Welcome to chucksville and the christ in the desert monastery! electricity in costa rica


We were supposed to arrive at the nearby Ghost Ranch in Georgia O’Keeffe country by noon but made a wrong turn in Espanola and headed half way up to Taos. After we doubled-back and got on the right road, we suddenly heard a loud knock under the hood. The car slowed down to 10 mph and we began backing up traffic for miles on steep mountain roads. Angry honks and obscene finger gestures filled the air.

When we finally arrived at Ghost Ranch Museum, our pre-arranged meeting point, two hours late, we had lost three quarts of oil. While we were waiting to be met by our contact from the monastery, Carl inspected the engine (located in the back of the car) and noticed a piston and a spring that had flown out of its housing. He stuffed it back into place and screwed on the valve cover.

We were given a tour of the grounds, the church, our lodgings and the dining hall (known as “the refectory”). Every detail of this monastery appears to have been very well thought out. From the hardware on the doors, to the state-of-the-art equipment in the laundry room and the enormous stove in the kitchen, everything was first class and top-of-the-line.

Carl was given the deluxe VIP suite close to the sanctuary and the cloisters, where the monks live. He has a private bath, reading materials, bottles of water and other amenities. I was given a room closer to the Chama river, in the old ranch house that was the original sanctuary. Although I do not have a private bathroom, I do have a spectacular view, two beds to myself and plenty of storage space.

I feel very safe here and feel no need to lock or even close my door. gas 0095 It is so quiet I can hear myself breathe. I can hear birds sing and coyotes bark. There are no TVs, radios or operational cell phones to disturb the peace and it is easy to focus on one’s tasks. I can walk around in my sandals (which seems to be the preferred footwear around here) and dress casually.

The monastery of Christ in the Desert was founded in June 1964 as a Benedictine community. There are about 30 monks here and about a dozen nuns living in a fenced stockade down the road. The monks live a very structured life of prayer. “Our day,” says the printed history left for visitors, “is divided betwee n times of prayer in common, blocks of time for private prayer and reading, the daily manual labor and some relaxation.”

The monk’s manual labor consists of working in the laundry, the kitchen, maintaining the vast solar panel power system (the largest private system of its kind in New Mexico) and attending to dozens of other essential chores. As a visitor, I thought I was going to be scrubbing floors, but it seems that my only duties are simply to water the beautiful flowers in front of my little house and to look after Carl.

So far I have enjoyed attending Vespers and the Compline. I sang along with the Monks in English, set to the music of Gregorian chant. The church itself is a magnificent piece of architecture, with a high ceiling constructed of delicate latillas (unpeeled, rough sticks), supported by mighty vigas (roof beams made of trimmed and peeled tree trunks). A multitude of windows fill the spacious room with light. The monks are separated into two groups along the side of the church and when they sing, they chant a line or two that is answered by the opposing choir.

I decided to take communion this morning for the first time in my life. I figured what the heck, “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” A line formed near the front of the altar where the priest handed us “the body of Christ”. electricity nw It was a small round c racker, minus the salt, with a large cross in the middle. I let the wafer sit and dissolve in my mouth and, like most of the ceremony here, it sent tingles up and down my body.

Brother Bernard, an older gentleman, gave Carl and me an extensive tour of the monastery, including parts that people rarely get to see, like the cloister (where the monks actually live) and the woman’s portion of the convent, affectionately referred to as the Monastery of Our Lady in the Desert which, it was pointed out to me with a sly smile by one of the brothers, made up the acroynm “MOLD”.

Every monk has his own little cell. Two cells make up a room that shares a common bathroom. The cloister is one of the newer parts of the compound and connects with the sanctuary through spacious corridors. Most of the rooms are radiant heated by pipes running underneath the floor. Brother Bernard showed us the control room for the radiant heat and I was very impressed by its sophisticated, yet elegant, means of operation.

A fancy lunch was held in the refectory where the monks served us our food. After singing the usual prayers, a monk stood up behind a lectern in front of us and read verses from the Bible. Unfortunately he was reading one of those tedious, indecipherable passages where unpronounceable people journeyed to unpronounceable lands and begot a slew of unpronounceable offspring. Clearly, nobody was following.

This bible passage was followed by some intriguing commentary from a different text which concerned Martin Buber and a passage from his book called “I and thou.” The monk explained that “Thou” differs from “You” because “Thou” is the term that implies intimacy, sort of like the way the Germans use the formal “Sie” instead of “Du.” The monk illustrated the difference by explaining how a customer at a restaurant might react when he received an incorrect order. If the customer was insensitive, he said, he would treat the waitress as an “it” with absolutely no regard for her feelings. electricity journal Ideally, he explained, it is important that we treat people as an “I and Thou” relationship because disastrous consequences can occur when people treat other people as an “it.”

He then went on to recount how Buber, when he first received his appointment as a professor, treated one of his students as an “It,” instead of being sensitive and compassionate. The professor was putting his own self-interests before those of his student. As a result of this, the student committed suicide and Buber had to go through life blaming himself for his death.

Carl and I walked to the Chama River and had a lively discussion about popes, King James and all sorts of things. As we sat on an old log watching the rafters and river pass us by, Carl, at one point, turned to me and said, “Oh by the way, you’re not supposed to take Communion unless you’re a Cat holic.” By this time my stomach felt as if it had been broiled over the coals of hell and I assured him that I would never ever do anything like that again.

The monks live an incredibly structured life out here in the desert. The daily schedule consists of prayer sessions called “Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.” When they are not praying they have chores to do. And when they are not doing chores, they can occupy themselves by making crafts that will be sold in the bookstore.

The bookstore is definitely a “must see” place at the monastery because it has a very eclectic collection. The Thomas Merton section is by far the largest and I found a lovely collection of his “greatest sayings,” one for me and one for Jennifer. I also bought a small, full-color pamphlet describing this place, an essential piece of history for a writer like me who generally gets his facts messed up. I would have bought a steamy, riveting book called Harlots of the Desert, but priced at over $15, I just couldn’t justify the expense.

“Wine is very life to man if taken in moderation,” reads the Sirach text, “Does he really live who lacks the wine which was created for his joy? Joy of heart, good cheer and merriment are wine drunk freely at the proper time. Headache, bitterness and disgrace is wine drunk amid anger and strife…. Rebuke not your neighbor when wine is served, nor put him to shame while he is merry; Use no harsh words with him and distress him not in the presence of others.” Sirach, 32.

As as it is written in the book of Sirach, “If perforce you have eaten too much, once you have emptied your stomach, you will have relief.” (The footnote is particularly enlightening, i.e. “the practice of induced vomiting, well-known among pagan Romans, and less well-known among the Jews, seems to be referred to here.” Since I am, afterall, a Jew, I think I will just suffer. Maybe the Pepto-Bismal will kick in . . . )

After dinner and Compline, Carl and I sat outside the church and talked about interplanetary space travel, gravity and the Holy Trinity. types of electricity consumers I told Carl I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. This led into a discussion about metaphor and the role it plays in religion, as well as Adam and Eve and the knowledge of good and evil.

I woke up around 6:30 and felt shocked (and somewhat relieved) to see that I had missed the 4 a.m. Vigils and most of the 6 a.m. f gas regulations Lauds. I made my appearance right before the service ended and got “the look” from Carl and I responded with a mischievous smile. Later I asked him what I missed and he said that, among other things, “KP duty” had been assigned for the next week (in Gregorian chant, of course).

Staying at the Monastery of Christ is the Desert is a great place to become familiar with the Gregorian chant. Most of the prayers are sung to it and the ancient, musical notation generally accompanies the text, which has been photocopied and spiral bound. Unlike the Jewish services I have attended, page numbers are not announced. If you look really lost, a monk will note your confusion and help you find your place.

Most people sing along with th e monks and many, like myself, don’t sing very well and only have a vague idea of what those musical notes mean. Even the text is annotated with little symbols that tell you when to extend a note or raise or lower it. A tiny electronic organ will often pitch in at the beginning of a song to help us find the right key.

The red rock is made of brittle sandstone material. The larger boulders have sharp cracks running through their lengths, threatening to fall on some hapless hiker at any time. gas pump heaven The smaller rocks also have finely defined cracks running all the way through them. No small wonder why so many people who have hiked in this area have lost their lives.

I took a collapsible hiking pole along with me for my journey and I’m glad I did. Those who are proficient at technical climbing are probably the only people who should attempt climbing the majestic, looming rock behind the monastery. You definitely need ropes and pitons to get to the very top because I was not able to discern any trails at all. I’m sure they’re there somewhere, but I couldn’t find any, which I found to be odd, considering how long people have lived in this area.

As I climbed high above the monastery I could hear, in the crystal clear air, the sound of water. As I focused my senses it became louder and I eventually tracked the sound to a crevice from which water was dripping. As I looked around I saw water dripping from other places as well. And as I followed the path that the water was describing, I suddenly found myself at a series of ponds. Not puddles, mind you, but little ponds full of cold, fresh water. I splashed it on my face, hands and neck and it revived me enough to realize that it was time to head back to the monastery, lest my luck run out.

It seems Father Fred had a rather awful experience at the Chama River when he decided to try out his new duds. As he attempted to settle himself in the river, he quickly began sinking up to his knees in the soft mud. Somehow or other he extracted himself from that goo and now he was berating himself for having spent “a God-awful amount of money” on an outfit that he could not return for a refund.

At any rate, I’ve got a rare and intense education in the Benedictine Order and I’m a better man for it. I have spent the last 2-1/2 days without drugs, alcohol, TV and other earthly distractions. I have dedicated myself to celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and, to be quite honest, I have found it an uplifting experience full of pageantry and symbolism.

Carl and I somehow made it back to Albuquerque in one piece. We stopped along the road four times to reconstruct the engine and refill it with a gallon of oil that the Deacon had given us. Pistons and springs were consistently blown all over the engine compartment but we delicately rebuilt the engine about every 50 miles under the unforgiving New Mexico sun.