During the non-Summer months, Holden village dedicates one Vespers session a week to the lives of villagers. We call this Staff Story and this particular session centered around the current longest tenured villager: Jonah Jensen-Young. This also happened to be his final week in the Village, so it also served as a sincere farewell. In order to succinctly articulate our love for Jonah, I am including part of the official farewell transcript that was spoken of his actual departure, written by our talented Emily Meyer.
Jonah has lived in the Village since the summer of 2018, serving as Media Ministry Head and Librarian, Audio Archivist, Podcasting and most recently, school teacher. Before Jonah was the teacher, he served the Village by supporting A/V, audio archives, videos and podcasts. He has a knack for getting people to tell interesting stories about their lives which he put to good use for podcasts with teaching faculty.
When there were multiple people named Jonah in the Village, he took on the nickname "Mountain Jonah," which perfectly reflects his penchant for outdoor adventures and his extensive knowledge of snow conditions, clouds, birds, wildlife, and more. Jonah's plans for adventures never cease to amaze! If all of the skiing, hiking and literally running out of the Village weren't enough, he even took paragliding lessons last summer! Jonah's discipline to make sure he had enough time each weekend to enjoy nature on an epic adventure, then make time to lesson plan and get everything accomplished for his role as teacher is admirable.
Jonah is a deeply authentic person with such a kind heart and encourages others to bring their real selves to the table. He is a steadying and trustworthy presence here in the village. His check-ins and encouragement were appreciated by many. He’s great at giving support for the little things that others do. The high fives and the way he says “Hey good for you!” or “Way to go!” are powerful words of encouragement. He seems to be happy for people to be on whatever journey they are on and doesn’t compare it to anyone else’s. That’s one of the things that made him such a good community member and such a good teacher.
Jonah is incredibly patient and kind with his school kids. He makes learning fun, and allows plenty of opportunity to impart his love of the outdoors to his kids. He has an incredible skill when it comes to befriending each child, instructing to their needs and passions, and being a core part of the child's sense of home in the community. Jonah normalized curiosity and helped each child find their own unique learner within. He has been an expert in turning the Railroad Creek valley into his classroom.
He took the kids (and sometimes parents!) geo-caching, salmon raising, reindeer herd searching, igloo and yurt hot chocolate-sipping, morel mushroom finding, Domke lake fishing, snow angel-making, lake shore trail hiking and so much more. (The parents note that they are relieved he did not bring the kids along with him during his flight adventures!) These adventures and outings will be remembered by his students for the rest of their lives. One parent notes that being at Holden was the first time they heard their child say they liked school and many adult villagers wish Jonah had been their elementary school teacher.
Be it on the trail, in the (very hot) sauna, or on a couch watching a movie, Jonah is always a rock steady presence, with a playful, loving heart. This village is grateful to have shared many laughs, songs, adventures and hugs with him. He is a one of a kind teacher and person, and will be sorely missed. This valley feels lucky to know you. Just as you have been an important part of all of our journeys, we hope that you will remember Holden as part of your journey.
Background music composed by Zakhar Valaha.
Jonah Jensen-Young Staff Story
[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to the Holden Village Podcast. Holden is a community of education, programming, and worship located in the remote wilderness of the Cascade Mountains. These snapshots provide a glimpse into the learnings taking place in our community. Let's tune in to this week's highlight.
[00:00:23] Piano Intro: Piano played by Jonah Jensen-Young
[00:04:32] Jonah: And now I'm talking to all of you, so that's gonna be even more fun. How has Holden helped me find my own rhythms and practices that help me function? Being available to others? What things have I learned about myself? What helps sustain loving myself so I can love others?
[00:04:47] What's God or something bigger than me? Higher power? How do you pray? What regular maintenance could I do to help keep my psyche from knoting up? How will I treat what I learned here in this sort of fairytale of support, as a handline, on the outside when difficulties come up and lots more decisions need to be made?
[00:05:08] Those are some big questions and I think major themes of my time here have been connection and dealing with past addictions, but addictions just period. Maintenance. My own inner self and then learning about bookends and I didn't know what that meant. Oh, I had some book ends. We could find some book ends in the library. It would be a perfect prop if you go get it. I just need one book end or two. I really need two. It helps me function, and that was a necessary prop.
[00:05:40] And then routines, awareness, pause, and beauty. These are all themes of my time here. So, yeah, let's just get right into it. The one cool thing is like my dad; I came here, my mom's a Lutheran pastor, but my dad also was on faculty. This is his sweatshirt; it says Holden on it. It was part of my grief being here in 2018 because he passed away that July. It was really unexpected. I did get to be with him, but he would sit here on faculty in the same spot and have his papers laid out.
[00:06:17] So his sweatshirt here is with me; so that's object one, thinking about him. And yeah, that was intense and tough and I was scheduled to have a podcast with him. It was ridiculous, but that didn't happen.
[00:06:29] So, the things that brought me here. I got fired from a job, a teaching job, which is, you know, a hard thing to say. It's embarrassing. But the principal ended up being a reference. So that's, you know, a strange thing, but that made the chance of coming to Holden like a lot more real.
[00:06:46] And then the biggest thing I think was, well, obviously my family introducing me to Holden in the nineties. And then I went through a divorce in 2017 and that was crazy. I mean from 18 met this person and then was in the relationship living together till about 36, 37. 18 to 37. So it's like 17 years.
[00:07:11] And I never lived on my own. When I did live at my parents, I lived in like a cabin in the woods behind the house, but still it wasn't the same. And so the things of learning things to help function; I didn't get those. And so coming to Holden was the first time I lived communally with people and found rhythms and routines that helped me function. Yeah, so that's, that's incredible.
[00:07:34] And it's just been an amazing place. I feel like the village is kind of a like a long term relationship cuz it's that intense but there's like 50 other people. It's consistent. I mean it has ups and downs, but it is a way to know yourself and that's what I love about relationships, and how hard they are. And I think that's the thing I went through with a divorce.
[00:07:58] I think the unraveling of the divorce related to addictions. I mean, she was the breadwinner and I didn't step into responsibilities of work in the same way, with having like just someone who could help support me. So in consequence I think I developed habits that were just indulgent.
[00:08:20] So coming out of the divorce, basically, this new chapter of my life was like, well, I gotta get stuff together in terms of addictions. And so this is like kind of a prop that was down in the, somebody made this in the pottery shop, but it's like a mouth with like a cigarette or something, maybe something else.
[00:08:38] That's sort of drug of choice kind of thing for me. And so thankfully prior to coming to Holden, I had quit for a year. And I remember Dana like checking in before I came and was like, "are you gonna be okay here? Like with certain things?" And I was like, yeah, you know, I've got a year sober from pot of all things, but that was just really the tip of the iceberg. Cuz it's like in a funny way a gateway to, you know, more programs and understandings about yourself.
[00:09:11] So and the interesting thing about addiction; I have a quote here. This is from the book Addiction and Grace, which I found in the library. "... Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean, in all truth, that all the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being.
[00:09:27] The same processes that are responsible for addiction to alcohol and narcotics are also responsible for addiction to ideas, work, relationships, power, moods, fantasies, and an endless variety of things. We're all addicts in every sense of the word. Moreover, our addictions are our own worst enemies. They enslave us with chains that are of our own making, and yet that paradoxically are virtually beyond our control. Addiction makes us idolaters of us all because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly freely loving higher power, God, and one another."
[00:10:01] There was a guy, Steve Arnold, who was on staff, and he talked about your "ism." And that stands for like your identity, security, meaning, and addictions hijack that in a big way. That's what I've learned and coming to understand what this thing that is bigger than me, whether you think it's God or just maybe even like your future self, that's really your "ism." For that Steve Arnold guy, it was baptism like into Christ, but I like explaining it more in an all inclusive, just human condition kind of experience.
[00:10:31] So your "ism;" your identity security meeting. And I get that through nature. And I get that through connections with people. And I get that through routines and practices. And so your identity, security, meaning; this big amazing force kind of brings me to this first thing was my significant other Julia Hubbard.
[00:10:51] Yeah. This was a sign, it was a welcome sign. But for that to happen in my life, like I need to have love for myself. So like, imagining it this big, you know, my love has to be like the village size or something for myself. And then for the identity, security, meaning that just gives me, you know, a feeling of place and balance and in the world it's like, you know, universally giant.
[00:11:16] And just acknowledging that those things kind of need to be in order. In terms of codependency and things like that it just doesn't work if you put things out. So I really do lean into kind of a faith a lot more, in terms of this bigger thing: identity; security; meaning.
[00:11:31] These are my chips, but anybody in a 12 step program will get chips depending on what you're in; it can be anything from food to alcohol to, you know, anything. And so these, thankfully I've got like six years and it's great. Yeah, no, it's totally wonderful. And like I said, it's just an ability to have an awareness at what you can choose, what you're drawn to during times when you're stressed or fearful of things.
[00:11:58] And recovery just gives you an awareness of when you're trying to escape things and I think now I'm 41 and to have the ability to see myself wanting particular things and then just stop and ask myself why. And then look at it in a more problem solving, healthy way rather than knee jerk reactions that in the past served me in the short term.
[00:12:26] So, the recovery has just been incredible. And I think with that, I get more connection to this bigger thing with me that's a part and it's all around. And then it makes me more able to be with other people that are also suffering working through recovery. And that's something I've helped in the village; I've been able to walk alongside people in the same sort of learnings and it feeds me. And I have like a want to help, which I didn't in the past, so that is huge.
[00:12:56] I'm given more responsibilities and things, so I'm just more available to people. That's a hope in continuing. It's just more selflessness and being helpful. And then the confidence in teaching really was, very, very small. So these beads are from field day last year when we made little bracelets. And I have this in like a zippered pocket that, so it just goes through the wash and it's always there if I'm wearing these pants and I can feel it.
[00:13:27] And, it's a reminder that I got through the year because last year I just honestly had like a 50 50 thought and just the...forgive the language, but like itty bitty shitty committee or the negative nellies or, you know, things that are just distorted thinking that happens that you might have built up. It's amazing how you can see things in a way that don't serve you and figuring out ways to get through those, whether it's like just having a framework for the day.
[00:14:00] But yeah, I mean, the first time the principal came up, I almost like had a panic attack, or I pretty much did. Like I was just like seeing this much and just having some sort of schedule of the day and then just sharing a little with her and her being supportive, I was able to get through. And the more I faced things, I could look back and see how distorted I was thinking, and saying things to myself that weren't helpful. And so that's that's been a huge amount of growth.
[00:14:25] So the other one was on my finger, which is like this ring tattoo. It's kind of modeled after the Koru in New Zealand; unfurling frond growth that was similar to my wedding ring. I lost my wedding ring climbing and in attempt to try to bring the relationship, like at the end it was like on the rocks. Like I went and got this thing and and the tattoo artist, it was great. It was like an intervention cuz I told him like what was going on? He's like "you can't do that."
[00:14:55] Like it's gonna need to be able to change meaning. And so, it's something that can be added to, but really what it is for me is an acknowledgement of the capacity I have to love. The tattoo is there to remind me to think about the things I can do to sustain giving love. And so it's there and there's like a little scar on the top of it. And I got that from falling on the switchbacks on cross-country skis trying to get down to Julia. So it's got already a little story to it that's in a new growth kind of way, and it can be added to.
[00:15:37] So that's most of the things. All of these objects I was thinking were going to be like this pack that I brought things to Holden and then like some I discarded and then, you know, I'm going forward, but it's just sort of a hodgepodge. But these obviously I had the ice axe be before Holden and I'm gonna keep it going cuz of the adventure.
[00:15:57] The book ends for me are, you know, Saturday, this was Christine, the spiritual director. Christine Hall. Chris, Chris Hall. Yeah. And then she told me about the book ends, but my book ends are the Saturday adventure getting out and then the morning routines. And so I wake up every morning, really early, but I spend at least like 20 minutes, 25 minutes. I mean I write like a bunch of thank you's because it's not default to be thankful. But practicing it carries throughout the day in terms of gentleness in the voices in my head. And it just creates a pattern of seeing things that I go "oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah!"
[00:16:39] And it's like giving thanks, it builds and so that's necessary. So that and then the meditation. I meditate in the morning and that just helps me practice that pause. So that I can see that I'm thinking of doing something that is maybe avoiding something that I'm fearful of. And so those are, you know, the practices and I think that's one of the things I'm super thankful about Holden.
[00:17:03] And that's just the biggest thing of just getting to do this staff story. The goal is to like, sort of, I never know really what's going on, but I'm trying at this point to explain where I'm at. And the things that I'm grateful for in this experience at Holden are the place. It's the place. I mean, it just, as Kennedy says, it slaps. It slaps me in the face every morning. Like I go out and I'm just like, "oh my gosh." Like, just, you know, and so that's incredible.
[00:17:35] And then the piece that comes from it and then the practices that I've learned here because it's like piggybacking on something that's so consistent with the village rhythms that even though I'm not in all of those rhythms, it's like I know when things are, but I do my things and I've become a lot more functional. And then friendships, and then the personal growth. I appreciate this opportunity and I'm just gonna end with a song and yeah. Thanks everyone.
[00:18:00] Piano Finale: Piano played by Jonah Jensen-Young.
[00:19:36] Oh, and then one more last thing. This is funny. My dad's the most emotional person I've ever met. Half of the dinner conversations would end in him with tears in some way of potential of like reconciliation of some situation. It was just unbelievable. And so I remember this one time we were sitting at this amazing view of this house my grandpa built at Port Susan, but looked out over the water and he...it's just ridiculous; this is my dad.
[00:20:06] And he's just saying, Jonah, Jonah...you gotta say the word: Yahweh; Yahweh. You hear it? Do you hear it? It's like a breath. It's a breath. If can you say it, say it slower: Yahweh. And so that's how I want everybody to say instead of whatever we say at the end. Just 1, 2, 3: Yahweh...
[00:20:37] Beautiful. Thank you.
[00:20:43] Outro: Thanks for joining us. Be sure to view the links in the description for more information or visit our website to find out more about the village. We hope you will make a pilgrimage to Holden. Blessings and peace to you.