walks 79-82: the body

rodin My dear friend, the healer and artist came to see me and we walked the St. Jude and the Nativity Labyrinth twice, as well as the St. Joseph’s labyrinth once.  She is a life long  student of the brain and body, and her thoughts as she walked the labyrinth as a landscape of the brain intrigued me.  Even the stones became the people in her life, and I gazed at them with a new appreciation. As always, when I walk a labyrinth with another, I am deeply aware of how we come together, walk alongside each other, and then move further or closer away from each other as we make our way on our own part of the path. Earlier in the week, I thought about how many times I had tread the path, and how it was becoming more and more part of me in some way. I thought again of my childhood home, and how the presence of my loved ones felt indelible, whether or not they were in the house or not. It comforted me to think that part of me is always at the labyrinth.

Together my friend and I visited the Rodin Museum. I had been once before, but this time, the greatness of the sculptures inspired me even more deeply than they had on my previous visit. I had never noticed the tension in The Thinker’s toes, or Balzac’s stance which gave him a humorously arrogant quality.  The Burghers of Calais remained for me pitiable and noble at the same time.  A new, small casting caught my eye on this visit.  A hand holding a female form. It is a creation story, equating God, the Artist and the Lover. Or so I think. I discover later it is called The Hand of the Devil Holding Woman.  I would much prefer to tell my own story.  Rodin did create a piece called The Hand of God, also holding a figure.  He modeled it after his own hand.  The Devil’s hands are longer and more elegant.

walks 74-78: recovery

maple tree at duskThe palette of the Pennsylvania impressionist painters in the mid 20th century captured the light and shadow, the sage and charcoal and pink  that I experience as I walk to the labyrinth. It is  my first walk on a fall late afternoon this year.  After days of neglecting the labyrinth, and a day of coffee drinking, I find my heart palpitating as I walk, and a jittery exhilaration. I determine to make it up to myself by walking the labyrinth five times. I sit at the center on the first walk, the sky glows and as I walk out, the curves of the labyrinth seem to me the curves of the female form. By the fifth walk, my giddiness has transformed into ecstasy, and the exquisite perfection of every limb of the maple tree is revealed to me, the space between the delicate curving tendrils. I have gotten my Sight back after a week of fog. All I behold becomes brutally beautiful, and there is no doubt of God’s hand

walks 69-73: a little moment

little girl

I missed two days of walking this week. Last night on my return, it was as if the garden had been newly dressed—new pots of mums and zinnias lined the walk, palm fronds surrounded  the Celtic cross, and my small gift, the verbena which had retained but one small bloom was gone and in its place an explosion of red flowers. The garden’s autumn mellowing was  thinly disguised- as an aging beauty who smears on garish rouge and lipstick. The maple had lost an entire branch of leaves, there was a red gash amidst the green of another tree,  and I held my coat close as I trudged on my walk, my brain and body awakening after hours drowsing in the purgatory of research codes and excel tables.  The path seemed longer and yet perfectly reflected my strands of thoughts and conflicts.  I stood at the center, as I have all week, loathe to give myself to the few moments of reflection and rest when there was so much crushing down on me, so much, yet so little of real import.  One time earlier in the week, for just a moment, I felt a new oneness with the labyrinth, it seemed to extend exactly as far as my spirit, the final ring of stones and I were a being. Last evening, a tall man with long hair walked into to the garden and gazed at the pond  I saw only an outline of him as he stood before the setting sun, I wondered if he was waiting for the labyrinth, and I quickened my pace, yet it still unfolded slowly. For just a  moment, I wanted him to want to walk the labyrinth and become my counterpart, but then he was gone and I too left and returned to my excel tables.

walks 60-68: tree

labyrinthbrainI have walked the St. Jude and the Nativity labyrinth once a day all week, before or after work, under  sunny skies, under clouds and today, just after a rainfall, when miraculously, the upper right quadrant was not flooded. Today I was moved to stand in tree pose at the center.  On my right leg I gazed at the red maple, which maintains a dark beauty, even though its leaves have withered, and on my left leg,  the shade tree, an imposing and graceful tree with slender green leaves, which when they turn yellow, rain down on the labyrinth until they turn brown, and then eventually become part of the labyrinth.

I am grateful for my daily meditation, and accepting in this season that my thoughts are not always as quiet as they were before the school year. I am grateful because the rows of stone remind me every day that any set of events will change course. I have learned the symmetry and sense of the path, the direction and orderliness of each quadrant.  I know it, but when I am in the middle of it, I cannot always detect it.

This week, I have felt a bit of anger that I have not felt free enough to go to this blog and write about my walks, even as I continue the commitment of the walks themselves.  Last month, someone involved in theatre asked me if I had any creative outlet now that I don’t participate in the theatre. I suddenly felt like Laura in the Glass Menagerie, when the Gentleman Caller asks her what she did for fun.  She clears her throat nervously and says she has a glass collection.  He ignores her and then asks her again. Once again she reminds him that she has her glass collection.  I said nothing, but I would have liked to have cleared my throat and shly told him ” I do, have my blog..”


4 walks: storm


walk 56: September 2- the sun hung low over the field at the college with a strange coolness, when I finally made it outdoors. Once I got home I walked to the labyrinth and as soon as I stepped outside storm clouds gathered  overhead and it was suddenly dark although to the west the sunset now glowed pink.  The winds at the labyrinth caused leaves to fall like the raindrops I soon expected, and each one felt like an insect or a bat brushing against me. More than once I wanted to veer from the path, but I found I wanted to stay on it and bravely continue.  Sometimes commitment feels very foolish. On the way home, the rain finally came down but I was grateful that it was so gentle.  The lightning patterns reminded me that my niece called them God’s bracelets in the sky when she was a little girl.

walk 57-59: September 3-5  The storm seems to have left the garden changed. The maple leaves, always so brilliant have all wilted on the tree as if they have been in the frying pan. Many of them line the paths, tiny red octopi, more animal than plant.  The verbena, my little contribution to the garden, has no more flowers. Back at home I continue to stock my bird feeders, but the flocks of birds dancing on the telephone wires in a loosely choreographed modern dance are nowhere to be found, although the squirrel continues to feast, bowing before his favorite feeder as if in prayer.  My walks cannot overcome the weariness from the endless onslaught of the first weeks of school and the intriques and the injustices great and small. I walk barefoot, I walk in full office regalia. I walk.  My sister places a picture of herself as a child with my mother at the beach on facebook.  The picture is on its side and the caption reads “Love is when you are at a loss for words.” It is the anniversary of my mother’s death.  The picture is uploaded on its side, which makes it more remote and heartbreaking.  My adorable sister at 3 years old with taut and happy energy, laughing,  My mother holding her, smiling easily and knowingly behind her chic sunglasses.  I open it all day and each time, it stuns me. The Love.

walks 51-55: earth

st j labWalk 51 August 30 : Before I walked, I prepared lunch for my friend (the spiritual tourist) and her daughter, who was about to start graduate school in Philadelphia. I prepare the salad with focus and enjoy the preparations. I thought that it was somehow connected to my daily meditations, and ability to observe the tomato I chopped.  I had some wine before they came and some more with them. I then went to the labyrinth alone and the overcast sky and the dissipating edge from wine made the walk more stark than usual.  Later still, a walk on the St. Joseph’s labyrinth in the moonlight with my friend, where in the center I found myself beaming as I looked at the dark silhouettes of the stately pine trees, and a bit further afield, the burned out pines that slashed Japanese writing across the purple sky. My friend later tells me that the labyrinth comforted her.

Walk 52: August 31: I take my friend to the Friends Meeting, where I revel in the silence and nourish myself with long deep breaths. I bowed my head at one point and felt my spine form a fetal position.  I imagine all my material body crumbling to dust, as one day it will, and it feels somewhat comforting and right in this moment.  After the leader began the handshake that signals the end of the meeting, we learned that he and his wife are celebrating their 46th anniversary. She is sitting behind us, and as usual this woman always brings tears to my eyes with her expression of joy and wonder. She lets us know that 46 years is over 16,000 days. Trust and surrender, she tells us, trust and surrender. Remarkably, my friend and I had just had a talk about surrender.  We next go to the St. Jude and the Nativity labyrinth, and walk. At midday in the sunlight the many shades of summer red and green blaze, and the many hints of autumn are subdued for the moment.  My friend talks of gratitude at the center, and I share her thoughts, but am too moved to speak myself.

Walk 53-55: September 1: I wake up late and read the engrossing RANDOM FAMILY by Adrain Nicole LeBlanc, fascinated by the characters, and uninterested in the sunlight, although tomorrow I will be once more in a windowless room for many hours.  I walk to the labyrinth and am in awe of the blue sky and the expanse of trees that I pass by every day. A warm mile exchanged with a passing jogger after we both try to make room for each other as we crossed makes me feel happy and vulnerable at the same time.  My friend has gone, but we had talked more about labyrinths, and she had reminded me that some people ask questions before walking the labyrinth. I do not ask the question for my first walk, as I find my way to the end, I then decided to ask a question for my second walk. What should I do about my debt?  I was longing to feel the earth so I remove my shoes.  At first, the earth is giving and soft, but soon the woodchips force me to carefully and slowly pick my way, requiring a deeper attention to the path.  I am reminded of June days in my childhood when school was first out and I could wear shorts instead of knee socks and skirts. I always stole away to the woods next to my house. The woods was my refuge and the place where I could let my imagination go. There were always warnings—Don’t go as far as the stream. Don’t take your shoes off. Don’t go in the stream. Don’t cross the stream. The stream is polluted.  I only knew that the water was cold and clear and tadpoles danced at my feet there. I think the fears of my mother and grandmother were more about strangers in the woods than about the gentle stream and once I did have a run in with a pack of older boys  but that moment of fear and shame was eclipsed by the many days of solitary joy.   I always noticed the different ferns and wildflowers and mosses, the way the tree stump changed slowly over the years. The labyrinth is like my woods now. On the journey outward of my second walk, my action becomes the answer. I am walking with barefeet on wood and earth on a winding path. What do I do about debt? I walk on barefeet on wood and earth on a winding path. No other answer is forthcoming, but this suffices.   I put on my shoes for a third walk to appreciate the ease of it. At the center lies a bird’s feather alongside the center rosette of stone. I consider taking it or putting it in the middle of the stones like a talisman, until I realize it is perfect where it is