Road Trip…



About once a month, I take a two hour drive up the 101 to San Luis Obispo.  For me, this drive is one of the most beautiful in the world.  I’m not quite sure why, except that for the first 20 or so miles, I set my cruise control to take me alongside the rugged California coastline north of Santa Barbara.  Then I turn into a twisting, uphill canyon that takes me into the Santa Ynez Valley, with its rolling hills of golden grass, dotted with several varieties of oak trees for the next 15 miles, followed by the land-hugging, espaliered rows of grapevines on either side of the road for about 20 more miles.  Along the way, I drive through Los Alamos, Orcutt, Santa Maria, Nipomo and finally head out to the coast once more through the Five Cities area (Arroyo Grande/ Oceano/Grover Beach/Pismo Beach/Shell Beach) before turning the final bend into SLO, with Avila Beach stretching ahead on the left, and the canyons and hills of the outskirts of the city on my right.  As long as the traffic is not too heavy, I can literally feel the cares and concerns of the previous few days fall away from my shoulders as I drive.

Why do I take this trip so regularly?  To spend one hour each month with a white-haired, wise older man named David, that’s why. 

David is the Abbott of a Benedictine monastery located off of Foothill Road in the back country of southern SLO.  He and his 7 brothers (and one female oblate in a separate residence) have lived on their hillside for about 15 years, having moved there at the prompting of the Holy Spirit after almost 20 years in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area.  

They bought the ‘dream house’ of a retired dentist who decided after he moved in that the place wasn’t so dreamy after all.  And they built a lovely small chapel, with a bookroom attached, some additional housing for the brothers and a very small, single room building with a sign on it that reads, “Holy Spirit House.”  That’s where I join David each month and we sit together, sharing conversation and prayer.

The monastery itself is the larger roof on the left of the picture.  
The building to the right of the long driveway houses the chapel, 
bookroom and overflow housing.  
Next time, I’ll post a picture of the Holy Spirit House where David and I talk and pray.
David is a very well-educated man, having spent about five years in Rome learning missiology and depth psychology.  He loves to hear my dreams – and I’m talking actual, night-time-while-I’m-sleeping-dreams here – and then we talk them through to see what’s happening in my mind, emotions and spirit.  I have found this gentle exercise to be deeply helpful, thought-provoking, surprising, sometimes hilarious and occasionally sobering.  In six days, I leave for Chicago for a one week intensive course to begin a 2-year, 3-summer program leading to certification in Spiritual Direction through our denominational seminary.  Finding David – in a truly serendipitous, inspired way, I might add – has been a great gift as I have moved through the decision-making process, the application-filling-out process, the acceptance process and the getting-myself-tentatively-ready process.  He is most encouraging, coaching me to open myself to all that God has designed and called me to be.  I am – and always will be! – a work very much in process and I am grateful for David’s wise counsel as I keep at it.
I am going to try and take pictures each time I go from now on.  The landscape around the monastery reflects the ‘seasons’ of southern California better than many places, with the grasses turning from brown to light green, to bright green, to gold back to dusky brown as the sun changes its arc in our sky.  Today, I saw lots of wild yarrow, its stiff, yellow-tipped flat flowers blowing in the brisk breezes of the afternoon.  

Saw some signs of rural life here and there as well, like the old barn at the top of this column. The old-fashioned windmill – in the same visual line as major power poles draping their way from valley to valley – and the rolled bales of hay, moldering in the fading light softly reflect the semi-rural nature of so much of northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo counties.  No wonder I enjoy this drive!

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