“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.” Lewis Mumford wrote those insightful lines.
We’ve created many lovely spaces inside and out that are conducive to the life of the interior~ the contemplative inner life~ at Adytum. Beauty uplifts and elevates acting as a gateway into our soul and spirit. It’s our intention to continue adding benches throughout our walking meditation trails to encourage the life of the mind and spirit; the artistic, creative and meditative life…to add to our collection of books on great wisdom, art, poetry and literature – to create nooks to draw, to write, to read, and to think. Life at Adytum is meant to be lived slowly, savored, and lingered over like a fine meal. We need the equilibrium achieved when we journey within.
“Contemplation and wisdom are highest achievements and man is not totally at home with them.” Gabriel Marcel
After a momentous trip to Hawaii, where we were introduced to great sculpture by Diane Klieforth of Lahaina Galleries, we’ve had the pleasure of living with museum quality artwork and sculpture at Adytum which feeds the spirit and elevates the mind. She had met the greatest sculptor of our time, Frederick Hart before his early death, comparing him to Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci and urged us to live with his inspired sculpture.
Frederick Hart believed that truly great art should reflect goodness, truth and beauty. His bronze sculpture possesses these qualities and emanates a palpable spiritual presence both here and at the Washington National Cathedral where it adorns the tympanum and entrance in the form of the Ex Nihilo series (out of nothingness, out of the mind of God). Europeans have lived with great art for centuries, with masterpieces and frescos on the walls of their churches from past ages. We seek to surround ourselves with that which inspires and leads us to higher levels on our evolutionary journey into better “selves”.
Another great sculptor, Auguste Rodin said, “Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated.”
Great art grounds us into Reality; it drives us inward to the vastness within us. Great art, which embodies truth, beauty and goodness, will connect us to God and to our selves, so we are committed to filling Adytum with it and sharing the experience of it with our family, guests and friends…Adytum has already been host to one of the foremost impressionist painters of our time, Don Hatfield. We plan to be patrons of the arts not only in support of the artists through our purchases, but also in creating space for them to work here.
There is more to life than seeking fun or the next activity, the next vacation or trip…The balance is found in contemplation.
“A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.” George Santayana
There are many activities to choose at Adytum. I’m grateful for the rains that drive us inside and invite us to explore the hidden, inner spaces~ as Rumi said, “World power means nothing. Only the unsayable jeweled inner life matters.” I couldn’t agree more.
When Adytum had her “soft opening” and Chris and Julia enjoyed The Orion Suite, they noticed details in the kitchen the next morning at breakfast that they wanted to incorporate into their new house construction and their kitchen. Later when I was getting a hair cut from Julia at her Moda Capelli Salon in Olympia she asked more specifics: “Where did you get your round cutting board? What was the pan you served the fritata in?” We talked tools for awhile and how fun they make time spent playing in the kitchen.
I have, like I shared with her, a list of “musts” that I’d never be without. The Boos round chopping block she was admiring was a gift from my kids. It was inspired after reading, Nicole Mones’ “The Last Chinese Chef”, a book I highly recommend.
Not only is the writing impeccable and the story fascinating in its depth of Chinese culture and the art of dining but in a personal email to me, she admits she is entirely self taught. Having studied classical music she says, “When I try to describe something I think first of the sounds that would be there. That’s not all I describe but that is often my way in (to the scene she’s writing) These chopping blocks become family heirlooms. Years of knife cuts achieved with the steady thrum of knife to wood begin to carve a story in the wood, both audible and tangible, that speak of hours of loving preparation for those we love and care for. It is one of my treasured tools. It will be with me always.
My chef son, Phillip Gritton who cooks a lot in the Adytum kitchen, introduced me to Shun knives out of sheer desperation I’m sure… He couldn’t find a good knife in the lot. So another gift and one I really cherish. (and hope he adds to!) After using it, I can’t tolerate the lesser knives on my magnetic wall rack anymore and will hopefully get a whole set of Shun knives. There’s a certain pleasure that accompanies a precise cut. It feels like slicing butter, no matter what I’m working on.Definitely adds an element of delight…
When we were in Vermont at one of Phil’s restaurants years ago, we inquired about the tiny matchstick cuts on salad carrots and on the garnishes; thin long ribbons of beet and zucchini. We were told it was a Ben Riner. I thought they were talking about someone, but that’s the name of the cheap looking little mandolin that creates these awesome and fast cuts. We bought one home from the Culinary Institute’s kitchen shop in Hyde Park, NY; where Phil was a student. The razors are dangerously sharp and each of us – except maybe Phil- has nearly cut our fingers off….but what can I say? It’s worth it for the time saved and the finished look of the dish. I use it every day.
Before Julia left her stay at Adytum, she had taken notes on the pan her Frittata was made in – All Clad; another treasure of mine. It starts on the stove and ends under the broiler and is served in the same pan with incredible appeal. I use the Ben Riner to create a mix of mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, etc. that the eggs will accompany. It’s all so quick and easy, yet looks elegant and appealing.
The last “essential” I’ll share today is my Vitamix blender. Not only do we use it daily for our Metagenics Medical Food shakes for breakfast, but before the 4 eggs went into the All Clad Frittata pan to make breakfast, I whizzed them in the Vitamix.
Years ago, a chef taught me to use a tablespoon or two of water- not cream- to make the eggs steam up nicely in an omelet. Magic. The instruction, the fine cuts on the filler for the frittata…where would we be without good tools?
May you always have loved ones around your table.
My guest walked up the long, winding drive where she’d left her car below. When I met her at the front door she said, “I got out of my car to be met with the sounds of birdsong and watermusic!” That just about captures the heart of Adytum. We love living life with the birds here; being part of the flock and being shown such a beautiful way to live.
As I explained to her, the birds were here long before we were. When we viewed the land the first time, we felt we entered a party in full swing with all the noise and action…Since there’s never been a house on this land; it is a natural bird sanctuary.
We brought in feeders, fountains, birdbaths and birdhouses to enhance their natural habitat and encourage more to come. Most who see Adytum’s bird life are inspired to begin their own bird sanctuaries bringing in feeding stations and water features, bird houses, leaving some brush piles for cover and providing sugar water for annual migrations of hummingbirds.
Hundreds of birds visit Adytum lands on their migration raising young here annually or staying year round. It is a lesson to us all as we see different species feeding in peace, side by side; the feeding stations a kaleidoscope of yellow, red, blue, black, brown and white feathers, large birds and small.
In ancient literature, birds have been portrayed as messengers. They bring us the message of living in peace with all nations, of bringing beauty and song to the planet, and of trusting Source to provide no matter what.
There are also many natural springs that create little creeks and waterways, but we’ve added ponds and fountains to assure year round water supplies for the wildlife here on the hill. A flock of about a hundred Cedar Waxwings come annually to eat from the wild cherry trees here; they always make time on their migration to play in the waterfall. It’s an anticipated event at Adytum, like a festival. They play just like human children, darting under the flow and splashing their friends. It’s amazing how like one another we all are at the heart level.
We climb several flights of stairs and reach the third floor. Here we’re in view of the canopy and can observe bird life largely undetected due to the reflection of the windows. I explain to her how amazing it is to watch the birds nibble lichen on the vine maples after their meal of black oil sunflower seeds or cracked corn that we’ve provided in feeders below. We see their private interactions with each other. Later outside, we feel very much like we’ve been received into their flock family as they show fearlessness with us. They continue feeding if we sit in the hot tub with morning coffee, adding to our pleasure and perhaps theirs too…
Later, walking the trails, I recognize the voices of each of our feathered friends. The sweet voice of the shy Nuthatch and Goldfinch, the cheery Robin, the Towhee’s call and the hawk overhead; the raucous Evening Grosbeak flock that comes daily for breakfast and stays all day long. The whir of the hummingbirds in the fields, the Canada Geese overhead, the wren calling from a brush pile, beautiful song sparrows, the inevitable Stellar Jay’s shrill alarm, the noble Eagle, crow and raven, owls and doves…we are never alone here.
As I write, we have classical music playing, but the sound of the communal bird choir pervades the house as constant background music. When I open the French doors to the deck, I know it will be just like walking into the crescendo of nature’s composition- the voices of all nations raised as One.
We love living life with the birds; being part of the flock and being shown such a beautiful way to live in peace with acceptance, trust, and play, encouraging us to bring our own beauty and song – our gifts- to enhance other’s experience on Earth.
Dirt therapy is one of the plans for guests at Adytum…those that are so inclined anyway. Grab a shovel and dig in! There’s always a flat of flowers to plant, or bulbs to set in the fall. There are always fir, cedar or pine seedlings to slip in as we reforest the land. And yes, we have lots of weeds too! Some which I’ve learned to eat, like my adventure with my first Stinging Nettle on the menu here a few weeks ago.
Whenever I get restless and out of sorts, when I’ve been working too hard and not having enough fun it’s my signal to get down and dirty -on my knees in raw earth, with Mother Nature. The old maples have made such loose, dark, rich soil here. Very fun to play in…yet getting past that initial “oh…I’m getting dirty” part is critical. Once that’s achieved, its childhood revisited from there on out.
My mom skipped the dolls in my youth (except “Chatty Kathy” that seemed to have made an impression that stuck so I’m told) and just bought me a miniature John Deere when she was hosting a TV agriculture show. The land holds such irresistible appeal. Maybe it’s just being outside, sunshine or not. It’s beautiful here all the time whether the boats are slapping waves on the Lake Mayfield in brilliant summer sun or if a storm is blowing in off the very same Lake and the sky’s dark and brooding. But to be outside planting or tidying up…well that makes all the difference.
To this day, all my money goes to buy plants and books… Forget that I might need some new clothes or shoes…We all have our priorities and this is mine. Today, while planting in a biting wind that found its way down the gap of my jeans as I kneeled over azeleas, mugo pines and violas, I had an idea: what if guests that came brought a few things from their gardens to share at Adytum? and they left with something in return so we could each remember each other?
When I look around at the trees, flowers, and shrubs on our nearly 16 acres, so many of them came from dear friends. I immediately think of them every time I walk by something they’ve brought to fill Adytum’s bare land or to tuck between maple roots. The lilies near the Koi pond came from a close friend after lunch one day as we stopped into DeGoedes Bulb Farm on the way back to Adytum. (I should work there…way too much money finds its way there from my pockets) Countless plants, bushes and trees came from a neighbor who loves plants as much as we do and is constantly offering more. We always tell him, there is so much of him here in his many green gifts.
The plants that may very well come to mean the most to me, however, are from my mother’s garden, in her 82nd year. They will live on with us as a perpetual memorial long after she has gone. Maybe it’s her who made me think of this idea of sharing plants. She never comes empty handed, and taught me the same.
Whether our friends and guests come with plants to fill Adytum’s land with something from their own gardens,or if they just come, there will always be the chance to get down and dirty in ours. Many of us just like to know there’s something to do besides just relax or read. Adytum invites you to leave the orderly, clean and sophisticated adult world behind and lose yourself in play. It’s part of her re-creative charm and appeal.
I really feel like I’ve lived if I have something to brush off and clean up when the fun is done for the day. It’s marvelous therapy, the healing that comes from playing in the dirt. It’s making a lot beauty too for everyone to savor when they’re here and leaving much of ourselves on this land we’ve been blessed to oversee during our stay on Mother Earth.
We’ve had an awesome celebration here this weekend, both for our guests and ourselves…Adytum Retreat and Spa is proving to be a sensuous,beautiful place to connect with your lover and to restore your “self”…it is not only full of peace, but of romance and playfulness…
We’ve been cultivating living with intention, bringing beauty, luxury and romance into our lives on a daily basis…not saving the best for the 5% of life, but incorporating the things into daily life that make us feel nurtured, nourished and pampered.
Everything is important. Life is in the details…