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Divine Detour: St. Louis to Taylorville


It’s not the places I plan to go, its the places that I wind up that make travel divine.

Stephen and I flew to the Midwest to visit his father’s grave in Taylorville, Illinois. According to modern practice it seems unnecessary to visit the dead. Even so…

Our airplane landed in St. Louis. We rented a car to head to our hotel at the National Shrine of our Our Lady of the Snows, the largest outdoor shrine in North America. Who knew?

On our way, we found the Butterfly House since I am dreaming of a workshop called “The Butterfly Effect.” Trish Watts described to me a movie on migration showing butterfly bodies undergo numerous profound changes before their two-three weeks of winged glory. I relate.

We were not disappointed. 20,000 butterflies greeted us. This one was enjoying the sweetness of life.

We headed to the Shrine, found our room, and fell into a deep sleep. At dusk we toured the shrine’s vast grounds and came across a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes where we lit candles and danced.

Just around the bend we came across a huge hillside ampi-theater focused entirely on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. At the top of the ampitheater a silver flame reached to heaven, the bottom of it, lit by candlelit prayers. We were moved by the devotion to this dream of Mary.

In the morning on our way to Taylorville. we took a side trip to the Cahokia Mounds, a World Heritage Site that preserves the largest prehistoric Indian city north of Mexico, part of the Mayan legacy. Many mounds are burial sites, but the largest one, the religious and political center, is still the largest earthen structure in America. Nearby stands a reconstruction of part of a sun calendar, made of poles, called woodhenge.

Taylorville to the north is not exotic. It show all the signs of strip mall take over. The down town has not yet found its imagination. But the cemetery is alive! On the entrance  Stephen’s grandfather Robert Henry is inscribed on the entry post. Rev. Henry was a leading member of the community.
The caretaker showed us to the graves of Stephen’s grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt and father, Joseph Clark Henry. It was a time of quiet connection.


Departing, I noted how many graves had flowers.

These people remember their loved ones.

Driving back to Saint Louis I was surprised to see numerous graveyards among cornfields. When I was younger they weren’t that noticeable.  Today, as I dance with death, I recognize the body wisdom in shrines and memorials that honor our connection to the great Universal Cycles. I love the way humanity does it!




  1. Jori says:


    So thrilled to have you in my neck of the woods to share in the culture, history and story of my upbringing.
    I loved reading your ‘travelog’. Your gift of prose is so inspiring and creates a uniquely YOU perspective that I find so engaging.
    All my love, Jori

  2. Sharon Pavelda says:

    Mary, Mayans and Metamorphosis: it’s all here, all the time, just waiting to be discovered it seems. Thank you, Cynthia, for taking us along on the journey. It was a special privilege to see Stephen in the context of his people as he honored his ancestors in that place.

    As we head to MN on Sunday, I will remember to be open to the along-the-way-pilgrimage, thanks to this love letter from our favorite mystic. I will try not to mourn having you two in the same time zone with us for a few days and not being able to touch wings, so to speak.

    Except in the mysterious way that we already do, that is.
    Dancing with you as always,

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