King's Lake, Alaska

This photo of King's Lake looking toward The Salvation Army's King's Lake Camp near Wasilla, Alaska, was taken by me at 10:40 p.m. one evening during a July visit. A couple hours of daylight still remained, so it's not really a sunset. But it sure did turn out nice, don't you think? 

The Rock Garden at St. Meinrad

While at St. Meinrad Archabbey last weekend for a prayer retreat (in the company of the lovely Robin), I had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful and varied rock garden on the grounds.
 The garden is placed between the monastery and the church, and is replete with streams and fountains, rocks and plants.



And, of course, numerous angels and cherubs are found among the beauties of the place, which is one of many enjoyable features of the St. Meinrad grounds.

St. Meinrad Library Art Exhibit

While visiting St. Meinrad Archabbey in south-central Indiana last weekend, I stopped in the library on the grounds as soon as it opened (9 a.m.) Saturday morning.
I had learned from an informational brochure that there might be an art display in the library, and I was not disappointed.
On display were many paintings (see above) by Kazhia Kolb, who studied at the Sorbonne and the École des Beaux Arts. She has lived in the U.S. since 1978 and in St. Meinrad (the town) since 2006.
Also shown were the works of Keith Armstrong (above and below), a woodturning artist who focuses on exposing the beauty of the imperfect grain found in cast-off pieces of burl, tree forks, roots, and limbs.
His work is made only from trees that have already fallen or are dying and must be felled.
I was entranced by his pieces, and could have photographed every single one. But I didn't.

As it turned out, I was fortunate to see this show, as the artists arrived just as I finished to disassemble the display and pack up their pieces. I'm so glad I got to see the work of both of these artists. It added much to my Saturday morning of prayer and contemplation.

St. Meinrad Archabbey

The lovely Robin, and I spent last weekend on a silent prayer retreat at St. Meinrad Archabbey in south-central Indiana (near Evansville). St. Meinrad monastery was founded in 1854 by monks from the thousand-year-old Swiss abbey of Einsiedeln, where St. Meinrad lived and died. Today, it is a thriving community of ninety or so monks which also includes a seminary (more than a hundred seminarians studying for the priesthood), theological school, publishing house (Abbey Press), gift shop, and extensive grounds.
The archabbey church is a beautiful place, with a Christus painted in 1943 by Fr. Gregory de Wit, a monk of Mont César Abbey in Belgium, who while visiting the abbey also painted the chapter room.
We arrived on Friday just in time for a tour of the archabbey, conducted by Brother Maurus, the guestmaster (that's him in the photo below). 
One of the most impressive (of many) stops on the tour was the chapter room, where the monks meet for readings, briefings, and monkish-type things. In fifteen or sixteen years of prayer retreats at the other abbey, I've never gotten to see the chapter room (it's off limits to retreatants), so this was a treat.
Brother Maurus pointed out the murals on the ceilings, based on the Canticle of the Three Young Men from the apocryphal book of that name, used in morning prayers (Matins).
In addition also to murals on the walls, the chapter room also featured an impressive entry and exit, flanked by two carved monks (above), one holding a cross and the other a bowl.
The guest house (above) was a separate building from the church and monastic areas, and the private rooms (with private baths) were luxuriosly furnished and appointed compared to what I'm accustomed to. The meals also were a cut above.
All the grounds were beautifully tended and there were so many places to sit and meditate and pray and enjoy.
St. Meinrad's is a beautiful place to retreat, pray, worship, and be. More information is available on their website (yes, monks have websites), www.saintmeinrad.org.


Book Bums

 Last evening I found my way to Book Bums, a unique place in West Chester (north of Cincinnati, Ohio), for the meeting of a writer's group called (appropriately enough) Word Bums.
 What a unique place. While it has a well-stocked book collection, it is not a bookstore (the shelves pictured above are for borrowing). It is "a quick literacy resource for readers of all ages, particularly parents of preschoolers." Book Bums's founder, teacher Christy Williams, says on the Book Bum website, it was created as "a place where reading is fun, and where parents could learn how to most effectively support their children as readers and truly enjoy doing so."
They serve drinks and food (soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, and desserts). I had a scone and cup of decaf. They offer story times and "Foundations of Literacy" classes and book clubs. More than anything, though, they serve up an inviting place to talk, about books, mostly. Which is fine by me.

Book Bums is located at 8992 Cincinnati-Dayton Road in West Chester, Ohio.

Pinch Me Places: Matanuska Glacier

Late in July, the lovely Robin and I had a wonderful whirlwind visit to the forty-ninth state in the U.S.A., the "last frontier," Alaska. On the last day of our stay, we set out on Sunday afternoon in the company of our hosts, George and Jeanne Baker, and our friends Eloisa and Jeff Martin, for the Matanuska Glacier.
After roughly an hour and a half of driving (we started out forty-five minutes from Anchorage), the Matanuska Glacier came into view. Approximately twenty-six miles long (see the photo of the glacier's length here), and four miles wide at its terminus, it is classified as a valley glacier--a body of solid ice that flows like a river under its own weight through an existing valley.
We entered the Matanuska Glacier Park, a privately owned park that is the glacier's only access point and stopped at the office to not only pay the entrance fee but also to sign waivers saying any injury while walking on the glacier would be our problem, not theirs. Then we drove a couple miles on a dirt road to the parking area and started walking.
At first it was hard to believe we were walking on a glacier, because the ice was largely covered with rocks and grit. But after many steps on the darker surface, we reached the glistening white areas of the glacier, and many crevasses where the deep blue of the glacier glowed up at us!
Walking on the surface of a glacier is definitely a "pinch me place." I want to do it again--and I want to take my kids and grandkids, and maybe pay to go on one of the guided tours and ice climbing options that are available! 

New York State Fair

Last Tuesday evening the lovely Robin and I enjoyed a visit to the New York State Fair with my brother Don and sister-in-law Arvilla.
We shared a fried onion. Ate a sausage. Had fresh squeezed lemonade. Browsed the arts and crafts exhibit. Saw some chickens and rabbits and peacocks, oh my! Watched the horse jumping competition for a while. And people-watched, too. 
My favorite part was the blues stylings of Stevie Wolf and the Blues Express. It was so fun watching the dancing (I even tapped a toe once or twice myself).

It was a great time with great people.