Indiana Labyrinths

Two University towns in northern Indiana host five lovely labyrinths.  In South Bend, home of Notre Dame University and Valparaiso home to Valparaiso University both just off busy I-80 pilgrims will easily find these exquisite, cared for labyrinths.

Ironwood Road in South Bend bisects I-80 and the labyrinths bookend the intersection. Clay Church sits on a sprawling campus with a pond, gardens and a welcoming curved path leading to the medieval style labyirnth.  Engraved bricks with inspirational sayings and dedications to people sprinkle the paved path. Lilies embrace the labyrinth. Even on a warm morning, the walk was satisfying.

Saint Thérèse Little Flower Church south of I-80 on Ironwood is well named!  Flowers adorn the property and the labyrinth, just off the parking lot, is secluded yet accessible. The entry stunning and inviting.  Late summer the masses of golden Black-eyed Susans beckon.

Wandering into Valparaiso, IN, was a welcome respite from the pounding vibrations of I-80 and the driving rain that was part of the flooding in the southern United States. Valaparaiso University Chapel towers about the unique design by Robert Ferre and  John Unrath. The skills of builder Marty Kermeen inspire awe.  From The Labyrinth Locator website, “Unique design with cross shape at center, gardens interspersed between pathway, “I AM” theme based on Jesus’ “I AM” statements.” The appeal has many facets: the walk itself in a sacred place, the construction, the setting, and the history of the univsersity.

On the north side of campus nestled behind the low set Lutheran Deaconess Association building is a charming classical labyirnth surrounded by ornamental grasses and shaded by evergreens.  Herbs flow from selected areas.  Charming.

The medieval Chartres design at the First United Methodist Church of Valparaiso was indeed a find!  We drove past it because it is sheltered from the road by a hedge.  But, once we learned its location, we were enchanted.  In spite of being downtown, it is quiet.  Accessible. Comfortable to walk. Well maintained.

Enjoy the photos and stop by when you are passing through northern Indiana.

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Summer life in Iowa is abundant!  We can literally see and sometimes think we hear crops growing.  The landscape is a carpet of varied  greens – soybeans, corn, hay, oats. Moisture evaporates to form clouds, windmills pump water for livestock.  Life can seem deceptively easy and slow.

Wildlife are active dawn to dusk.  Rabbits forage on clover and plantain.  Pileated woodpeckers call from the woods.  Wrens, bluebirds and robins raise a second and sometimes third brood. Fish in ponds gobble up larvae floating on top of the water. Horticulture farmers keep pace with all of this, harvesting fruits and vegetables, getting them to market.

The Laughing Labyrinth is more than abundant and a conundrum.  Little did I realize that the grasses so beautiful with their cascading stems would obscure the path.  The wonderful lilies have little chance of blooming with this competition. Yet, one peeks through the maze of grass with its lovely yellow face.  And, a compass plant has sent up a huge stalk and is setting blooms!

We move through the long days of summer, through the abundance sometimes without realizing how fortunate we are.

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Pink and White Petals

Though sparse, the magnolia blooms in the front yard are still spectacular. An old tree that has seen its share of storms, wind, wildlife making their homes in the trunks and on the leaves and boughs, and using it to polish antlers, it stands spreading and comforting. Victim to a blight, its demise is sad. So I was surprised to see new shoots reaching upward, green leaves just appearing. Tall, hopeful. Like life. We get beat up and when hope has waned, some small gesture makes us smile and realize. Life. Ebbs and Flows. Thank you, Magnolia. I’ll continue to enjoy you with appreciation and wonder as you sprinkle down your lovely pink and white petals.


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2015 Labyrinths

Take a look at Midwestern and Eastern Labyrinths. At first I thought I had walked and connected with only a few labyrinths in 2015.  Then, while selecting them, I realized the year was rich with experiences. Hover on each image for some information.

The farthest west was Nebraska and southeast was Knoxville, TN. North we roamed to the Twin Cities.  All kinds of weather from a broiling hot introduction to labyrinths at the OWAA conference in Knoxville to cold as we installed a stone lined labyrinth with
Denny and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty. A lovely contribution to my Pecha Kucha on Labyrinths at The Gathering at Waycross Retreat Center in Indiana, was the gift of feet from Clare Wilson of South Africa whose son, Sean captured the essence of her labyrinth with two entrances and a center for walkers to come together in reconciliation.  And the sweet, gifts from Teri Petrzalek, and Amy and Mark Ackman of hand crafted labyrinths.

So the memories revive with pictures and reflection.  A good year of connecting, reflecting and discerning.

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Teri’s Art – Fireflies in the Labyrinth

From the Song of Hiawatha that Teri read on the June 2015 Firefly labyrinth walk. Recently she shared two pieces of art work she created as follow-up and in response to a show she heard on synchronized fire flies.  This is a huge event in the Great Smokey Mountains and was happening when we were there attending the OWAA annual conference.

Fire Flies

Teri Ps rendition of synchronized fire flies.

“At the door on summer evenings
Sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,
Heard the lapping of the waters,
Sounds of music, words of wonder;
‘Minne-wawa!” said the pine-trees,
Mudway-aushka!” said the water.
Saw the fire-fly, Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle
Lighting up the brakes and bushes,
And he sang the song of children,
Sang the song Nokomis taught him:
“Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,
Little, flitting, white-fire insect,
Little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle,
Ere upon my bed I lay me,
Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!”

Full Moon fireflies

Fireflies beneath the full moon.

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Unity Church Prayer-A-Thon 2015

Dobby Ears

Playfully preparing for a centered walk.

Levity and Reflection marked this year’s Labyrinth Walk at Unity Church’s Prayer-a-Thon.

We re-traced the mythology of labyrinths from the spat between Crete and Greece and Theseus’ ADD tendencies   forgetting Ariadne on an island and not raising the white sails so his dad would know he was successful to modern day uses. Fun, portraying Dobby in the Harry Potter books with socks on his ears, was part of the mix as we donned clean socks to protect the canvas labyrinth and prepared to walk. Joyfully we drummed clockwise, opening the labyrinth.

This year’s theme, “Paths To Prayer” lent itself well to a challenging walk.  Rather than walk individually, we held hands and, staying connected, wove our way through the circuits of the Prairiewoods  canvas floor labyrinth.

We each found ourselves closely connected, conscious of each others’ rhythms and needs – a slower pace around corners, importance of adjusting hands, where we “sailed” along and where we got bunched up. Initially uncomfortable, each found this new experience of walking the labyrinth rewarding and fulfilling full of metaphors for us as individuals and a community.

Reflecting after our walk

Reflection boosts retention and can bond a group experience.

Following are two participants’ reflections.

“At first I felt fumbly.  Then, I started to connect with the person in front of me and it became almost effortless.  The turns were the hardest, I guess like in life when it feels like we may be going backwards when in reality, every step we take is going forwards on a different plane. i.e. in the short term we can only see each step – the one in front of us at the time. We must trust that in the bigger picture, each step is necessary and moves us in the direction of a larger goal.

“I liked the feeling of connection with the group.  It was fun knowing even when we were going in different directions we were still connected.

“I am thankful for our slow mindful pace – something I always benefit from doing. Reminding myself that ‘there is no rush’ opens up space and time for possibility to enter.” NS

“I felt a little shaky, off balance in the beginning.  It was uncomfortable, almost painful holding the person’s hands, both in front and back as we made turns.  I felt tense throughout my whole body.  Once I made it to the center and could free my hands again there was an amazing release.” T

Other perspectives on the physical process itself: Everyone felt awkward at first. All like being connected even though it was strange at first. We are all connected for better or worse. Adjusting the pace and how we extended our hands was a constant. Some folks adjusted their hands to the circumstances, thus relieving the tension. The corners, as in life, proved challenging – “I took baby steps”.

Rev. Brenda Ehret plans to incorporate some of the reflections in her service at the end of the 40 hours of “Paths to Prayer.”

For my part as facilitator, I carefully considered this type walk. Because I have presented before I sought a challenge and the theme really spoke to this format. I gave the caveat that each of us will experience some discomfort.  That is OK because it is new. Just allow. So, I walked deliberately with soft knees, kept my focus on steady feet and feeling the hand on my shoulder. By extension being aware of the line’s movement and flow. We did step easily along the outer circles – the straight aways so to speak.  And, we fumbled through the first tight corners then got the hang of walking connected.  Breathing was important – to breathe out anxiety and be re-assuring to all through my movements and demeanor.  As we progressed, ease flowed into each. The reflections and responses were incredible.

What a lovely evening to begin the Prayer-a-Thon 2015.

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Gratefulness in Knoxville

Statue St. Francis

Lovely atop a hill quiet yet full of life.

Four Labyrinths in three days. Each exceptional.  The Episcopal Church of the Ascension’s labyrinth sits on the side hill next to a cemetery.  Up a set of stairs, past the fire pit the entry greets pilgrims.  Quiet yet alive. Removed yet contained within the arms of the church property.  The site reminded me of the cemetery hill overlooking New Boston, NH, where I grew up. Always a special place. The St. Francis statue seemed to welcome walkers and the dark Tennessee limestone formed a solid boundary for the path. The setting under the pines, the gravel path and bench in the center added to the rustic feel of the labyrinth.  A lovely walk.

Male Cardinal

Cautiously watching before ducking into the shrubs to a nest hidden from view.

Up and down residential streets and past impressive old century homes I drove to reach the next labyrinth. Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church labyrinth is tucked behind the large, imposing building, up a walkway and past a fire pit – a theme going on here!  A more formal feel but a welcoming atmosphere awaited as I stepped to the entrance. Bricks, gravel path and rocks for the labyrs added to the sophisticated feel. The happy hello of Cardinals, Robins and Mockingbirds balanced the formality. I watched the male and female Cardinals with insects in beak as they surreptitiously moved from limb to limb then ducked into the hedge, presumably to a nest of hungry off spring. This walk was more reflective and of gratefulness that Knoxville has such an array of labyrinths easily accessible to people.

Cathedral Stained Glass

St. John’s Cathedral, downtown Knoxville has an amazing sanctuary.

Part of the Outdoor Writers’ Association of America conference each year is spouse activities.  I offered to lead labyrinth walks and had some takers.  So as M3 (to the third power) off we trekked up the hill to St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Knoxville in 90 degree plus weather! We knew it by its red door. Wrapped in the arms of the building is a lovely brick inlay labyrinth. Formal. Its borders are graced with beautiful blooms and inviting benches. The staff welcomed us and Melissa Dodson, parish secretary, toured the sanctuary with us. Such a warm reception!

I had shared some information with the women about labyrinths so they had an understanding of the spiritual nature.  We walked into the center directly, chatted about the different parts of the labyrinths and then began.  I have found that bringing novice walkers into a labyrinth removes much of the anxiety about how one should “be walked.” As Reverend Artress has pointed out, almost any way to walk a labyrinth is appropriate.

Cathedral Two Walkers

Two intrepid pilgrims walk in 90 degree temperatures, never feeling the heat…until later!

In spite of the heat, both women centered and walked gratefully, following the path to the center, taking turns in each “petal.” ML mentioned she started with being grateful and then her mind felt distracted. But, in the center she returned to gratitude.  MK was quiet and thoughtful about her experience. Only when each turned to leave did they begin to feel the heat.  A beautiful setting and introduction to labyrinths.

Sunday evening found ML and me tracing a circuitous path up and down one way streets and steep hills to the University of Tennessee’s gardens and labyrinth. What a treat! This labyrinth is quite different surrounded by plants and ringed by a ramada. One could walk the perimeter while others walk the labyrinth.  I opened the labyrinth walking clockwise through the ramada. MK contemplated a long time, then started her walk. I held space and also began to walk.  But, as MK reached the center, I stopped on one of the circuits near the entry, stepped back and held space.  She shared later that she had much to think about.

Garden Labyrinth

An exquisite labyrinth at the University of Tennessee’s Garden complex.

Although the labyrinth is near a busy road and the flight pattern of the helicopter for the hospital, neither of us found this distracting.  She prayed for the people involved with whatever the medical crisis was.  I was grateful that we have technology to help people. As I held space and admired the insects pollinating plants, the birds calling and some rodent with big ears nibble plants, MK walked thoughtfully out. She shared that she felt light and that her prayers were heard and accepted.

Two other labyrinths further out have to wait for another time.  The four labyrinths were all excellent. This last walk was a great end to labyrinth walking in Knoxville.

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