To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee. One clover, and a bee, and revery. The revery alone will do, if bees are few. Emily Dickinson
I am smitten by the prairie and the bees, and I am definitely called to a state of revery. Emily Dickinson’s evocative poetry moves my soul and stirs my memory of a beloved place that to my mind is the “Belle Coeur of the Heartland.” Better known as, Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center, in the middle of the rural, Iowa countryside. This is a sacred place, the sanctuary, where The Way of Belle Coeur Autumn Retreat is held and.
I feel that sacred places are crucial for the human spirit, for “revery,” inspiration, and renewal. Before visiting Our Lady of the Prairie, I had never thought of the prairie landscape as sacred, even though my native state is Kansas. Mountainous terrain, verdant forests, and sparkling seashores…all of these natural environments evoke, for me, immediate awe and sacred resonance. In recent time, I added prairies to my lexicon of places that make my heart beat faster.
My recognition of the prairie as sacred was both surprising and awe-inspiring. The first time I was witness to the gentle bowing of the prairie grasses while the autumn breeze passed by, I felt a quickening within my spirit. The prairie appeared to my eyes in that moment, like a mythic and otherworldly sea, an undulating tide of pampas and wheat. My heart found a new home within the prairie of the heartland.
You may be wondering why this sacred place evokes the spirit of Belle Coeur for me? In my novel, Ink and Honey, Goscelin begins the story…
In the golden wheat fields of the French countryside near the town of Vezelay, home of Magdalene’s cathedral, there is a simple frame house.
Nestled in the bosom of Our Lady of the Prairie, is a simple frame farmhouse with cozy bedrooms, quilts, a warm hearth, nourishing meals and a resident “Beatrice,” Sister Kathleen, a nun and the guardian of the retreat center. Her warm hospitality and welcoming, prayerful presence deliver an additional element of “sacred” to the experience.
In October Belle Coeur sisters, Pamela Jean Sampel and Anne Fuquay, will join me at our Belle Coeur Heartland Home to welcome nine new sisters to our Belle Coeur community. We will await our Belle Coeur pilgrims’ arrival as the women make their way to the prairie and the sacred beauty and blessing of sisterhood that awaits. Perhaps you too, feel called to the prairie and the heartbeat that is at the center of Belle Coeur.