We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I have a retired friend who spends around 6 weeks each year at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. Quite a few people do this sort of thing. It's a Trappist monastery (Cistercian, with strict rules) with guest houses for retreatants. (They do take in married couples as retreatants and you probably need to be Roman Catholic, but I'm not sure.)
He does whatever labor is assigned to him - from baling hay to cleaning toilets, observes the rules of silence, and makes it to all of the Masses (beginning after the morning bells at 3 AM).
He returns home "cleansed and refreshed by the Spirit." The guy was a drop-out seminarian, USMC in Vietnam, and, as he describes himself, a "kick-ass businessman." He is, indeed, a tough SOB who loves the Lord.
The Abbey is an old plantation on the Cooper River, north of Charleston, donated to the order by the Luce family.
I remember meeting one of the monks at a nursery near Hilton Head. He was at the grand opening to promote Mepkin Abbey's composted chicken manure fertilizer called Earth Healer. Great stuff - it made anything grow. The monk had a great sense of humor, too. He said they'd originally thought to call it Holy Shit, but decided that Earth Healer would be a better name.
I remember he had a truly happy and joyful attitude that to this day makes me think that they are doing something right at Mepkin Abbey.
When I was in my twenties, I always intended to visit a monastery. Years later, I finally did. Take my word: it's never too soon to start visiting monasteries. If you have the itch, scratch it.
One of my favorite memories is walking across a crisp, snowy path at 5 AM, under a golden full moon in a dark sky studded with stars. The chapel was in a low wooden building across the court. Somewhere a wood fire was burning. As I opened the chapel door, incense hit me in the face, and I caught a glimpse of icons in a candle-lit room littered with oriental rugs (I am Orthodox). I was outside of space and time.
Mepkin Abbey used to provide eggs for much of Lowcountry South Carolina's better restraunts and grocery stores and, of course, the resulting chicken fetilizer. PETA gave them so much grief about the chickens that about two years ago, Mepkin Abbey left the egg and chicken business and now sells mushrooms to the public to support themselves.