I just got back from West Virginia. The trip was a last minute decision but it was a good one. I got to spend a lot of time with friends and to visit the Hermitage of the Holy Cross for a second time.
As we haven't had a chance to explain in detail what our ultimate plans are I'll give y'all an idea of what's been on our minds for a while. This past September, Matthew and I visited the Hermitage as well as a church located in close vicinity to the Monastery. We were told about the two by many people and were looking for a place to settle and this seemed like a possibility so we packed our car and drove the 27 hours it took to get there! We were looking for a place where we could attend more services and give the Church more of a central place in our lives. We weren't disappointed. The monks are welcoming and loving, and the services are incredibly beautiful, prayerful and peaceful. Our experience at the parish church was of a similar nature and so we decided that this was where we wanted to live. Since our house is still for sale we decided to do travel nursing while we wait for the house to be sold. This is how we ended up in Brooklyn.
Back to my trip to WV. Getting there took a bit of patience. The driver of the first bus was apparently new. We didn't realize this, though the screaming we heard from the back of the bus while he was backing up seemed to indicate that he almost hit something/someone and therefore hadn't mastered all the skills necessary for the job. I quickly forgot the incident until an hour later when he stopped the bus, turned toward us and asked us if we knew where the bus station was. We all looked puzzled not really understanding what he meant until he told us he was lost. He called the office but that didn't seem to help. Someone finally figured out where we needed to turn and we got there fairly quickly. I chose to forget that incident as well until later when we realized we were going in circles. It turns out he didn't know how to get to the second station either. People started to get annoyed. He stopped someone on the street and got some directions. He got us there and apologized saying he wasn't given good directions. I decided to forgive him that one too, we all have bad days. Most of the other passengers didn't forgive and became extremely irritated when we realized that he couldn't get us to the third station either. At this point some used more colorful language and got a little louder. We made it to that one too but that meant we were going to be really late and might miss our connections. Thankfully they held the buses for us and we were able to continue the journey with another more seasoned driver. I had to make three connections and spend the hours between 11:30pm and 2:45am in Columbus, Ohio where the lights were way too bright for tired eyes and where we got to listen to a sport news broadcast which repeated itself every hour. It was painful, almost too ridiculous to be true. I finally got on the last bus and got to Huntington at 6:00am after 17 hours of traveling. The moral of the story is that Greyhound buses will get you to your destination but it might not be the most pleasant way to get there.
The week was spent with friends and we got to attend loads of Services, some very special ones too, like the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt and the vigil and Vesperal Liturgy of the Feast of Annunciation as well as a tonsure of a monk to the small Schema (stavrophore). The week was jammed pack with spiritual pearls in the forms of services, conversations, gifts. The nature there is infused with prayer and you can feel it. It was an altogether different experience than busy, loud and paved Brooklyn! The only thing missing was Matthew who stayed behind because of his work schedule.
Having spent a wonderful week I decided that I probably should come home. I must admit the thought of staying there crossed my mind more than once but it isn't the time yet. Maybe soon... The trip back wasn't quite as painful but still couldn't be described as pleasant. The important thing is I made it back in one piece.
Here are a few pictures of the trip.
These are some of the buildings. The red building contains a gift shop which sells things that the monks make to support the monastery. There are soaps (bars and liquid, some made using goat milk from their own goats) lotions, lip balms, honey, incense, a DVD produced by the monks on monasticism, books, candles, specialty pastries, CDs... I spent a bit of money in there.
This other building contains the shipping office as well as the incense making workshop and rooms for monks and visitors.
This is the newest building which is not completely finished yet. It is for Bishop George of Mayfield who now resides at the Monastery. This house will also be used for visitors.
This house is attached to another bigger building comprising offices and a library. (This picture was taken by one of the monks.)
These are the new baby goats! They're so cute! Too bad they'll grow up to be pretty ugly and dumb.
This is Myrtle. She is a new addition this year and will provide the Monastery with milk. They use the goat milk for drinking, making cheese and making soap but they wanted to have a different type of milk as well to make different cheeses. Myrtle and I became friends really quickly (I did bribe her with a dog treat!)
This is a closer shot. She was quite fond of the camera.
This is a sign taped to the Greyhound station in Huntington. I couldn't resist taking a picture.
Some things are just plain silly. I thought of asking the clerk what would happen if someone was to actually walk into the station with a hood and sunglasses, but I refrained.