After our stay with friends Greg and Sherry in Minnesota, Rich and I headed west then south through the Dakotas down through Iowa and into Missouri. We had planned to stay in a small town just outside Kansas City. This was no random choice. We were going to spend a couple of days with some very dear friends from our time in Naples, Italy. I had been a team member on many CREDO Personal Growth Retreats with Rod, and Richard and I had both been involved with the CREDO Marriage Enrichment Retreats with both Rod and his wife Trish.
Rod and Trish had made a flying visit with us about three years ago here in Jacksonville. They had been doing some east coast travelling and decided to dip down a little lower than originally planned to spend a day or so with us. That had been the first time we had seen each other since they had left Naples, Italy back in the mid-nineties. So we were very excited to be seeing them again. However, even though they were the primary reason for choosing to make Kansas City a stop on our 4,252 mile retirement ride, I had a secondary motive for wanting to stop there.
During the period 1989-91, Richard was transferred to a ship that was home-ported in Norfolk, VA. Although it wasn’t my first visit to the USA, it was the first time that I had lived here. It proved to be a very difficult time for me. The culture and way of life over here is drastically different from Europe. Everything over here involves distance and there is very little public transportation. And the distance factor enters into creating relationships with other people. In Europe everybody knows everybody. In Norfolk I found it very difficult to make friends; people seemed to live in their own boxes.
However, through a specific fellowship that I am involved with I did manage eventually to create some meaningful friendships. One lady in particular, Gert, became a very good and close friend. In the spring of 1991 Gert gifted me with a a subscription to Daily Word, a small daily reflection booklet that is published by UNITY. That booklet became my lifeline. It is the most positively uplifting daily meditational book that I have ever read. Wherever I went, Daily Word travelled with me, and I have continued to renew the subscription every year since then. I have used their twenty four hour prayer line many times over the years and it is such a comfort and a joy to make a call and get a real person on the other end who truly cares about whatever issue may be bothering me in the moment, and who is willing to pray with me and offer comfort.
Inside the front cover of the Daily Word each month there is a photo of the Silent Unity Chapel. There is always a light on in the top tower of this building and the photo intrigues me. Every time I see it I think, wow that’s where the prayer ministers are who receive all the phone calls and pray with all the callers – at any time of the day or the night every single day of every year. For the last fifteen years I have held a small dream to go there and visit. And here we were, planning to go to Kansas City and I knew that Unity Village was located somewhere close by. So when Rod asked if there was anything particular that we wanted to do/see in the area, I jumped right on it.
On Friday 26th August, we set off with Rod and Trish to go visit the Unity campus. I had no idea what a spiritual treat I was in for; God was in a most generous mood that day. Upon arrival we parked in the main parking lot right in front of the Book Store and Café. We decided to go in there because we figured that we could get information as to the layout of the campus and get directions to the Silent Unity building and chapel. The store was an absolute delight and we perused for a while. The staff was so helpful and we bought a couple of items and received a map of the campus. Imagine my joy when I found out that there was a large, handicap accessible labyrinth laid out on the ground immediately opposite the store. Rich, Rod, and Trish were quite happy to indulge my desire to walk the labyrinth and so with a happy heart I took my walk. Below is a video that Rich made and towards the end there are some still photos that he also took.
While I was walking the labyrinth, a large red-shouldered hawk came and rested at the very top of a tree on the edge of the labyrinth and watched me as I made the eleven circuits. His photo is here below.
When I had finished my walk we all went through a walkway and up some stairs to go visit the Silent Unity Chapel. Nothing quite prepared us for the beauty that lay before us at the top of the stairs. The campus buildings were laid out in a long oblong design and centered in the middle of them was a beautifully designed formal garden with fountains and pools. The whole thing made me think immediately of Europe and of St. Augustine, Florida because there was a Spanish flair in the design. I could have stayed there for hours. It truly filled my heart and soul with great happiness.
We wandered along and crossed the a small bridge over the central pool then headed toward the chapel. Trish and I went inside noting that there were two other people already there – a man and a woman. As we entered, the woman turned around toward us and said, “we are just about to do a guided meditation, would you like to join in?” We both assented, and spent the next fifteen minutes being guided through a beautiful reflection. This was another highlight of the trip for me. We spent a little more time walking around the campus and taking in the peacefulness and serenity of that place, before heading off to have a lovely lunch together.
In my previous posting, God’s Creation: Minnesota, I shared the wonderful experience Rich and I had at our friends’ house. However, we didn’t stay at home all the time we were there, even though it was difficult to leave that place so filled with the joy of nature. We actually played the tourists for a couple of days and visited some very interesting places.
I was told that everyone who comes to that particular area of Minnesota needs to visit the small town of Nisswa. Actually, Nisswa is about the size of an overgrown village. It is very quaint and is filled with wonderful little shops (yes, I did some shopping!). I love places like Nisswa because I’m never quite sure what exciting little treasure I may find. For someone like me who has very unique antenna up throughout the year, Nisswa is rather like Aladdin’s Cave.
When I talk about my “unique antenna”, I’m referring to that constant awareness of the people in my life and what might make them happy. When I’m out and about I have my bloodhound nose ready to sniff out gifts that will please my friends and family members on their birthdays or at Christmas. And Nisswa did not disappoint. I could have dipped into my wallet several more times than I did, but all the time I had to keep in mind that we were travelling on our Harley and there was limited space, even though Sherry and Greg offered to bring things back for us when they trucked back to Jacksonville in October.
Another day we drove out to visit Itasca State Park which is absolutely gorgeous. The Park boasts pristine wilderness at its best surrounding the largest lake, Lake Itasca, and many other smaller lakes. Did you know that Minnesota is known as the State of 10,000 lakes? We took our time driving through the Park, stopping at several lookout points such as Preachers Grove, that overlook the lakes. Our main goal at the Park was to go to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. I was totally mind-boggled that this mighty river has its source almost in Canada and runs the full length of the USA before emptying itself into the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.
Before taking the path to the Headwaters, we stopped at the Visitor Center, which I think is one of the best and most interesting of such centers that I have visited, to learn a little more about the Park. I thoroughly recommend that you visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca/index.html where you will find a wealth of interesting information, photos, and history of Itasca State Park, including the story of Mary Gibbs who was a feisty woman who risked her life to protect Itasca Park against the logging industry at that time.
I’m sure that Minnesota boasts many other beautiful areas. It is such a lush, green State and the presence of so many lakes, large and small, makes for the presence of plentiful wildlife and many interesting and beautiful places. I know it’s definitely a place that I’d like to visit again and if you enjoy the magnificence of God’s creation in nature you will surely enjoy it.
Our friends, Greg and Sherry, bought an old barn on a large piece of property in Minnesota a couple of years ago. Since then they have spent a lot of time between here, Jacksonville, and there, making changes, clearing a few trees around the barn, and putting on an addition to the original structure. Out of the old barn has emerged a lovely living space of two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge area, plus a nice comfortable screened in porch.
There is still a lot of work to do, but the main thrust is there. The rest is mainly “accessorizing”: putting in permanent flooring, deciding on décor and finishes, and painting the exterior. The barn-house is surrounded by woodland and even though there are two sets of neighbors living close by, the trees almost completely hide the other houses from view.
Five days into our retirement ride we stopped to visit with Greg and Sherry. In fact we spent 4 blissful days with them in their “little piece of paradise” (my label). One element of this new habitat that I really enjoyed is that they have installed floor to ceiling windows in the dining room and on both sides of the spacious lounge. This means that not only does a lot of natural light fill the home but it also seems like sitting in the middle of the woods – but with all mod cons!
While we were there, I spent my early morning quiet time sitting in a chair right up against one of these enormous windows. With my meditation books in hand and a cup of herbal tea close by, I was truly in “God’s space”. Greg and Sherry have placed several bird feeders within a few yards of this particular window and the morning activity was quite frenzied. Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vied with Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees as well as some small sparrows and titmice, while the hummingbirds buzzed in and out. I also saw a bluebird one day.
The squirrels up there were enormous, about twice the size of squirrels down here in Florida. Although Greg and Sherry had installed a really interesting squirrel feeder for them, they still came and tried to access the bird feeders once in a while. But they also had a plentiful supply of corn down on the ground because our friends also took care of the numerous deer that would come almost up to the house in search of food.
Every evening at about 9pm we would spot movement out among the trees. We would turn off the lights inside the house, and soon we would see the deer emerging cautiously from the trees and coming toward a large block of salt that Greg and Sherry had attached to a tree, and also toward a long wooden palette that lay close by on the ground piled high with corn. They are such graceful creatures and are a delight to watch. One evening we were treated to the spectacle of a mother deer with her two young ones.
During the four days that we stayed, I also got to see an animal that I had never seen before – at least, not in real life. I’m sure you’ve all heard them “singing” and maybe even seen them in an animated movie. Yes, I’m talking about the chipmunk. I was so amazed at how small they were! I had always imagined chipmunks to be the size of a squirrel, but instead they are these tiny little animals probably about the size of a hamster. They were very entertaining scampering here and there in the undergrowth. Richard managed to get some really good pictures one day as a chipmunk decided to sit on a small fallen log not far from the window and complete his/her morning ablutions.
Although they did not come into the yard, we also saw many Canadian geese and wild turkeys not too far from the house as we made various trips in the surrounding area. There were two very large fields on opposite sides of a nearby road that had been mowed recently, and the geese were there in large numbers mainly in the morning, probably more than a hundred at a time, feeding on whatever geese feed on. The turkeys were usually in a lower section of the field apart from the geese.
It was such a joy to be surrounded by so much of nature’s wonders that God created for our pleasure. I am so grateful that Sherry and Greg gave us such great hospitality in their tranquil haven, and I hope it won’t be too long before we can go back and enjoy it some more. We have to go back anyway, so that we can see the finished product that is their summer retreat!