[Here's a favorite human interest/travel story I wrote recently for the Ojai Valley Guide (pdf) and the story in a more browser-friendly version]
Hidden in an oak woodland, across a bridge and over a stream, on Highway 150 not far from Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County, can be found one of the least ordinary of sanctuaries for the traveler in search of spiritual renewal.
Mother Victoria and her fellow three sisters of faith of wear only black, produce income mostly from the construction of redwood coffins, and pray four times a day. Given the seriousness with which they take their traditional faith, and the many hours they spend praying to expiate their sins, it’s easy to fear frowning faces, heavy accents, and stern looks of condemnation for a visitor from the 21st century.
Instead, in conversation around the dinner table, an impish humor quickly emerges from the sisters, Americans all, to surprise a visitor. Especially quick with a quip is Mother Nina, but all of the sisters – even Mother Victoria, who was born into the church, and retains at all times a matriarchal dignity – have their witty moments.
Who rules the monastery? Punkin, an orange tabby, the sisters agree, and declare him the ruler of all he surveys in the monastery. The cat sits still and his eyes close sleepily as he is complimented, as if to say – of course, of course.