Dwelling in the Wilderness

Dwelling in the Wilderness
What might the lives of contemporary monastics teach us about putting down roots? Whereas many of us are constantly on the go, stressed out, and focused on productivity, the life of a monk prioritizes staying put and paying attention. Many monks take a vow of stability that commits them to their home monastery, leading them to develop a deep connection with and knowledge of the land they inhabit. The monastic life teaches those who practice it to move more slowly through the world, and the monastic sense of place may even hold a key to responding to the growing ecological crisis threatening our environment.

Dwelling in the Wilderness examines how contemporary Benedictine Roman Catholic monks in the American West fall in love with their landscapes and how, in troubled times, we might do the same. Jason Brown travels to four monasteries--the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California; the Abbey of Our Lady of New Clairvaux in Vina, California; Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Carlton, Oregon; and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico--and spends time with the monks there, following their daily routine of prayer and tending to the land. He learns how the places they inhabit are essential to their daily spiritual practice and how they construct deeper theological meaning from the natural world.

Illustrated with Brown's photography of monastic landscapes, his journey as a pilgrim anthropologist is astute, insightful, and intimate. He explores theories of environmental perception, philosophy, and symbolic landscapes in accessible language. Bringing theological reflection to the power of contemplative ecology in an era many are calling the Anthropocene, or the age of human domination, he leads us to reconsider our relationship with our natural homes.

Publication Date: 
January 23, 2024