The Woman in Red

My niece Sydney Gabel, who has a blog called Creative Culture featured me.

Creative Culture

WomaninRed

Today is an exciting day because it is the first post I’ve written that has accomplished everything I wanted to do with Creative Culture. Columns about the amazing people that surround my life. I am excited to announce my Aunt Michele as the first participant in my culture experiment.

Meet my Aunt Michele, Dean of Montgomery Community College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a vision in any color and looks sleek as ever in all black and white ensemble with a pop of red color. I decided I would interview her for Creative Culture as we discuss her favorite pop culture as well as her own personal trends and advice for college students. So let’s get to it!

McinRed9MCinred8

Hi, Michele First up, what’s your favorite movie right now? Of all time? 

M: Paris is Burning and Grey Gardens are two of my favorite films. I saw them years after they…

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Nowell

candlesPink flesh colored leaves in December have replaced the yellow autumn leaves dusting the labyrinth. The labyrinth has become female in the winter, becoming the most beautiful and lasting thing in the garden no longer competing with roses and mums for my eye or attention, the white rocks and the wet ground more alive because of the death and dormancy surrounding her.

I am far from the labyrinth now, under bright skies in Florida and I wonder why I brave the cold each winter. No reason seems strong enough to stay when there is so much color and light here. How can it feel like Christmas asks Paul. He and I had Channukah with his family and upon hearing the ancient prayers, I closed my eyes and thoughts of thousands of years and thousands of prayers, of candles lit through time.  At church today with my sister, celebrating the Holy Family, we sang The First Nowell. The spelling intriqued me. The song I learned was from the 16th century and once more I was transported, thinking of the first singers of the song and its melody enduring through the generations.  The lyrics, which always wrapped around the tune in an unusual way to me felt right in a new way.

My father gave me a labyrinth charm for Christmas. It is a Chartres labyrinth, so I carry the path with me now.

http://www.niu.edu/PubAffairs/RELEASES/2006/nov/Nowell.shtml

prayers

st. js

A loving and beloved teacher at my school, a poet, saw the charcoal drawing I had purchased from a student. It is a self portrait, very large, her head fills the page, her eyes are wide, staring directly ahead, and her nose is bleeding black charcoal blood. After seeing it, he came back to my room and read a poem to me he had written about pain, about his symbiotic relationship to it. His voice was, as were his words, clear and strong and had so many tones.

We pray for Ferguson, we pray for FSU, where my niece held hands with strangers and huddled down for safety in the stacks of the library and heard shots set free the wounded and wounding soul of a man who came to kill students during finals week. We thought we were a post-racial society, but we are not, I thought FSU was dangerous because of the football players’ carte blanche, but it was dangerous for a different reason. Perhaps more than anything, I don’t want to outlive my nieces and nephew, and then  I think of Michael Brown’s mother.

The labyrinth in the rain is wet like a skinned knee and the turns remind me over and over, we are going back, we are going forward, we are in a different place.

Last week, my sister in law walked with me. She wore a light blue hood and a pale coat, and held steaming coffee in her hands. In my peripheral vision, and the meditative state that I drop into at the labyrinth, she reminded me of the Virgin Mary.  I remembered waking at the hospital  (I  had slept on a window sill) when my mother was dying and seeing my sister in law without recognizing her, as if in a vision. She had just come from her own shift at a neighboring hospital, and was in green scrubs. Who is this beautiful teen aged nurse with the golden ponytail, I haven’t seen her before, I asked myself before I recognized her. It was early in the morning  and the sun shone through the window I recall, for a moment, the greyness of the hospital and the fog of exhaustion and numbness which covered the fear and sadness were lifted. On the way back from the labyrinth to meet my brother and nephew at the playground, she and I talk over the nature of ritual.

At the labyrinth, I am in the shadow of a church where people gather to pray and focus on something higher than themselves. Just the action of gathering in prayer in good faith, praying for love, means that no action of violence or hurt is being set forth in that space, in that moment.

Circling

Circling by Christopher Janney

Labyrinth-less-ness

It is 67 degrees and beautiful in PA, and 38 degrees in San Antonio. I am on my way to Texas for a presentation and am homesick for the labyrinth. A misunderstanding earlier in the day had scared me and in that moment of fear, my brain was filled with the labyrinth, almost exactly as the picture  describes…was this a reversal, a sudden twist in the direction I was going? Why would I be so surprised if it was? My meditation on the labyrinth must be working for it to invade my mind so fully in a moment of faux crisis.

labyrinthbrain

A colleague called me and began telling me of her sister’s stage 4 diagnosis of cancer and how quickly it had consumed, her, her health destroyed within weeks, her bones disintegrated. I remember the suddenness of the deaths of my own loved ones, sudden to me even for those who were gravely ill. I sit on the plane and scroll through photographs of the labyrinth and am cheered to see the stone church and the curly multi-colored flag that guards the labyrinth that I never write about but always enjoy.

Why did I misunderstand the text I received, innocent enough and meant to be a joke. Why couldn’t I hear the good naturedness of it, what is in me to expect a turn for the worst? How unexpected and marvelous is my new relationship with Paul.  Is the labyrinth reinforcing my belief in symmetry—that happiness will bring equally weighted sadness. Life is much more about the unexpectedness which I first felt with traveling the labyrinth.

The last time I walked the labyrinth, on one of my rare mornings when I am ready for work early,   I was at first struck by the simplicity of a path with no leaves crunching beneath me, and then by the beauty of the osage tree without its shady yellow leaves. I could see the delicate patterns the black bones of the tree made against the blue sky and was momentarily cheered that winter, although not as glorious as autumn, would still have some charm at the labyrinth and garden of St. Jude and the Nativity.  Currently, the church’s announcement board says “Get Rich Quick: Count Your Blessings”I

I have a stop over in Dallas. I walk out of the plane. Directly in front of me is CIRCLING An Urban Musical Instrument by Christopher Janney. A Harmonic Labyrinth. I walk it, trying to follow directions as the path is more open than in most labyrinths, the floor lights up as I walk and gentle sounds of gongs mingle with each other, with an occasional dog park or cow moo. I love the blue translucent walls, I always thought a labyrinth should have real walls. The walk reminds me once more that the symmetry is there but there is no sensation of symmetry, hence my theory on balance and happiness/sadness debunked, and rightfully so.

The Candle Labyrinth in the Night of the Churches at Rödelsee (Germany) in 2014

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Originally posted on blogmymaze:
As already three years ago (2011) I could propose a labyrinth draft to this event. The responsibles have decided on a Roman labyrinth of the type Dionysos from a list of 9 different suggestions. It is known since the 2nd century AD, and belongs therefore to the oldest labyrinth types at all.   The Roman…

a walk in the rain

CClabyrinth_3

http://www.clarityconceptsinc.com/
I found the above website for a consulting firm which used the Labyrinth as a tool for developing leadership and team building. It does not appear to be currently active, but it had been located in King of Prussia, PA, just down the road from me. I was looking for Labyrinth images.  It is interesting to think of the Labyrinth as a place where “Innovation is everything” (Robert Noyce).

My last walk on the labyrinth was in the rain. The rain forced me to look down and put one foot in front of the other and I once more was especially reminded of the grace and symmetry of the path, particularly in the center upper quadrant. The stones gleamed and there were puddles.  As I walked I recalled the dream I had had that morning. In the dream, I joined a theatre collective which was vibrant, yet had many rules, told to us by a small man with very long hair. I was involved but questioned my involvement. There was a lot demanded of me, but the rewards were great.  I slept in the dream amidst the members of the theatre company, but woke up alone, everyone was gone. I went outside where there had been an incredible amount of activity, and everything was gone, there was a cavernous scorched hole in its stead. Blackened roots of trees remained, but none of the many people or the sets or the lights or the costumes. Two young people, a man and a woman who looked like college students came in bicycles, I hid under a structure instinctively, which reminded me of a child’s slide (and must have appeared magically, as the landscape was entirely devoid of structures). The two surveyed the damage dispassionately. I saw that the man had a swastika on his t-shirt. I woke up.  As I walked recalling and shivering at the terror the dream inspired, I thought of my walks as meditations of impermanence. But they are no shield for all the dangers in the world.

I learned that the ‘shade tree’ which no longer provides shade is an osage.

Unquantified Walks

 

mylabyrinthOctober 30 I know I have done at least 100 walks on the labyrinth, but I have lost track. Part of me is glad to shed the restriction of numbers, part of me wants to start over counting to 1, as I do with my acting students in the game in which they are supposed to listen to each other and count to ten with no one speaking over each other. Last Monday the best part of that exercise was the musical giggles that escaped from them each time they got it wrong.   We are working on an adaption of Alice in Wonderland. It captured their imaginations immediately, in their authority over the story. The little girl with the golden hair declared “I’m Alice” suddenly in a British accent.  The littlest boy with the lisp and a Robin Williams’ style stream of consciousness asserted that he would be the Mad Hatter. It will be brilliant.

What I appreciated this evening about the labyrinth was its closeness to a busy street and private homes. It still remains a place of retreat. Midas the dog came to greet me on the path today, and he met me in the right direction, so it was perfect. The shade tree provides shade no more and has lost all its leaves, which means that the paths of the labyrinth are brown, with no more yellow leaves to make the path golden and crunch underfoot. The maple holds on to its curly crispy red leaves awhile longer, and other trees outdo themselves in reds and pinks and oranges, like young women at a party in a Jane Austen novel. I feel that something of myself has been imprinted here. As I walk this evening, the winds chill encourages me to prepare for winter, as my summer walks bade me to prepare for autumn. As I walk I imagine walking in freezing temperatures and wonder if such an event can bring me anything but misery. But perhaps the turns of the labyrinth will provide comforting reminders that nothing is forever.

November 2 I walked with Paul when the sun was bright and the wind was cold. At times, it felt as though I was following Paul, although I entered the labyrinth first. At the center we stood facing the church and Germantown Pike and the riotous trees, and then leaned our heads together in a silent understanding. I marveled that I began these walks in solitude.