Breakfast with a Shaman, Cared for by Angels

It all began when I discovered I would be staying at the Little House on the Prairie. I had rented a small room in a cottage for a conference at Fort McCoy. I received a call from one of the owners of the B&B. “Would you mind if we upgraded you to the Little House instead?” she asked. I had chosen the least expensive option so yes, please, and thank you, I said. As a writer, this sounded like it was made for me. Although this wasn’t the little house from the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it was close enough with all of the modern niceties. I was all in from the moment I received the call. And, that was before any of this happened.

Have you ever been to a place that you knew wasn’t home but that brought you home, in a way? This place is pieces of my past in every step, an unexpected journey back in time. With every step, I found healing.

As I drove in, I saw the barn where they once milked cows. Most people in my life now don’t know that I once owned a small herd of dairy cows. My children’s father and I farmed for nine years of our 19-year marriage. It was his passion and my cross to bear. My mother had told me I wouldn’t like being a farmer’s wife. She was right, of course, but I did like the farmer. The marriage ended more than a decade ago but the memories linger on and some were very good.

The inn hosts wedding receptions in the barn now. I ask the inn owner how many cows they milked. 50 she says. They were like we were once.

The next thing I notice is the Queen Anne’s Lace on the hillside. The innkeeper joked that the neighbors had asked what kind of crop they had planted because there is so much of it. This reminded me of a poem by Genevieve Smith Whitford about a mother and her daughter. I represented Ms. Whitford when I was first starting my career in public relations. I gave my mom a copy of her lovely book. I lost my mom on January 4, 2019. I see the Queen Anne’s Lace and I feel my mother’s presence. Tears fall. I wipe my face with my shirt and keep walking.

My first night is so peaceful. I wonder how I happened upon this slice of heaven. The bed is perfect. The sheets crisp. Best of all, it’s so quiet.

Breakfast is in a community room of sorts. I walk over and serve myself and sit down at a long table. No one else is around except the innkeeper. Soon I hear a dog barking outside. Then a man walks in and serves himself breakfast. He sits down at my table and we start talking.

“From the voice of babes does true wisdom speak.” he says to me over coffee and a breakfast casserole of potatoes and green peppers and fresh granola. This is something my mother would have said too. Only she would have said, “From the mouths of babes…”

The shaman doesn’t tell me he is a shaman. The innkeeper mentioned it as a possibility. I don’t know if shamans normally know they are shamans or not. He caught my eye the night before. He looked like the farmhand or someone who was just passing through. He’s been here on and off for a number of years though. He was wearing blue jeans and a ponytail. He was out walking his dog while I fed the llama last night. I said hello. As I sat on the porch later, I looked over and wondered who slept in the tiny wood house near the fire pit. The shaman does, naturally. In the open air. With his dog and the stars to keep him company.

As the evening went on, I walked through the field to see the goats and sheep in the woods. It reminds me of my childhood and of my mother and dad and how they grew up. It reminds me of my early married life.

In this place, you can go barefoot in the grass. You can watch the butterflies dance in the yard and the swallows dart across the lawn. You can hear the Queen Anne’s Lace blowing in the wind and see the wild native plants reach for the heavens. Nothing is in a hurry here. It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

A view from the hill where the sheep are kept at Justin Trails Resort.

The Shaman tells me about life and death, trauma and hope, the Native American ways of healing, and various plants as well as their roots. I have a pen and a book with me. I begin taking notes on the inside of the book because it is the only paper I have with me. The innkeeper realizes what I am doing and passes me blank sheets of paper. I keep writing.

The innkeeper gave me directions to a rock nestled on the hillside. She said I should go there, that people visit it looking towards the future while remembering the past. The Shaman tells me that the rock is on one of seven hills in the area and that all of this is symbolic to Native Americans representing stages of life, seasons of the year, a compass, element of nature, aspects of life, animals and even ceremonial plants.

The rock.

He tells me about the vision quest that Native Americans go on and that when they do this, they are supported and guided by the elders. He also talks about the death of certain things — emotional, spiritual, and physical deaths and how nature can heal these wounds. He says this land, that hill, and that rock are part of a healing plane.

I decide to make the trek to the rock. It’s a long walk near the woods and then up a very steep hill. I get lost once and half wonder if this was really the wisest choice. The mosquitos are eating me alive in one section of the woods but I press on. I climb up another small hill on a narrow path towards the top. I wonder if there are wolves or other animals in the woods watching me as I try to navigate their world. Eventually, I make it to the rock. I climb on top where I can see forever.

“There are ancient secrets and lessons hidden in nature. If you seek for guidance, you will discover truth.” — Bobby Lake-Thom.

I shared several meals with the shaman and the innkeeper. As we visited, I found myself talking about my mother and what had happened. Tears ran down my face and they listened.

Sometimes we take off on a journey not knowing what unexpected wonders await us. I thought I was going to a government business conference where I would learn more about doing business with the State. But I never made it to the conference. It turns out that it wasn’t at the base that was nearby. That’s where the conference was held in 2018. Somehow my information wasn’t correct. I had the wrong location for the conference although I did talk myself on to an army base that I had no business being on so that was something. I must not be much of a security risk.

Fresh berries picked on the last morning I stayed at the inn.

From being upgraded to the Little House on the Prairie to being on the wrong military base wasn’t an accident though. It was an appointment arranged by God for me. I needed every minute I experienced in this place. Even though I didn’t feel as though I could take time to rest, God saw my need and arranged the perfect getaway for the two of us. He gave me friends for my journey. He provided peace. He gave me something to do each day as I walked the trails on the farm and up high hills to look out over the prairie. It was so healing to eat fresh berries and a crab apple, to watch the goats and sheep eating their dinner and to feed a llama. My favorite part was just sitting on the porch and listening to the night sounds.

It was so much more than what I had expected. I don’t understand how God works. I just know He does. He cares for us in ways that we can’t comprehend. That place was exactly what I needed last summer. I sat on that sweet porch and wrote my heart out. I wrote about my mom and how much I miss her. I wept. I slept well in my little house on the prairie. The long walks were good for my body and soul. And, best of all, the pace of this place was so gentle. It was like being rocked by my mother, held in the arms of love, and gently cared for by angels.

*Link to Justin Trails Resort

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Laura Gallagher

Laura Gallagher is the author of “#180in120 - How to Recharge Your Business in 120 Days” and president of The Creative Company in Madison, Wis.