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 just love it when I come upon a wealth of wise sayings and quotations. In the last seven days I have received a rush of wise words. They have come from many disparate places: a car bumper sticker, a friend’s home, a special workshop given by a dynamic speaker – Fr. Larry Richards from Pennsylvania, and, because of a piece of research work that I did, from the internet. I have collected so many of them that I will spread them over a few postings. Here is the first batch.
“God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change.” (Fr. Richard Rohr)
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“No man is rich enough that he can buy back his past.” (Oscar Wilde)
“When the spiritual, mental, and emotional bodies are healthy, the physical body manifests health and becomes more vibrant, too. Our smiles, our eyes, our posture, and even our skin, which is the largest organ in the body and most sensitive to energy, send off a positive, attractive energy. This is part of the realignment process and will naturally affect your relationships, too.” (Sierra Bender)
“Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.” (Dorothy Day)
“Clouds come into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” (Rabindranath Tagore)
“They came to sit and dangle their feet off the edge of the world and after a while they forgot everything but the good and true things they would do some day.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)
“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.” (Leo Buscaglia)
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” (Seneca)
And the last one for today is, in my opinion, superb:
“Show up. Tell the truth. Be very alert. Expect nothing.” (A car bumper sticker)
And just think, there are more to follow.
Well, I’m sitting here looking at my lap-top and wondering just what am I going to write about. Maybe that’s the wrong comment. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to write about – my absence from writing since 20 October. I’m just not sure how I’m going to go about it or exactly what will appear on the page.
I can at least share what I have been doing in the last ten days: reading. I have devoured at least twelve books in that period. Every spare moment has been spent reading. Every meal and every bathroom visit has been accompanied by the book du jour. I have done essential housework and kept appointments, and I have read. My husband has been away for the last week so I have been able to indulge my little addiction with no guilt whatsoever. I have avoided going out unless I had to, and I have avoided any other activities inside or outside the home that I might normally engage in.
With one exception: gardening. Somehow or other the garden manages to break through all barriers within me. And now is the great time of weeding and clearing, pruning certain plants and attempting to dig out the root systems of those pesky crab grasses and vines that seem to take over every nook and cranny during the summer months. Pansies have finally appeared in the garden centers and I have brought many flats home to brighten up the winter flower beds.
Perhaps the reading marathon is akin to squirrels collecting and hoarding their nuts for winter provisions. Right now is nature’s time to pull back and curl up and hibernate a little. And so I move into autumnal mode, make my hot herbal teas, and curl up with adventures created by other authors. I was thinking a little earlier on today that maybe I am tired of my own words and need to fill my head and my heart with the words of other writers.
There was a moment somewhere in these last ten days when I wondered if I was in one of my “funks” (read de-pression). But I have not felt that awful slide downwards, nor have my days been gray. Tears have not plagued me and so I decided not to fight it and just accepted that I needed to read rather than write. I have not felt frustrated at not writing, and I was still surrounded by words!
I have discovered Rosamunde Pilcher who writes about families and their incredibly rich relationships. She has a way of unfolding their stories on the written page that invites the reader into their lives in such an intimate fashion. Her characters are so real that I feel as though I could invite them into my own life and they would fit. And along with Rosamunde I have been reading Belva Plain whose style I find to be simply elegant and elegantly simple.
Then, too, I came across Robert B. Parker. I love a good detective or suspense story and he manages to combine those two aspects in the best possible way. His dialogues are composed of short phrases, sometimes pure monosyllables or just one or two word sentences. But they are so succinct, so totally perfect, and his humor is dry yet delectable as a nutty, crisp cracker (must appeal to the Brit in me!). The plots move along at a fast pace and keep the reader involved from start to finish. His series of books with PI Spenser as the central character is terrific and well worth the read.
And here I am writing again. There was one other thought process that I have entertained about my not writing. It reminded me a little of what happens when I make up my mind to get back into exercising or to make a specific change in my diet. Either something comes up (a sickness or an arthritic flare up) that keeps me from doing the exercise, or I get a “chocolate attack” and there goes the healthy eating. So either “he-who-shall-not-be-named” is getting at me, or I fall into a big hole of self-sabotage.
But I have managed to reach a point in my life where I can accept most situations as they unfold. “What is, is” says my dear friend Tish. And so I read obsessively for a couple of weeks – no big deal. It has brought me great joy. It is wonderful to love myself enough that I do not need to beat myself up. Bottom line is I was enriching my vocabulary and feeding my heart and soul.