There’s a mosaic sign at the mouth of a long dirt driveway that welcomes guests to “Rainbow Ranch.” Since 1995, Mary Lou Aurell and Patty Erven have lived on their self-titled ranch in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a geodesic dome built from a kit.
“There are no square rooms here,” Patty says, as she walks barefoot through the carpeted house giving a tour. “This is Merlin,” she says, pointing to a ceramic wizard statue near the meditation alcove. “And this is the goddess room,” she says, gesturing to the upstairs bedroom.
In the gazebo, Patty talks about Arbo Lake, visible through the screen. “We own 15 acres of land and 2 acres of underwater.” The lake, which sprawls in front of Rainbow Ranch and a few other homes, is a non-meandering lake – which means that when you own the lakeshore, you also own the lake bottom.
The land where Rainbow Ranch sits is a big part of local history. In the late 1800s, there was a large structure used as a weigh station on the property – the only weigh station between Grand Rapids and Big Fork. The owners kept hardboiled eggs in a sawdust barrel on the porch for hundreds of (mostly) men that would wander by on their long journeys.
There is something calming about sitting around the kitchen table with Patty, Mary, and Facilitator Naomi Greene. We sip catalog ordered tea from clay mugs as Mary and Patty talk about their wedding on the property. “There were 150 guests from so many different communities,” Mary says.
Patty points out a vase sitting on top of a hope cabinet in the living room. “This is a Navajo wedding vase. We each put water from one of the spouts on our hands to get rid of the negative past.”
Balloons are tied to furniture and centerpieces around the living room – remnants of Friday’s going away gathering for a friend moving to Kansas. There are many other events that happen on this land: The PRIDE Picnic, anniversary camp outs, and multiple dinner parties.
There is also a fire circle deeper in the surrounding pine forest. Patty and Mary remember an Incan Shamanic ritual they had there once. “We buried a despacho and thought of things in our lives we wanted to transform in a hurry,” Mary says.
“And then a bear dug it up!” Patty laughs.
“My shoulder hurts, her back hurts, my neck is tired, her arms are stiff,” Patty says downstairs, as I admire her woodstove. Mary and Patty are selling Rainbow Ranch.
“It must be hard to sell something you love so much,” I say.
“Yes,” Patty says nostalgically. “We certainly have had some amazing experiences here.”