Saturday, June 09, 2007

Virginia City Retreat


This is the St Mary's Luisa Hospital that served the Comstock Lode during the silver boom of 1849 in Virginia City, Nevada Territory, and which has been converted now to be the St. Mary's Arts Center. The facility is the perfect setting for a fiber arts retreat. We each get a roommate and the bathrooms are in the hall. Breakfast and lunch are our individual responsibility, then we eat a communal dinner that we don't have to cook. There were 17 of us this year, representing three different guilds. To a person when we were surveyed this morning for next year's session, we said we want the same format, thank you very much. I will be blogging about this session for weeks, I am sure.

There was no schedule and no classes to get up in time for, so I met with several other early risers at the end of our floor to drink coffee, knit and kibitz. No timetable meant that a walk was in order whenever we wished, or not. Shower and breakfast likewise. This is my third time here at this facility, and I was looking forward to a morning walk. The odd banks in the background are mining tailings, the residual of silver extraction.

Some yards have a landscape of old equipment which is probably a good thing since water is in short order. It still is piped down from Marlette Lake at Lake Tahoe, and was engineered two centuries ago. The Comstock Lode was known for silver, not water.


When I take my walks, I look for broken glass for my rock tumbler. I also look for cool pictures. I captured these bachelor's buttons on a morning huff-and-puff, but Allison identified them on our walk back to the arts center from C Street. Because there was no instructor fee to pay, our tuition paid for a stupendous dinner in "town" and some of us optioned for a walk back. Not everyone is able to take walks because the terrain is so steep, like almost vertical.

St Mary's in the Mountains, a pioneer church, was pastored by Bishop Manogue, for whom the Reno Catholic high school is named. Judith MacKenzie was our instructor a couple of years ago and we went with her visit the antique vestments on display in the vestibule. She explained the intricately detailed weavings to us, and it seems such a shame to me that they are under-appreciated as merely relics of the times and perhaps not even noticed at all.


The Fourth Ward School is the subject of many photos, mine included. After all the years of living in Northern Nevada, I still am taken by the Comstock Lode and it's role in our nation's development. Our state motto is "Battle Born." After statehood, Abraham Lincoln used our silver to finance the civil war. I am trying to get my notes and pictures in order so for the moment am sharing some of my pictures. I can tell you that 17 women bringing multiple projects each on translates to an awful lot of equipment - not as much as in the yard as the tractor guy.

This place captured my attention because of the melted chimney which bespeaks of a chimney fire, always a risk when you heat with wood. If you have ever heard the expression, Washoe Zephyr, it was coined by Mark Twain and is a euphemism for the howling winds, not gentle wafting breezes, that would tear through these canyons and rip off the not-so-sturdy roofs.

And finally, this is the home of John McKay for whom the McKay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno is named. He was one of the infamous Comstock "Silver Kings." Please note the Pepsi machine in the lover left corner.

I am fortunate to have been part of a coalescence of creative energies, Obi Wan Kenobe, and I look forward to doing it again next year. Meanwhile, the retreat is still in session. I am home because I have to go to work tomorrow, but the creative juices are still flowing in Virginia City, even as I type. Feel the force.

2 comments:

Beryl said...

Nice pictures of Virginia City.

:shazzy: said...

Cool! Always loved Virginia City.