Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:
If, like me, you’re forever in search of a day or two of silence and solitude—do I have a place for you.
That would be St. Andrew’s Abbey, a male Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery, in the high desert an hour and half outside LA. You can either cut through the Angeles Forest, or take the long way around up the 5 to the 114 to Route 138 aka the Pearblossom Highway.
That will land you in the unincorporated community of Valyermo, on which, down a winding back road, St. Andrew’s is located. Pearblossom, Valyermo: pure poetry, and wait till you actually arrive!
Benedictines are known for their hospitality, and one of the Abbey’s main offerings consists in retreats. I’ve done many over the years: a few directed, most private. You get a room with heat, a swamp cooler, a bed, a desk, a patio and a crucifix. (Wifi is available in the Guest Lounge). You get acres of gorgeous desert to explore and roam. At 3600 feet, nestled in the northern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, you get four seasons.
Spring is an explosion of colors, textures, and the fragrance of chaparral and sage. Summers are hot, all the better to enjoy the shade of the Lombardy poplars, cottonwoods, and chapel. In fall, the trees change color. I spent Christmas here the year my mother died and woke December 25 to snow.
The Abbey is named for its mother house in Brugge, Belgium. Several missionary monks who had been expelled from Communist China bought the Hidden Springs Ranch in Valyermo and in 1955 established the monastery. Today, twenty monks make their lives of ora et labora—work and prayer—there.
READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.