The first time Colton took me to his little hometown of East End, Arkansas, he drove me around in his truck to see all the sights. He showed me the Sonic, the East End Cafe, the hardware store where he worked in high school, and the backroads he loved. He finally meandered down a road not too far from his house and looked over at me with a knowing smile. “You’re going to love this,” he said as he pointed out the passenger seat window. I glanced out the window and saw the most gorgeous building I had ever seen. He explained that the building and the small lake surrounding it is Marylake Carmelite Monastery, home of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Province of St. Therese. Yes, there are friars in East End, Arkansas. From the moment I saw the monastery, the inner photographer/historian in me was burning to see it up close. So earlier this month, I emailed the Superior Friar, Brother John Michael Payne for the chance to tour the grounds and photograph the exterior of the building. And last week, he said yes.
We arrived on the property and immediately began to explore the immense grounds, a little dog named Basil (as in the herb) leading the way. The terrace resembles that of a Spanish mansion with ironwork accents along the cobblestone walls. I could live on that terrace alone. It was absolutely breathtaking! The grounds also feature a spillway, which offers a glorious view of the monastery building, as well as a suspension bridge, a cemetery, and various benches next to statues of saints where the friars may sit and mediate in peace.