After I was through inside the church – this was the last interior photo I made – it was time to walk around the building. As I made it around to the side that faces the highway, I saw him. The monk. He was on his way to the mailboxes.
In a minute, he came down the hill, and stopped for a chat. He talked about the town, the Mennonites who live just across the border in Mexico, the weather, Minnesota (where he’s from), a 1940 murder at the liquor store* and showed me the bullet holes, and gave me directions to the cemetery.
But you know what? I never told him about the icon, partly from residual shyness that still pops up from time to time, and partly because it seemed a little too fan-girl.
The whole encounter starts to seem like it was more of a dream than anything else, but I can see clearly his dusty brown robe, his desert boots, his long reddish beard…
Remember that I came to Shafter because of that story about a monk?
He’s about to become part of the narrative, but in the meantime, check out the way the light’s bouncing around here? Lovely, isn’t it?
The biggest building in town is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church; a notice posted next to the front door said Mass is celebrated there on the third Sunday of each month, at 2:00 p.m. That door was locked, but the side door wasn’t. I let myself in and spent a happy hour inside exploring and photographing.
This view, from the loft, was my favorite and I was especially captivated by the shadows behind the altar.
A small icon, painted in the traditional Russian style and purchased in a desert town in Texas, was the reason I found myself in the ghost town of Shafter, Texas, on a Saturday morning.
I’m not usually a purchaser of religious-themed art, but that little painting called to me. I circled it three or four or five times before I gave in and bought it. The man at the store told me it was painted by Brother Paschal, a monk who lives as a hermit in Shafter. “There’s only about nine people in Shafter,” he said, “so if you go down there, it ought to be easy to find him.”