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.
As mentioned in my posting Traveling- Las Vegas & Sedona on 22 August, Rich and I took a day trip to visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I was very excited to make this trip because when I was a young girl growing up in England, many of my friends wanted to go America. There were those who were enthralled at the thought of visiting New York City, others who wanted to see the White House and the nation’s capital, and yet others who were attracted to the bright lights of Las Vegas or Hollywood.
But my only desire re-the USA was to see the Grand Canyon. I had seen it in a couple of movies, read about it here and there, and I believe I saw it featured in a National Geographic article at least 40 years ago. (I know, I’m dating myself here!!). From those experiences I knew it was something hugely majestic, but I had not retained much descriptive detail about it from them. So this trip was almost like visiting it with no pre-information about it at all.
As we approached the area of the Grand Canyon, I remember being somewhat puzzled, or maybe perplexed would be a better word. I think I expected the landscape to begin to change dramatically to prepare me for what I was about to see. But everything was amazingly “normal”, fairly flat country with quite a few trees. We entered the visitors center, acquired our tickets, and watched a great informative documentary.
Even as I watched the movie I wasn’t particularly struck by anything special, and we headed out afterward on the road that led into the National Park in Arizona where the south rim is located. Again, I was puzzled/perplexed because the countryside did not change. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting and I was quite surprised when we eventually saw the sign for the first “viewing zone”. We parked and I got out of the car and looked around. Nothing, just the road we had been travelling and a line of trees. But the arrows pointed toward the trees, so off we went.
I don’t think it would have mattered if I had seen a thousand photographs or hundreds of movies, nothing would have prepared me for my first view of the Canyon. As I passed through the trees and stepped out the other side, my jaw dropped, my mouth gaped. I was absolutely speechless. My eyes tried to come to grips with what I was seeing and I was somewhat aware that my mind was scrambling for words to describe it. Some of the words that came to mind were: spectacular, majestic, awesome, awe-inspiring, amazing, stunning.
But even as I tried to put the words together in my head, I realized that none of them would do justice to the landscape unfolding in front of my eyes. I was aware of tears welling up inside me. I felt completely choked up with emotion, my heart was racing and my breathing had definitely quickened. It felt like my soul was seeing a touch of home, and in that moment I knew that one word, and only one word, could describe the view that lay before me – God. I could imagine Him during the days of creation, eyeing this particular piece of the earth and, feeling the inspiration, reaching His hand down and slicing a two hundred and eighty mile long wavy line through the State of Arizona.
Just as words do not do justice to the majesty, the size, the total “stunningness” of the Grand Canyon, so too pictures cannot capture it’s breathtaking awesomeness. But I am including a couple that my husband took as we went from viewing point to viewing point along the south rim. The picture of the raven is included for a couple of reasons. My adopted Native American name is Raven Woman. When we first got out of our car at the condo we stayed at in Sedona, a raven flew onto the roof, and every viewing spot in the Grand Canyon had several ravens hopping around. I felt especially welcomed in both places.
As I stared at this miracle of God and nature, once again I found myself thinking of the first pioneers, those courageous men and women who set out from the eastern settlements of America to explore what lay beyond their known territories. I tried to imagine a lonely cowboy riding across new and unexplored country, galloping along on his horse and coming through the tree line to approach the edge of the canyon. I’m sure he must have experienced feelings similar to those I described above.
For those of you who are interested, here are a few facts about the Grand Canyon. Even as I write them I find them hard to digest and fully take in. The Canyon is nearly two hundred and eighty miles long, reaching from Marble Canyon near the Utah-Arizona border to Grand Wash Cliffs in Mojave County near the Nevada-Arizona border. In some places it is eighteen miles wide – yes, eighteen miles!! And it reaches depths of up to one mile. At the south rim the width of the chasm is about ten miles.
All I can say is, if there is nothing else that you do, no specific location that you have a desire to see in the USA, plan to go to the Grand Canyon. I do not think you will be disappointed and I am sure you will be at least a little bit changed afterward. Happy trails!