October 11, 2007

Walking through

Walking the labyrinth

From a distance, it looks like a big circle of mulch, with bricks that create eleven concentric circles divided into four, with a six-petal shape of a rosette in the very middle. The bricks create a path that winds around and around, turning first this way and then that, covering every bit of ground until it reaches the center. The pattern of this labyrinth came from the thirteenth century stone floor of Chartres Cathedral in France.

Sometime I find it difficult to sit still for a meditation: when I want to go inside myself, I often go outside for a walk through the woods. I need the feel of my legs striding forward and the rush of air against my face, that forward movement that makes me feel I am making some kind of progress.

That's why I love the labyrinth.

When we arrived at my friend Signing Woman's cottage last Friday, almost the first thing I did was walk down the road to the labyrinth that's built near the edge of the lake. The two friends I had driven up with, Quilt Artist and Junk Food Woman, were still unpacking, sorting out the food, and talking while they waited for the rest of our group to arrive. I dumped my bag of food on the kitchen counter and slipped away by myself. I'd been talking to my friends in the car, sorting out my feelings about something, and I'd been thinking about the labyrinth the whole way up.

No one else was around. The afternoon sunlight glinted off the bricks of the labyrinth, the green and yellow leaves, and the waves of the lake. I entered quickly and began the walk, keeping my palms turned out and my fingers together, trying to accept whatever the labyrinth had to offer.

As I walked in curves, first one way, then the next, I stepped through my own swirling thoughts, those worrying, obsessive spirals, releasing them as I moved, leaving them behind on the path. Overhead, geese went honking and flapping past. My body felt like it was moving through water, that purity of sensation. I could feel relief, overwhelming relief, and then sadness. Waves on the lake slapped against rocks. I walked through a layer of anger, a layer of hurt. As I moved, I felt safe and protected, like I was retreating into a safe place.

By the time I reached the center, I was ready to sit down on the mulch. I felt surrounded by the energy I'd created with my own motion, all that circling about, all that walking into myself. My eyes were partially closed, but I could almost see swirls of color in the air around me. I sat in the very middle of this safe place to examine my feelings, holding them carefully as if they were made of spun glass. I tried to name each feeling, whispering the words aloud. I could feel warmth seeping through my whole body: a relief, a release, a buoyancy.

My eyes were closed. I could feel the sunlight shifting, moving away, chill coming with the shadows. A lake breeze touched my hair. When I stood up, I felt relaxed and grateful. I began walking the path, winding my way out of the labyrinth. I named each of my feelings as I walked, thankful for each one. The mulch crunched under my sneakers.

When I came to the end of the path, I stepped out of the labyrinth and onto the grass. I sat for a moment in the wooden chairs at the edge to look at the bricks, the paths, the patterns. I admired the way the sunlight was glowing through the yellow leaves of the birch trees just beyond the path. Then, feeling relaxed and at peace, I began the walk about the road to rejoin my friends.

Adirondack chairs


MJ said...

I've just spent a little time thinking about the loss of my mum and how I deal with those (still) overwhelming feelings. As I read your post, I was reminded of a labyrinth near our house that I should visit as I find with young children that the ability to name feelings and centre oneself are rare commodities.

Thanks for your beautiful, thoughtful writing.

Linda said...

Beautiful... reading this reminded me of many labyrinth walks of my own.

BeachMama said...

Beautiful peice. Your weekend with your girlfriends sure seemed to refresh you. Nothing like rejuvination just before the hardest season hits us.

Love your words and photos.

KathyR said...

I have to ask about the chairs. I mean, are they for spectators? Like "Go, Jo(e), go! Walk that thing! Wooh!"

OK, probably not.

Rana said...

*appreciative sigh*

At least, that was my first reaction. Then I read KathyR's comment, and now I'm laughing!

Rev. Dulce said...

You do so many cool things. I wish you had been one of my professors.

jo(e) said...

kathyr: I'm laughing at the idea of the labyrinth being a spectator sport.

I did several times walk down with a few of my friends, and I have to say that I love to sit in the middle while my friends are walking in circles about me. It makes me feel even that much more safe and protected.

heidi said...

Is that you in the top photo?

jo(e) said...

Heidi: No, it's one of my friends. I took the photo.

julieunplugged said...

Officially declaring that I want your life. :)

Rokeya said...

How long have you been going to this place and walking the labyrinth?

jo(e) said...

Rokeya: About eight years. I started going off for weekends like this with my women friends when my kids were old enough that I could leave them with my husband for the weekend.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I've never seena lyabrith like that. I should buildone for myself. I often feel like I need to think in a quiet place.

I go away once a year for a weekend with my girlfrinds and It is like a week long vacation in 3 short days.

Ours in comingup in 2 weeks in Montreal. Montreal is aobut to get LOUD! ;)