In my travels trying to find presents for people yesterday, I picked up Thomas Merton's The Waters of Siloe, a history of the Cistercian monastic order and its somewhat newer offshoot, the Trappists (who are apparently the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance or the Ordo Reformatorum Cisterciensium). It's a good read if you have any interest in monasticism--although I've no intention of ever becoming a Christian monk (no sex? no meat? no thanks.), the path of being a Zen monk does lurk on the outskirts as a possibility that could seem right one day. (Zen monasticism, especially in America, is an ongoing experiment, but most of the orders I've encountered allow people to marry and/or carry on committed relationships.) Faith aside, the Trappists are a level of austerity I certainly don't aspire to: a simple diet of vegetables and bread, starting their day by chanting services in the middle of the night, speaking only to their superiors and confessors and communicating in sign language. I think it's a wonderful thing and contains all the elements I agree are needed for a contemplative life, but in a degree I'm quite uninterested in.
This is a strange Christmas in all kinds of ways. My head's a bit fuzzy, though, from traveling and seeing family and not doing aikido for a week. Back to training tomorrow (in a rather foreign teaching style, no less), but it's aikido and I've been training for a year since the last time I was there, so it will clear my head and I won't worry what anyone else thinks.
It is very pretty here, in western Massachusetts. Not that it's one thing or another; just itself.