As some of you know by now, I have decided to live without a cell phone. What began as "my phone was smashed and then the old phone I reactivated died" turned into...life without a cell phone is just fine. For a long time I thought about throwing the thing out the window while I was driving. I dreamed of a world in which people sat down to dinner in a restaurant and no one put their phone on the table. I imagined everyone's hands empty again and not clutching with the grip of death a cell phone. I wondered what damage these little objects were doing to our bodies. And our hearts and souls. And our relationships.
Anyway, mine is gone and after talking with the kind folks at Verizon, I decided to close my account and live without a phone for a while. I don't miss it. I understand perfectly well that many people need a phone for the work they do, but I don't. And the last time I received a call that even vaguely constituted an emergency, it came on the landline.
We are waking up in Stowe this morning, in an old school ski lodge that is the stuff of my dreams. I don't know if I'm a nostalgic moron, but I crave places and experiences like this. It was built in 1949, inspired by the architect's time in Austria and great love of the mountains. It's been fancied-up since then, but in all the right ways. It's easy to feel the history, the six decades of skiers sitting by the fireplace at the end of a good day on the hill, sharing fondue, then retiring to their rooms to rest for another day doing something they love. There is nothing like a communal experience around a common passion.
After dinner last night—pork schnitzel, of course—we sat in the very large living room and played cards. I was in awe of the scene: people playing board games and card games; people gathered around the telescope and the two fireplaces, talking to each other. It was noisy in there, a room filled with the weary conversational joy of a whole bunch of people who went skiing and were going to get up and go skiing again tomorrow. The Stowehof is a classic ski lodge in every way. It's like something out of a Wes Anderson film. I feel the way Mr. Plumbean did when he described his house in The Big Orange Splot: It looks like all my dreams.
The November, 1977 issue of Ski magazine described The Stowehof this way: “It’s rustic, it’s sophisticated. It’s formal, it’s informal. It’s old, it’s modern. It’s spacious, it’s cozy. It’s harmonious, it’s subtle, it’s ingenious, it’s architecturally outrageous – and it works. Stowehof is an experience, for…anyone who is fortunate enough to stay here.”
Forty years later and the Stowehof is still all of those things. And this really is all my dreams: family, hearty food, fresh snow, mountains and an old ski lodge with modern touches: blue leather chairs and inspiring works of art on the walls. And, as if I needed more convincing that this place is the sublimest in all the land: there is a small closet in the hall with a dial phone and a sign that says "Complimentary calls within the United States and Canada."
The rooms are accessed with real keys, actual keys, not electronic cards.
I am in love. And now we are going skiing. And this afternoon I will open the little stone chapel on Mt. Mansfield and hold an interfaith service of worship in which I will remind the folks gathered there how fortunate we are. To be outside in the fresh air, skiing or snowboarding on a perfect February day. The blessings our bodies bring, the blessings the mountains give. The deep and great blessing of being alive. Today. Amen.