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.
I know I have already done a posting about my last experience with the labyrinth in St. Augustine. However, I feel called to write another posting because I keep thinking about two of the people who went in to do the walk. I mentioned in my previous posting, Self Nurturing- Enjoying the Labyrinth at the Beach, that there were many children who playfully walked, ran, and skipped through the labyrinth leaving their unique brand of energy present. Well, one little boy took, maybe I should say “enticed” his Dad in with him.
I remember looking up as they both approached the labyrinth. The Dad was a little hesitant, hung back and tried to look somewhat indifferent, as though he wasn’t really interested in the labyrinth. The son was having none of that. He was curious and wanted to take a good look. He realized almost immediately that this was something to be experienced. He saw a pathway opening up and wanted to explore.
He took a bold step into the labyrinth and then stopped, remembering Dad, turned to look at him and said “come on Dad, let’s do it”. Dad looked around, as if checking out who was watching, then tentatively stepped inside. The little boy needed no further encouragement. Off he went on his adventure. He was very focused and determined, staying within the confines of the narrow pathway. Dad was a little different. He kept looking around, obviously embarrassed, probably hoping that nobody who knew him was going to happen by.
If you know what a labyrinth is like you will understand that as you enter you are on a circular pathway that is about the third circle inside the whole design. As you walk, the circles turn on each other. This can lead to the illusion that you are about to get to the center and then, suddenly, you find yourself walking the very outer circle.
So the little boy got to an about-turn which he thought was going to turn him in towards the center, but instead it turned him out to the edge of the labyrinth. For a moment he was confused, and called out to His Dad for help. The father said, “just keep following the path son”, and trustingly the little boy did so. I had noticed that by now Dad had lost his self-consciousness and was just as focused as his son. The two continued, intent upon their journey, the little boy about half a circle ahead of the Father.
Then, in a sudden moment, the boy found himself inside the center of the labyrinth. He stood their looking pleased with himself and looking all around himself at the road he had travelled. A few moments later his Dad arrived in the center. Without a word, the little boy held out his hand and a big grin spread across his face. They stood together for a while, Dad and son, holding hands and looking out to sea. It was a God-moment. Who knows what thoughts each one held in his heart.
The boy looked up into his father’s face, then gently slipped his hand out from his father’s and, in just as focused a fashion as on the way in, he started the journey out. Dad stood there for a moment more watching his little one strike out on his own before heading out behind him.
I found myself thinking this is what parenthood is about. We hold our children’s hands for as long as we can. Then comes the day when they choose a path. We follow at a distance for a while, close enough that they know they can call on us for help, but not so close that we crowd them. But they have to make the journey of life on their own. If we’re lucky, they sometimes look back and smile and wave and may even occasionally come and hold our hands again for a while.
I have already mentioned in another posting, Self Nurturing- GrillSmith Of Tampa, FL, that I really appreciate good food. I think the preparation of food is an art of its own. Good cooking is definitely a God-given talent. The skillful combination of the flavors, the colors, and the textures of different kinds of food along with the pleasing presentation to the client is as creative as painting a picture. So just imagine blending these two creative arts together!
In the past couple of months I’ve established a new routine for myself that brings me much joy. On the first Sunday of each month I go to St. Augustine, Florida to walk and meditate in the labyrinth that my friend Lorelei creates in the wet sand at low tide. It is a wonderful time of going inwards to my God-centered self. I shared that experience in a previous posting, Labyrinth Meditation At The Beach. What I didn’t mention in that posting is what I do before I get to the labyrinth.
Part of this new routine includes a stop at another location in St. Augustine to have brunch. It’s a restaurant called Zhanra’s which is just across the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island. Richard and I tried Zhanra’s about a year ago when we went to see Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman in concert at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. We had an excellent dinner and were very impressed by the menu choices, the presentation, and the good and friendly service. The prices were very reasonable too.
The restaurant itself is very welcoming and warm. The decor does not follow the usual pattern or design of most of the “chain” restaurants. It is very simple and unique. When you walk in there is a long serving counter on the wall immediately opposite the front door. To the right there is a very accommodating bar that has tall tables and stools where you can also dine, while to the left is the main dining area.
But what adds to the decor and makes Zhanra’s so special is the art work on the walls. It is bright and beautiful and very eclectic and showcases a great variety of artist’s work. These paintings are up for sale, so while you are eating you can also appreciate and even acquire a great piece of art. Because the art is sold, or because the artists choose to rotate their work out from time to time, new pieces appear from one visit to another.
An interesting feature connected to the art work is found in a corner of the main dining room. A small working space is set up and I believe that some of the artists come in from time to time to work on a piece while the diners are enjoying their meal.
When Richard and I made our first visit to Zhanra’s we knew we would be back again because it was very good and because it was different. So when we learned that they offered a Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm we chose to make it a stop on one of our Harley rides. And we were hooked! We have been back twice as a couple and I have returned twice with friends and yet another time we both went back with a small group.
So let me walk you through the brunch process. You are seated by the host/hostess and a server takes your drink order immediately. Large and small plates are provided on the table and you can go to the buffet freely. However, we always wait so that we can put in our order with our server for waffles or French toast. I have never eaten the waffles because I am so addicted to their French toast which is, in my opinion, food of the gods!!
The long serving counter that I mentioned in a previous paragraph is laden down with all things scrumptious for the brunch. There is a chef at one end who will cook omelets to your specifications. As you proceed along the counter there are hot containers with quiche, grits, scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon and sausages (my personal favorite!), fresh melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and gravy, and the best home-fried potatoes I have ever tasted. And just in case you need to start your brunch with a soup there are two offered, one of which is usually a great gumbo.
But it doesn’t stop there! As you turn the corner of the buffet counter there are several large trays. One is piled high with a mountain of freshly cut fruit in season. Another contains pre-cut bagels of every description, and beside that there is a tray full of different Danish pastries cut up into bite size chunks so that you can try the different types. Yet one more container holds muffins just to round out your choices.
All this for the princely sum of $9.99 plus drink. It has to be the best value and one of the best dining and creative art experiences that I have ever enjoyed. By the way, I forgot to mention that the art exhibits continue on into the bathrooms and Zhanra’s offers another creative art form too. Most nights there is different live music to enjoy. So go and satisfy the artist in your soul. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.