The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery is Henri Nouwen's journal of his seven-month stay in the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. His reflections on daily life with the Trappists are funny, wise, and often profound--resembling ...
embling Kathleen Norris's The Cloister Walk, but a bit less thematically structured and more down to earth. Nouwen's goal is simply to record what it's like to pass the time in a cloistered community. He spends part of his stay there reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which helps awaken a hunger for a richer experience of life that he subsequently satisfies by learning to slow down. In his first week at the monastery, Nouwen writes, "I have so many ideas I want to write about, so many books I want to read, so many skills I want to learn--motorcycle maintenance is now one of them--and so many things I want to say to others now or later, that I do not SEE that God is all around me and that I am always trying to see what is ahead, overlooking him who is so close." Then, looking forward to being planted in one place among the Trappists, he writes, "Maybe I need to get stuck," to learn to see God. He does, and he does. --Michael Joseph Gross