T and I chose the fourth labyrinth based on traffic patterns and distance from work. “I have a feeling it may not be particularly aesthetically pleasing,” I warned as I plugged the address into my phone.
We pulled into the parking lot and walked around the building in search of the labyrinth. My gut was right. The stones and weeds had grown together making the path hard to distinguish.
I reminded my friend about the shedding of life's worries that one does as she enters the path, the quiet reflection at the center, and then the walk out ready to take on the world again.
“This labyrinth walk may supply some metaphors not found at the other labyrinths,” I suggested before we started our walk.
I took the lead and we silently made our way as best we could through the winding path. It was comforting to pass T on occasion and I did not experience the claustraphobia of two days before. Partially because I was so focused on keeping my way on the path. We struggled to differentiate the path as we approached the center.
Once there, we smiled and looked at each other. “Wanna say a prayer for each other?” I suggested. T nodded and I asked what I could pray for. We clasped hands, bowed our heads, and I prayed. When I was finished, she began praying for me. There really isn't anything like the closeness of friends who pray together for each other. When our prayers were said, we hugged and began our journey out.
We got stuck. We couldn't unwind our way out. And so we began pulling weeds to make sense of where we were. We stood and studied the dirt, the dirt-colored stones, and the weeds.
We pulled weeds and then walked further only to get stuck again. We pulled more weeds and stood back to assess our progress. We gave it a fair chance and finally decided to call it over.
We stood outside the labyrinth and continued to talk. The best metaphor I could think of in the moment was that this grown-over path is a good reminder of how important boundaries are in life and relationships. They make interactions clear and safe. Without clear-cut boundaries, things get murky and confusing, and it's hard to know how to proceed.
Later as I was skyping with a friend about the evening's visit, she pointed out some other takeaways: I mentioned that it had been tricky getting to the center. “Julie, that's a great metaphor for the contemplative life. It IS hard getting to the center.” I love having friends that “get” this journey I'm on and who add to it.
I also explained how the weeding felt like a “pay it forward” kind of thing. “Julie, there's another great metaphor! You two were making the path easier for those who followed! I love it!” my friend reflected.
“I want to take you to the labyrinth I visited on Saturday,” I told T as we headed back to my car. “I want you to experience a really good one.” We've only visited grass covered ones when we've been together.
While this wasn't exactly the experience I had hoped for, it was fruitful and joyful nonetheless. I really do have a desire to spearhead a labyrinth project at my congregation, and this fourth labyrinth was a cautionary tale about choosing materials for a path. If we're going to go to the effort and expense to build one, we need to think about future maintenance. I am certain that this labyrinth wasn't overgrown at the beginning. I'm certain the path was clear and easier to navigate. Once the newness wore off, it became one more thing for busy people to maintain, and it fell off people's to-do lists.
I am so glad that I put these labyrinth visits on my list. It put this beautiful practice back on my radar. I have missed walking them. These visits have piqued my interest in going to the other ones throughout the region. I still want to take in the one in Chartres, France. Maybe I'll add that to another year's list. For now, #8 is complete.