Do you ever have those days when you feel you need to be alone for a while, becoming rejuvenated by the simple sound of silence amid nature? Well, that was me yesterday. I still wanted to take pictures and to think creatively, but I needed some solitude, some serenity, to clear my mind from city noise. So, I decided to embark south and explore unfamiliar territory.
First, I stopped by Mount Angel Abbey – a Benedictine monastery located in St. Benedict, Ore. I had heard Sven mention it a while back, and I wanted to see the place for myself. That was definitely one of the better choices I’ve made during this internship.
For a while, I was wondering if I would even find the place. Mapquest had me taking some tiny little roads (it’s amazing they were even paved), which provided a view of some spectacular countryside but made me a bit worried I would never find my way back to Portland. Mapquest proved reliable, however, and led me straight to Abbey Road.
The monastery is located on top of the mountain, providing an amazing view of the surrounding areas. Driving up, you are surrounded by trees and these mini open chapels that present painted scenes from the Bible. I rolled my windows down, marinating in the mountain air and getting a better look at these interesting constructions dotted alongside the road.
Once at the top of the mountain, you see the small community that monks and seminary students call home. The buildings form a square, leaving a large green lawn in the center that is scattered with trees and cemented pathways. If you’ve ever been to the University of Memphis at Lambuth, you would probably notice the similarity between the lawns.
I stepped out of my car, and felt quiet. A strange thing to actually feel – it’s normally a matter of hearing – but I felt it nonetheless. While driving to Mount Abbey, I was thinking to myself how much the monks got to leave the mountain, or if they ever regretted having to stay there. Once I actually saw it with my own eyes, and felt the peacefulness that seemed to have settled on that mountain, I think I began to understand it wouldn’t be so bad to live there. And I was the one feeling regret because I didn’t bring my Bible with me. I wish I could have sat and read for a while.
Visitors are allowed only in certain areas of the community. While there weren’t any blatant signs stating, “DO NOT COME INSIDE THIS BUILDING, NOSY TOURISTS,” the buildings that “normal” people could not tour usually had closed doors. Plus, there were a few maps of the area that told you which buildings were off-limits.
One of my favorite buildings was the chapel. It was so majestic and beautiful, with a large organ and breathtaking architecture. I’m not Catholic, but I felt at rest there, sitting in the pews. I even had the chance to hear one of the monks play the organ – a really cool moment.
After spending a few quiet moments in the chapel, I ventured back outdoors, explored the grounds and peered over the edges to see the landscape below.
Finally, I made a short tour of the graveyard.
I wanted to spend more time at the monastery, but alas, my stomach would not allow me to do so. I had no idea how far away I was to the nearest eatery, and it was already after 2 p.m. If you know me at all, you’ve probably figured out that I must have at least an occasional snack after a certain number of hours, or I pretty much shut down – headache, grouchiness, you name it. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s just the way it seems that things work.
So, I jetted off to Silverton to find the Oregon Gardens and the Gordon House (one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations). Confession: I first stopped by McDonald’s. It’s probably a sin to eat junk food with so many amazing restaurants around here, but in my defense, I was about to start gnawing on my steering wheel, and I didn’t discover all of the cool downtown bistros until leaving Silverton. At that moment, McDonald’s simply had to do.
After getting my fair share of calories, I stopped by the Gordon House. It was … a house.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am an admirer of modern architecture, and it was an interesting house. I thought it was a clean design, and it felt warm and inviting. I also appreciated his incorporation of lots of natural light. But, it was nothing spectacular. And I didn’t feel inclined to pay to tour the inside of the house. I watched the videos on the Gordon House website, and the interior seemed bland, at best. So, I snapped a few shots and moved on.
The Oregon Gardens are located just up the road from the Gordon House – in fact, the Gordon House is sort of on the “property” of the Oregon Gardens, it seems.
The gardens were worth the price tag. The area was split up into different sections, such as the “Pet Friendly Garden” and the “Silverton Market Garden.” I’m not sure if the business picks up during a certain time of year, but it was fairly quiet and isolated when I went – which was totally fine with me. Like Mount Angel, the gardens gave me time to take pictures while clearing my mind of clutter.
As I was walking down the trails, I also began to think about Eden. I always wondered, as a kid, what Eden may have looked like – but never what it smelled like. After spending some time sitting on a bench, surrounded by these beautifully vivid plants and trees, inhaling their aromas, I think it probably smelled something similar to the scene around me.
As I was driving back, I decided to turn off on a street in St. Benedict to check out a church – I saw its steeple while visiting Mt. Angel, and it looked like an interesting place. While trying to find this church, I realized I had been transported into old Europe – literally. The town’s buildings are designed like what I imagine Germany used to look like. It was the coolest surprise! St. Benedict quickly became one of my favorite places in the states, just for that.
After a tour through town, I made my trek back to Portland, with my camera brimming with pictures and myself feeling a bit more energized – a day well spent!
Until next time,