Jane Hodges picked me up at 1:30 last Thursday afternoon at my North Seattle apartment to drive me to Mineral, a small community in the foothills of Mount Rainier.
In its Wikipedia entry, Mineral’s amenities are listed as “a post office, two churches, one general store, one tavern, a log lodge (in the National Register of Historic Places), a resort with fishing docks and boat/pontoon rentals and two bed and breakfast facilities.” (The log lodge, built in 1906, was the place where I would stay overnight.)
Not included in the Wikipedia entry is the uniquely homey and benignly haunted Mineral School Arts Residency, founded and directed by Seattle writer Jane Hodges. Last summer I was a resident at Mineral School, where I put the finishing touches on my Angie Rubio manuscript and in the ensuing months sent it out to a few places. In May, I accepted an offer of publication from Jaded Ibis Press, whose recent releases include Kingdom of Women by Rosalie Morales Kearns (interviewed here by Rigoberto Gonzalez) and As a River by Sion Dayson whose newly published novel has made it to several “best” and “pick” lists.
As we traveled from the traffic-laden cityscape to the two-lane rural roads, Jane and I talked books. Jane not only reads a lot, she has great recall of what she reads. Her brain is a library.
Sometime after 3:30, after making the turn off Route 7 at Elbe where a Trump 2020 sign looms big and scary, Jane dropped me off at Mineral Lake Lodge, where Carolyn, a former physician and now lodge proprietor, and Murray the cat greeted me. I was the only guest in the eight-room lodge and was given my choice of themed room. I nearly opted for the Moose Country Room on the top floor because it was the only room with a desk, but realized that if I chose the Birdhouse View Room on the second floor I would have easy access to the sunroom with its dramatic view of Mineral Lake. Teddy Roosevelt is purported to have slept in the sunroom.
After an hour or so in the sunroom alternating reading a book, gaping at the view, and conjuring the spirit of Roosevelt, I walked the narrow country road to Mineral School to join the current residents Samantha Lee, Elise Morris, Dayna Patterson, and Pamela K. Santos for a 6:00 dinner of salmon cakes, broccoli, and black bean salad prepared by chef Val. It was the week of the parent artist residency and I’d been invited to read and also talk a little about how I wrote during my active parenting years.
After the 7:30 reading, plum cake dessert, and conversation, I went back to the lodge around 9. I sat in my Birdhouse View Room bed and did the NYT crossword online. Then in preparation for my trip to Ecuador in a few weeks I did some Español en Uso exercises before settling in with a book. It was lights out on the birdhouses sometime after 11.
The next morning, I walked to Mineral School to have breakfast with the residents, after which visual artist and photographer Elise took a few portrait photos of me as she had done with the residents. She explained how to turtle my neck to meet rather than shy away the camera. I also took a selfie with the exuberant Pamela Santos. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter and you might find it there.
Back at the lodge, I chatted briefly with lodge owner Carolyn and learned how a retired physician and quilt maker ended up in Mineral as a bed and breakfast lodge owner. Then I had a couple of hours in the sunroom to write and be boggled anew by the view before my time in Mineral was up.
I packed up and walked back to Mineral School where Jane had a yummy sack lunch waiting for me. At noon, Rebecca Peterson, Mineral School working artist, drove me along the scenic backroads of Lewis County to Centralia where I caught the 1:30 Amtrak Cascades back to Seattle.
It was a perfect little overnight adventure that offered a little bit of many of the things I love – scenery- rich drives, walks, and train ride; meeting and hanging out with writers and artists; a stay in a historic lodge; and tasty, well-prepared food. Interspersed in all of it were the always essential moments of solitude to read or write. Thank you, Mineral School, for a lovely 24 hours.