embrace the beauty in what you do and how you stand like a secret angel between the bleak despair of illness and the unquenchable light of spirit that can turn the darkest destiny toward dawn.”   by John O’Donohue


Quotes from grateful participants thanking  donors:

***Thank you so much for your generosity and kindness. Your contribution has touched mine & so many people’s lives providing life – long memories & connections.

***This retreat gave me a true sense of hope. I am deeply appreciative.

*** Thank you for this opportunity to gather with others working through a diagnosis of cancer, to learn tools for dealing with anxiety, stress and communication in this beautiful-restful and inspiring location!

I appreciate you for taking the time to read these blogs!  I feel deep gratitude reflecting on this history and the hundreds of amazing “weavers” even in the early days that created the preliminary tapestry of Harmony Hill!  Stay tuned for upcoming episodes.