I just returned from a three-day retreat at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa (just north of Cedar Rapids). I was there with a group of ministers from around the Prairie Star District for the annual retreat of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association‘s PSD chapter. I’ve wanted to visit Prairiewoods for quite sometime because, according to my research, it’s one of the nicest retreat center’s in Iowa. According to their website, Prairiewoods is “focused on ecology and spirituality (or, as we call it, ecospirituality),” which fits in well with our UU values, especially our Seventh Principle and our Sixth Source. At any rate, I didn’t get to see much of Prairiewoods’ 70 acres of prairie and woodlands, but I did get to go on the Cosmic Walk they’ve set up.
The Cosmic Walk is a series of markers along one trail which “tells the story of the 14-billion-year journey of evolution.” It starts with “the Great Flaring Forth of the Emerging Universe” some 13 to 14 billion years ago, and ends, simple with “Consciousness Changing,” somewhere in the (I hope) not too distant future. In between there are markers that indicate when “Our Sun and Planetary System” formed, when “Multi-Cellular Species” first appeared on earth, and when the “First Humans” showed up. It was a wonderful way to begin my last morning at Prairiewoods.
The Cosmic Walk reminded me of inspiring work Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow have done to bring “The Great Story” to life all over the country, especially the “Great Story Beads,” which are “a symbolic representation of the 13.7 billion year epic of Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity.” At any rate, for a really nifty glimpse of what 13.7 billion light years looks like, check out this video: