Recommended diversions

Into Great Silence

The Carthusian monks of Grande Chartreuse, regarded as one of the most austere monasteries in the world, considered German director Philip Groning’s request to film their lives for nearly 16 years before granting permission. The result of that delayed filming is this near-silent, visually stunning masterpiece.

Shooting without a crew or artificial light, Groning gives us an inside look at the monastery that will stun many viewers. For nearly three hours, we observe the monks at prayer, at work, and at study. The film has no voice-overs, no background music, and of course, little conversation as the Carthusians are a silent order. Although I needed some time to adjust to the pace and intent of this film, I eventually found myself feeling more and more relaxed and at peace, a state of mind and body created by the peace of the movie itself. Highly recommended for all who feel bombarded by holiday demands.


The Alexandrian Quartets

The four volumes of Englishman Lawrence Durrell’s major work — Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea — run to nearly 900 pages. When I first read this book so long ago, I became word drunk, intoxicated by the prose and the elaborate descriptions, and so read the novels much too fast. Several times since then I have picked up the books, flipped through their pages, and wistfully contemplated a second visit. Now I have started, and am reading much more slowly and appreciatively than ever before. Here are the characters I remember: the wealthy Justine, the erotic Clea, the writer Pursewarden, the bureaucrats, the thieves, the poets, the people of Alexandria’s teeming streets. Here, too, are Durrell’s wordy but lovely descriptions, his poetry in prose form about a city and its inhabitants, about sex and love, work and literature. Who knows? Perhaps reading such a book with its lush garden of words will provide a healing counterpoint to our harried, scurrying lives.


Salvation Army

Christmas would seem lonelier without the ringing bells of the Salvation Army workers and volunteers. For many years this organization has helped the poor and the lost among us. The Salvation Army uses its money and talents wisely, keeping the Spirit of Christmas all year long. If you see these workers, throw a buck or two in the bucket. It’s a bargain price for a warm heart.



“Sweet” and “Easy to Peel” reads the description on the small wooden crates in which these oranges are shipped, and for once the advertising matches its product. These oranges from Spain are a favorite in our home. They cost a little more than some other fruit, but the pleasure of eating one of these little miracles more than compensates for the few extra pennies.

— By Jeff Minick

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