Monday, January 10, 2011


 After your lives have taken separate paths, we often get disconnected from cousins and old friends. One of the best things about being a road warrior is reconnecting with family and friends who live more stationary lives; people you see infrequently, or friendships reduced to a Christmas card per year. Saturday afternoon, my cousin Vicky and her husband Rod met us at Gold Canyon for a family get-together. I believe I've only met Vicky three times, twice when she was a young child and once at a family reunion in 2003. That is what often happens to us.
Vicky and her husband Rod, myself and Karen enjoyed dinner at Karen's house in Gold Canyon. The years just peeled away, looking at pictures and talking about our common ancestors. Do you know how my mom and dad met? I knew cousin Myron played drums but I didn't know your father played in a band? Who is that beautiful woman who looks like aunt Delores? The ties become warmer, closer, meaningful, memorable.
Gold Canyon is a small sprawling residential area next to the Superstition Mountains. Gorgeous country, great hiking trails into the desert, giant saguaro cactus and blossoming chollo.
 My friend Sandee Voges lives in Tuscon and we were able to drive about equal distance and met at a small town called Florence on Sunday morning. From all descriptions, its a "nothing" stop on the road with a McDonalds restaurant and a state prison. The blooming chollo, barrels and saguaro were nothing short of spectacular in the countryside.  And yes, Florence is a small place with few visable amenities. But, we discovered Mt. Athos, a greek restaurant, a wonderful greek restaurant as it turned out. The waitress took our picture, above.  The help patiently allowed us to yap and yap for a couple of hours without hovering and inching us out the door by subtle over-service.
  Sandee briefly walked her dog and got acquainted with Costas, parked nearby. He comes to the St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence to cleanse himself of the city. Monastery? He described this beautiful place with five churches, gorgeous grounds, orchards and an olive plantation. His love for the Greek Orthodox religion showed in his smile and words. He told us about the donkeys that are descendants of the bibilical donkeys that carried the Christ Child.  They have a cross on their backs. 
 We had to go.
It was started in 1995 with St. Anthony's Monastery, named for a third century ascetic of Egypt, the father of monasticism.
St. Nicholas Chapel is considered the most beautiful, but it is hard to decide. Each chapel is named for saints popular with Greeks. George the Great, Nicholas the Wonder-worker, Panteleimon the Healer, Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist, Seraphin of Savov, Demetrios of Thesalonica.
The grounds are elaborate, cooling and allow privacy and contemplation.
 The wood, stained glass, marble floors and tiles and grounds made you to know this is one of the most beautiful monasteries in the United States.
The Chapel of St. George, Romanian in style. The monastery is serviced by 40 resident monks.
This is the Russian Chapel dedicated to St. Seraphim. Visitors can stay on the premises.
This is the Russian Cross. The bottom slanted bar is the footrest. It is slanted because the thief crucified with Jesus on the right was saved and went to heaven. Thus the right side is slanted toward heaven. The thief on the left went to hell and the left side of the bar is slanted downward. (My picture was taken from the back side of the cross.)
 Saint Elijah's Chapel.
If you are in Phoenix, Tuscon, or anywhere near this wonderful place, you must visit. I took many pictures. If you want to see the album click here:
If you'd like to view the website to learn more about this amazing place, click on the link below:

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