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

2 responses to “walks 51-55: earth

  1. I grew up on a lake with a beautiful natural forest just across the road. When I read about you finding a refuge in the woods I can totally understand what you felt as a child. Thank you for sharing your memories!

    Liked by 1 person

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