Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

Many of us connect particular months with specific places.

I know people for whom October each year brings to mind a specific experience, for example, in a football stadium. December may be united for us with where grew up.

August is the month when I usually spend some quiet time at a monastery in Big Sur. I drive up almost every year and August is the only month I have ever been there.

I was received as part of the monastic community, though I live out here in the rest of the world, on August 31 several years ago. I plan my trips up to Big Sur to be as close as possible to the end of August.

August is not a particularly significant month in the life of the community. Other months and other days have taken on special meaning, but August is not very important in the life of this monastery.

When I applied to become part of the community I was told I could choose a day which meant something to me. I could not think of a day which meant more than any other until I was walking away. Then I realized there was a day, which was not too far away, and which would honor someone I admired.

I chose August, and its last day, because it was significant to me. August 31 is Saint Aidanís Day.

In the year 635 the Northumbrian king, Oswald summoned Aidan from Iona, an island monastery off the coast of what is now Scotland, to be bishop of his kingdom. Oswald granted Aidan and his companions a small tidal island, Lindisfarne, on which to found their monastery.

Aidan worked to establish the monastery on Lindisfarne and spread Christian spiritual life throughout Northumbria. He developed a strong reputation for charity and dedication to poor people. Aidan traveled throughout the kingdom on foot, he could converse with whoever he met.

After Aidanís death, monks at Lindisfarne produced the illuminated manuscript of the Lindisfarne Gospels, a masterpiece of early Medieval art now in the British Museum.

Lindisfarne is a tidal island. As the tide flows out it is attached to Northumbria on a narrow isthmus and, when the tide flows back in, it is an island.

The monastery Aidan founded at Lindisfarne remained there for more than two hundred years despite the threat of Viking raids.

Monks from nearby Durham established a permanent outpost on Lindisfarne after the Norman Conquest. The border lands between England and Scotland became a more troubled area.

The ruins of the monastery have been excavated and remain on the island.

Another connection which remains today is Lindisfarne Mead. The belief was, if the soul was in Godís keeping, the body must be fortified with Lindisfarne Mead. The more recent production of Lindisfarne Mead began in 1962.

The mead produced on Lindisfarne is a fortified honey alcohol drink made exclusively in Saint Aidanís Winery on the island. In addition to the fermented honey in most mead, Lindisfarne Mead is also vatted with fermented grape juice, natural well water, and is fortified with fine spirit.

I am not sure mead is the first drink I would choose during the summer days of August, but Lindisfarne is my August location.

Like the monastery in Big Sur, the beauty of the island of Lindisfarne draws my mind back to it. What it must have been like for Aidan, almost fourteen hundred years ago, to arrive on the island for the first time. I can imagine him walking through the kingdom and hearing his conversations about spiritual life.

I look forward to when we can return to places where we enjoy sharing a beer and talking and listening.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor. Gregís website is and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on

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