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  • Mark C. Anderson

Paradise Found, Just Up the Road

Updated: Jul 29

The little Victorian Valley Chapel nestles in the big belly of a sweeping expanse that feels like it was ripped from the pages of a period romance novel. The humble church's bright white walls match the cotton-ball clouds, set off by the dancing golden grass and brilliant green trees towering overhead.


A red-breasted robin snags a worm at the perimeter of the church’s meadow. A juvenile bald eagle spirals through the blue above. A raven watches from a tall fir. There isn’t another human for miles.


The door to the chapel is unlocked. Inside, the golden light at play on the benches and the soft colors of stained glass deepen the feeling that an alternate dimension is in play. Time is a slow-moving syrup. A powerful sort of peacefulness permeates the space. A flyer in the entry quakes the calm: The 14-acre property and the chapel are for sale at $790,000.


Past the church, the weathered wood sign that points to “Meditation Garden” brings on a forest-framed lawn with picnic tables on one side and two rocking chairs on the other. Next to the chairs sits a totem honoring native heritage. Further ahead, a Buddha meditates across from a bench.


Beyond that a small lake beckons through the trees. Wok-sized lily pads drift on its surface, paired with bulbous yellow blossoms. Geese glide in a group. The whisper-breeze, the radiating ripples, the angel-halo reflections on the water and Snoopy droopy tree on the island all conjure a quiet symphony of wonder.


Next to the water, wild salmon-berry bushes climb 18 feet high. Red-and-purple jewels plucked from its branches complete the kaleidoscope of sensorial experience with interplay of sour and sweet.


A red dragonfly, a blue dragonfly, a green dragonfly and a dragonfly with nutmeg camouflage all hovercraft past, synchronizing dips and turns with birdsong. A frog quicker than the eye adds a voluntary croak-note back up to the ensemble.


You can almost hear Pacha Mama's heartbeat drumming along with it all. And you can't help but think the most religious experience of such an afternoon isn't supposed to happen inside a church.


I want to transmit this quietude—this harmonious connectivity—to all people and places in pain. Just as it's impossible to separate this sky, valley, water and wildlife, it's impossible to separate gratitude for this moment from the aching dismay more can't share it.


Orcas Hotel owners Julia Felder and John Cox like to walk their dog Brooks up here when they can take a brief getaway from a hectic day.


“It all melts away,” she says. “We return renewed.”


•••

To reach Victorian Valley from Orcas Hotel, walk, bike or drive southeast along Orcas Road, turn left at Laporte Road. (If you travel past the big sign that says GRANT you've gone too far.) Back on Laporte, you'll encounter a fork in the road. Take the left prong, and the immediate 90-degree left turn after it. That Victorian Valley Road can be followed to the chapel. Discreet signs reading "Chapel" help guide the way.


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18 Orcas Hill Road, Orcas, WA 98280