It’s been almost three years since I have written those words. All those field trips I did with my students came to a halt when I retired. Up early. Dressed appropriately. Hoping the bus showed up on time. Hoping the kids showed up on time, dressed appropriately. On pins and needles the whole trip, knowing I was responsible for the safety of other people’s children. Over 200 trips with almost no hiccups. The biggest catastrophe was a shoplifting incident in Old Town Sacramento. The plainclothes police officer turned the well dressed young criminal over to me and said, “deal with it when you get home.” Smart man, smart call. It all worked out, and the wayward boy is now a manager for a local grocery chain.
Yesterday’s field trip, though, was much different. For one, I was NOT in charge. Best part. As there was such a large number of our church members who wanted to go on this trip, there was not enough room on the bus, so the trip director allowed cars and I didn’t have to ride in the bus. We didn’t leave at the crack of dawn, either. There was a dress code, though. We were visiting a Greek monastery and they have strict rules–long skirts, covered arms, heads covered for the ladies. Men are required to wear long pants and long sleeves. Since it was a very chilly day, we all had no problems with this edict.
Here is the whole group, after lunch, at the Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center:
We were served a traditional Greek lunch of roasted chicken, Cretan pilaf, spanakopita, Greek salad, and a spice cake for dessert. It all tasted so good and comforting after our morning trek around the monastery where Sister Isadora had directed our visit.
The drive is about an hour out of Fresno, up through winding foothill roads, to a turnoff that leads farther up the hillside where from the road one can spot the church and monastery perched on the hill:
The Life Giving Spring Monastery has been in Dunlap for 22 years. The church, built by Bishop Anthony, was completed in 2003. Bishop Anthony had asked God to allow him to build a church and this is the results of that prayer. After the church was completed, Bishop Anthony lived one more year, dying of a quick illness that usually affects children. He is buried behind the sanctuary.
The sisters who live at the monastery, raising goats, chickens, olives, and apples, dedicate their lives to prayer for the world. There is much beauty and tranquillity here for such a contemplative life. My friend, who is the director for our senior’s trips, told me she would like to live in such a place and spend time in prayer. I could do it for a short period, but I love the city life far too much to be that far away. She agreed and said maybe a six-month stint would be fine for her.
The sisters produce food and beverages including olives, applesauce, jam, syrup, and fruit vinegar. All food and beverage items are hand made by the nuns at the Life-Giving Spring Monastery and can be purchased in their bookstore on site. Most of the sisters come from Greece. Our guide for the morning, Sister Isadora, is American. She did a splendid job of explaining the Greek Orthodox religion and describing the iconography we saw in the church. She asked that no pictures be taken of her or of people at the monastery, including pictures of ourselves. The one photo I took that has people in it is of the interior of the sanctuary as I was the last one to enter:
All of the church interior was built in Greece and brought to California and assembled here. The wood carving was all done by one family in Crete. The tile work came from another area of Greece. The paintings were done by artists brought from Greece for this project. For just a moment, if you forgot that you were in central California, you could feel like you were in Greece.