The Journey Is the Destination: The Way to Clear Creek Abbey

Keep an eye out for the monks, on one of their daily strolls.

Before I show you Clear Creek Abbey, as I promised in my last post, I would like to first do something a little different.

It is something that not all travel writers do, but I have always wished that they would at least try, because I think that it enhances the sense of having been there – even if one has yet to be.

What is it, you may ask?

Simple: I would like to first take you there.

The Journey Is the Destination

There is something about a journey that brings a destination to life.

I am not talking about the crowded-in-a-bus, led-by-the-nose type travels, where tourists are herded together like cattle and systematically taken from point A to point B, while a little yellow flag bobbles up and down at the very front of the pack.

While these types of journeys can certainly have their place, there is a very strong recognition amongst those who appreciate immersing themselves into a different culture or place that such travels are ultimately mere trinkets of the real thing, because they sterilize and limit all interaction with almost everything else but the points chosen to visit.

No, what I am speaking of is true adventure – genuine expedition, where the experience of reaching a place becomes as much apart of the destination as the final location itself.

Clear Creek Abbey is one such place where, to not include the journey, would be to almost do the reader an injustice of the worst kind.

The monks who built (and who are continuing to build) Clear Creek Abbey, chose their location with a certain level of care.

Dedicated to prayer, they purposely sought to establish their new foundation in the United States (direct from France) in a secluded location, far from civilization, where they could live a life apart for God.

In an effort to mentally and spiritually separate themselves from the chaos of the world, they took themselves far into nature, off the beaten track, where through physical separation they could begin the process of heartfelt separation as well.

To visit Clear Creek Abbey is, therefore, to become apart of this journey, in one way or another, because the drive through many country roads takes each and every visitor through a long, physical separation from society at large.

That “separation” should not be missed when documenting Clear Creek Abbey, and it is therefore where I would like to begin.

Withdrawing From the World

For me, that separation began as I merged onto the interstate in the heart of Tulsa.

Being a smaller city, it was not long before buildings gave way to trees, before the city gave way to farms, and the interstate gave way to a long, somewhat busy back road.

Rolling down that back road, still safely journeying upon the traction of sturdy concrete, I passed homes that were further spaced apart, small gas stations where people easily could get to know your name, and country churches that professed simple creeds to hard-working hands.

A turn to the right took me onto yet another solid country road, where the gas stations quickly disappeared, and only the occasional aging home, an excited dog, or a lone rider on horseback passed me by.

Winding and turning, past lands covered in lush trees – over a small, winding creek – until finally another turn to the right yielded what I had been waiting for all along.

An end to the world as I know it.

Beneath my four wheels, concrete came to an abrupt finish, while dust, gravel and little bits of tiny stones leaped up in fits of playful retribution.

It was time to embark upon the true back roads – the final journey of physical separation from modern civilization.

Country Road, Take Me…to Clear Creek Abbey

The journey to Clear Creek Abbey almost demands that one slow down at this point, as much as one may want to rush.

Slow down, look, and listen…

Let yourself step out of the rush that you are accustomed to, and into a place of peace, where time lingers like the heat on a summer’s day and the journey is already a place of prayer, for it has now become a land of simplicity – and a forgotten world in itself.

Let the journey to Clear Creek Abbey begin already to still your frazzled soul, before you even arrive.

Come with me, and see what it is like to do more than just visit an Abbey.

Experience what it is like to actually place a vast physical separation between yourself and the modern world.

Capturing the Journey

I am not by any means a professional photographer, and the images that you will see are shot on a very basic camera by a very inexperienced hand.

However, I hope that they still will capture something of what it is like to journey to Clear Creek Abbey – a journey that takes one so far away from time.

Some of the images are shot in panoramic, so please feel free to click on them and they will open the selected photograph onto a larger view.

Enjoy!

~*~

RoadtoMonasteryWithBarn

Down long country roads, past farm land and pasture, the separation from the madness of the secular world slowly begins – both physically and mentally as well.

~*~

BarnInDistance

Views so simple – nothing spectacular that could cause one to lose ones way – yet graceful enough to take one away all the same.

~*~

RoadtoMonasteryUphill

A turn onto another road – a little hill to the right. Into the shadows, and a vague sense of soft mystery under the bright bold sun.

~*~

ShadowyRoadtoMonastery

Up the hill – covered in a veil of patterns, shadows that linger like puzzles in the mind.

~*~

WindyRoadYellowLeaves

The longer one travels, the less one sees – until seeing less begins to feel like “seeing” more.

~*~

RoadtoMonasteryWithWishboneShadow

A wishbone of a shadow, under the arch of a tree. If only one could wish – break free from all the ties that bind – and never have to return to the madness again.

~*~

StinkyGuest

Every journey always encounters unwelcome guests. Keep going – but carefully!

~*~

StinkyGuestUpClose

Don’t get too curious!

~*~

ArchedDoorinLeaves

A small arch in the distance – like the door to a secret garden. If only we had the key to step through, and lock that door behind us, as Mary did in the classic novel.

~*~

ShadowArchRoad

The arch becomes the shadows – like all wishes that never stay, but linger until you stand too close, and then disappear like a dream you thought you had known.

~*~

Where the streets may still have names, but what great names they are!

Where the streets may still have names, but what great names they are!

~*~

WoodsyRoad

Could one get lost here? It seems so simple – like any place. Trees and a road – but what lays at the end? What place of prayer, of solitude, and life?

~*~

WaterInRoad

A dried up creek, yet water in the road. A strange paradox. When the soul is dry, is that when it finally finds its drink? When it has to keep going, is that when it finally must stop?

~*~

DriedUpCreek

Two worlds meet – the creek bed and the way – like all of our perceptions and those of God, one is dry, and another leads home. (I took a little liberty with the last two photos – they are actually from the street that arrives at Clear Creek Abbey from another direction than the one I usually went.)

~*~

At the Gates

Finally, the destination seems almost at hand!

After so much travel, moving deeper into nature, and further away from civilization, both physically and mentally, one can really begin to feel that genuine sense of separation from the world.

Just as that sense begins to set in, there we are – in front of the gates to Clear Creek Abbey!

~*~

RoadtoGateWithTwoRoadsDownhill

The road to the left – the hill that we just drove up. The road to the right – the entrance to the private property of the Abbey!

~*~

GateFromOutsideThreeStreetView

Looking at the entrance to the grounds in the center of the image. (Please click on these panoramic images for a better view.)

~*~

RoadAtGateWithDrivewayToNuns

From the same spot as the image above, we now see the entrance to the Abbey to the left, another road that heads straight ahead down a hill, and to the right, a small driveway – which belongs to (or did at the time I visited) the Benedictine nuns! (They were planning on moving onto the property of the Abbey at the time I visited, which I am assuming they probably already did. More pictures on that later!)

~*~

NunsConvent

Looking down the small drive, one can just barely make out the house where the Benedictine nuns were living at the tie I visited.

~*~

One of the nun's dogs comes out to meet the strange new visitor, and sends a friendly tail wag my way.

One of the nun’s dogs comes out to meet the strange new visitor, and sends a friendly tail wag my way.

~*~

DogLeadingWay

“To the Abbey? Follow me!”

~*~

EntrancetoMonastery

Passing through the entrance to the monk’s property.

~*~

SignWithPlane

Looking up, as we are almost directly beneath the gate, we see the cross and a plane rocketing through the sky. Perhaps now, like that plane, and the cross itself, we have found a place where we can begin to be free.

~*~

Gate&NunsDriveway

Looking back briefly – there is the driveway to the nun’s home straight ahead. To the right – the road that we entered on, and to the left, yet another road.

~*~

GateFromInsideIronRustedCircle

Passing through the gate there is a great sense of simplicity – nothing fancy, just simple, rusty iron amidst a very basic world.

~*~

GateFromInsidePan

A view from the inside of the gate looking back to the street we were just on – worth clicking on, if you want to see it up close.

~*~

Heading down the internal drive a ways, we come upon a fork in the road. Which way?

Heading down the internal drive some length, we come upon a fork in the road. Which way?

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InternalClearCreekDirectionSign

The sign is quick to point the way.

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InternalSignUpClose

Monastery to the right, guest house to the left.

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InternalRoadtoMonastery

And we thought we were there already! Talk about secluded – we still have a ways to go. Follow that road!

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InternalRoadWideView

In autumn colors, the same road becomes warm and golden, like a halo on a painted scene.

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InternalRoadScragglyTree

This sure is a lot of property!

~*~

Across the bridge we go - if you click on the image, you can see the road in the center, behind the trees, which we just drove down before crossing the bridge.

Across the bridge we go – if you click on the image, you can see the road in the center, behind the trees, which we just drove down before crossing the bridge.

~*~

Don't worry - the road is not that bumpy. It is the creek bed, dried up from a hot summer.

Don’t worry – the road is not that bumpy.  It is the creek bed, dried up from a hot summer, and that is the bridge over which we must now drive.

~*~

Keep an eye out - you might make a new friend!

New friends along the way!

~*~

After the bridge, we pass a garden on the right, and then stop to turn and look back. Looking back, the garden is now on our left.

After the bridge, we pass a garden on the right, and then stop to turn and look back. Looking back, the garden is now on our left.

~*~

FarmerMonkBarbedWire

A monk, hard at work in the garden, behind barbed wire. No matter how close we get, their world is still separated from ours, like the wire that separates us from the monk.

~*~

Keep an eye out for the monks, on one of their daily strolls.

Keep an eye out for the monks, on one of their daily strolls.

~*~

DSC06765

A monk hard at work!

~*~

MonasteryCircleRoad

Finally, we are almost there!

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TreeWithMonastery

Behind the tree lays our destination – Clear Creek Abbey!

~*~

But that must be saved for another time.

For now, I hope that you have been able to absorb the sense of separation from the world that the monastery offers, a sense that can generally only be appreciated by going through the long drive yourself, and that you will look forward to exploring Clear Creak Abbey with me in the near future. 

Until then, off to prayers!

To be continued…

~*~

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15 Comments on “The Journey Is the Destination: The Way to Clear Creek Abbey”

  1. NEO Says:

    A wonderful idea, with lovely and loving execution. Thanks CNG

    Reply

  2. Marc Says:

    Have you been to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama? There is a part of the road near the entrance where it’s kind of rocky and dusty and then goes paved. It went from noisy road to quiet road instantly. I loved that. I think it was done that way on purpose to get your attention.

    I’ve been told the CC is a great place for a retreat. Your pictures are helping to sell that further! Thank you!

    Reply

    • Reclaiming the Sacred Says:

      Hi Marc! Thanks! Yes, I have been to the Shrine in Alabama quite a few times over the years. They have a very impressive set up! Clear Creek is definitely far more remote than even that though, and feels less “touristy.” I never really felt like I could be “alone” at the Shrine in Alabama.

      Clear Creek actually took me by surprise at first, because it was so remote that I had never been to a monastery like it. I was expecting paved country roads a bit (maybe a little unpaved road if anything) and then a gate, and then maybe a small drive, and then the monastery itself.

      Instead, I got loooong, paved country roads, then looooong, unpaved country roads, then the gate, then more loooong unpaved country road, until I finally arrived in an unpaved parking area feeling very far away from everything (and everyone, but I was there in the early to mid fall, so I am not sure what it is like in summer or spring).

      If you like to walk, you could spend days just walking the country roads by yourself, not worrying about traffic, maybe getting chased by a random dog or two, and reading a book along the way. They have so many places where you could just get lost, on little back trails, etc. I will show more, as Clear Creek has a lot to show. It is very conducive to silence, contemplation, and just getting away from it all. Happy Solemnity of Mary & Happy New Year! :-)

      Reply

      • Marc Says:

        I had several business trips to Huntsville AL in the past. It is about 75 min away from there and I couldn’t NOT go at least once per trip. But I always went at night and was much more peaceful, but it know what you mean…esp. during daytime visits.

        I see good trail running opportunities too!

        Reply

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