The Forest Shelter at Breitenbush (A Love Story)

dancing with shadows grief and loss stories on the path the way within this beautiful earth Mar 21, 2023

The Forest Shelter
(A love story)

For 25 years Breitenbush Hot Springs has been my place of retreat and sanctuary. Located in the Cascade mountains of Oregon, far off the grid (and cell service) in the wilderness of old growth forest with a beautiful wild river rushing through. It is a place that always reminds me of Who-I-Am.

The retreat center buildings and the community homes for staff (Breitenbush is worker owned) Are all powered by their small hydro plant and heated by steam from the earth. For 14 years I offered and facilitated retreats there, a majority of the time, in this sweet building.

Inside of this nurturing round space with lovely views, I have sat in circle with countless numbers of people offering:

ReAwakening The Heart of Nursing
Embracing The Wisdom of Nursing
Passionate Sadness, Living Through and Thriving Beyond the Death of Your Life Partner

Then in September 2020 came the devastation. 2 major fires converged on Breitenbush. From the bravery and life threatening actions of 5 men… The historic lodge and the kitchen was saved. Even in the snow, you can still feel how powerfully those fires arrived… I can not imagine what it must of been like to be in the middle of it… I bow in Gratitude!

The healing arts and sanctuary buildings… 44 lovely old cabins, surrounded by huge trees… All gone.

If you know Breitenbush, the only structure past the kitchen to survive, helped by the partial stone walls and metal roof is…

The Forest Shelter

Many trees gone around it yet some, while burn scarred, are still alive. Scarred… Yet alive… Just like us.

The Shelter in The Forest…

This was my second time back since the fire. I went there in August of 2021 when they first opened to just car camping. I needed to face it… To stand witness.

So much work has been done to clear the land. Downed trees are being milled into lumber and new cabins and buildings are being built. Fire is randomly destructive. There are swaths of forest untouched. There are trees burned but still alive. New vistas have opened up… It’s amazing how far you can now see in some places.

I know the earth under my feet so well at Breitenbush… Occasionally I would stop, feel that place under my feet, search in my knowing… And remember what was. Grieving what was… Honoring what was. And then allow and embrace… What is.

And the healing waters of the hot springs and the river… Remain. Walking into the lodge holds the same sounds and smells and smiles… Holds the memory. The Heart and Spirit of Breitenbush… Flows All Around. If you know Breitenbush… Go! If you have never been… Go! The entire area where the cabins were, is a huge open space… Now pure potential. Breitenbush remains a place of profound retreat for me. As I continue to develop the work of my lifetime… It is a place that is the living embodiment and experience of…The Way Within…
Walking The Three PathWays of Grief.

By David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds,
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before,
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing,
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

The Opening of Eyes
New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press


The Forest Shelter... The first time I returned. August, 2021.

Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat Center:




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