I have not been to the labyrinth in three days. The days are shorter. Other commitments to people and deadlines seem more compelling. Yet, the walks in the weeks since my last post have covered such extensive ground. Once I walked with Paul. He asked me to explain the labyrinth just before we arrived, but after he walked, he just said ‘thank you’ and put his arm around my shoulder, and I knew he needed no explanation. I shiver at the center sometimes and watch the wind pummel the fragile plants in the garden. I completed a trinity of walks on a weekend afternoon. Peter, an old friend who has just died at age 50 came rushing into my mind on the second of those walks. I smiled as I thought of his eternal youth, and cried because it had ended for him too soon. My meditation is no longer about seeking emptiness, but welcoming the people who come in to my mind as I walk, and letting them walk with me. I now have memories of friends and loved ones taking the path with me. Its simplicity keeps me focused, and helps me remember, as the silence of the Quaker meeting punctuated by one message helps me hold it in memory to savor later. The path is buried in yellow leaves and the brilliant reds in the gardens have surrendered to mellow oranges and browns. The shade tree will need a new name by the time I return.
I walked in solitude for two days this week. The first day, St. Jude and the Nativity held the Blessing of the Animals. I parked right in front of the little ceremony, smiled at the dogs and their owners and Kathy, resplendent in her robes, and walked over to the labyrinth. I hoped I didn’t disturb them, but I needed to walk. The leaves on the ground and the cool winds reminded me that it is well into October. On the next walk, on the next day a group of teens played in the lot very close to the labyrinth. They had basketballs and soccer balls, and were both dribbling and kicking their balls in a new game they had created. I liked them so much, and enjoyed winding my path as they chattered behind the trees. A ball landed on the labyrinth. My feet would not leave the path, and the tall young girl in a soccer uniform and knee socks sensed it and ran over, apologizing. I like that when on the path that I cannot veer from it.
On my third walk, I was joined by my two dear friends who came to see me from Queens. They had greeted me on the street like two kids, jumping up and down, looking like sisters, although they could be mother and daughter. We went to the labyrinth together a bit later in the day, and as we wound around each a short distance from each other, I was silently thankful for their presence. My younger dear friend, who I have loved profoundly since the very first moment I met her was last, and it felt right that she was on a different part of the path than my contemporary and me. I pray for a long happy life for her, and for contentment for my other dear friend as we walked closer to the center. She herself had gotten a message that day about santosha from her yogini niece. We then took a long walk on the Forbidden Drive of Fairmont Park. Later we three talked late into the night.
They left the next day, and after serenely sharing with them my surroundings which have offered me peace, I suddenly felt empty and sad. The man who has begun walking alongside me, as suddenly as a turn on the labyrinth, took me to Bryn Athyn later in the day. The grounds and the buildings were transporting. The rarity and immensity of the vistas frightened me, even as I luxuriated in them. I thought for sure there must have been a labyrinth on such sacred grounds and kept searching for one. I know when I get back to the labyrinth I will once more feel at home.
September 30: Walk 80 It had rained all day, but I got to the labyrinth when the sky was quiet. The ground was very wet, and I was inspired by my friend, who had approached the labyrinth with such conscious and creative analysis, that I began to lightly in my head trace my own chronological path as I walked—the first short section was my early childhood, I turned a corner and began going to school, then high school, then college, then the long stretch when I was out of college and married before the sharp turn to grad school, my various locations and vocations, easily and lightly the images and people emerged for me at each imaginary stretch and then faded. My mother’s illness and death, my turn away from life revolved around theatre, the curve in the path which took me to Pennsylvania. I had finished about 3/4s of the labyrinth when I caught up with my life. Then each step was an unknown, and a sudden shower of yellow leaves began spiraling down before me, and my thoughts were quiet. I was naively hopeful that the rest of my life would continue to have the quality I was experiencing in that moment, wonderment, peace. At the final turn, I imagined preparing for death.
Yesterday I took a walk on the grounds of Audubon’s home at Mill Grove. I did not see birds, sadly, but rather large rodents (perhaps beavers?) and deer and silver squirrels. The grounds and trails were hilly, alongside an occasional rustic cottage and primitive bridge. The Perkiomen Creek was full and still, more like a river. I read about Audubon, and found some interesting facts about him, most notably, that he was bi-racial and had spent most of his childhood in France. His illustrations of birds were created by killing and stuffing the birds, but he was the first to position them as if they were alive.