The Labyrinth Locator, of The Labyrinth Society, is such a great resource to help locate labyrinths. Two major lessons I learned early on, and that I work to remember, are to contact people ahead and “assume nothing.”
Some labyrinths are not tended, even are destroyed. When I call or email ahead, people then spiff them up! Or I learn that they are no longer walkable. In the latter case, I let Jeff Saward, in England, webmaster of The Labyrinth Locator, know.
This summer’s trip to the East took us through northern Illinois and Indiana, central Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, northern Maryland, and West Virginia. And, how fortunate I felt that I had listened to my inner voice when guided to contact people both before and during the trip. Some I had dismissed as “probably not still in existence” and others, “Oh, I don’t want to bother….” or, “I am nervous about driving to and meeting someone new….” Reading Michelle Obama’s biography along the trip, I took to heart her attitude of exploration – step out, do new things. So, I did.
Some labyrinths were disappointments. Others absolutely wonderful experiences. Here are some reflections.
Elkhart, Indiana, is a “sleeper” city. Each day thousands of travelers pass by on the way to the East or West coasts. We’ve done that for decades. Located just east of the Chicago Congestion, most of us want to “get the dickens out of there!”
After consulting the Labyrinth Locator and talking with the CVB, we decided to overnight there. What a find! The Jazz Festival was in full swing and drew in enthusiasts from all over. The hot item was The Hot Sardines. The RV museum is a must stop for anyone with an RV and history. The Quilt Gardens all over the area show off parks and fairgrounds inviting visitors to take in seasonal displays of creating gardening. And, quilts themselves are all over to admire. We enjoyed supper and a brew at The Chubby Trout and walked a peaceful mowed labyrinth on the grounds of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. The campus grounds with a winding drive under arching trees welcomed us off the hot highway. The mowed grass labyrinth just off the walking path is encircled with pines. A nearby bench encourages people to sit and reflect. A needed respite on our travels.
Nearby Goshen, Indiana, Pathways Retreat, just off a small, shaded secondary road has an inviting entry and trail. We stopped by, reflected and continued our journey East.
Cedar Lake, Denville, NJ, has by far one of my favorite labyrinths in part because of its history and proximity to the ancestral family home. Tucked into the north end of the lake is a tiny labyrinth that Bianca Franchi has faithfully resurrected after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene blasted through and even as exotic plants threaten to overwhelm the area with their thick vines. It’s fun and whimsical.
Here is where I activated Michelle Obama’s philosophy – step out! On a quiet day, I looked up labyrinths within a 10-mile radius of Denville and saw one in Rockaway. With a 2014 construction date, I figured it might still be active. So, I called. The owner, Colleen O’Connor, enthusiastically invited me over, asking only that I give her some time to complete some other tasks that day. So, in the heat of the late afternoon, I drove small, shaded roads and found one of the sweetest labyrinths ever. Colleen, with the encouragement of and help from her husband, removed a free-standing, above ground pool and replaced it with soft white sand and a variety of stones to mark the seven-circuit path. That afternoon it waited, newly raked and with the pleasing, pungent aroma of Tansy. Nearby she had created a lavender spiral. Each was reflective and quiet. She thanked me for stopping by because my visit prompted her to clean up the space, walk it again and re-commit to being more active in her labyrinths. My offering to her for her creative work was an impromptu energy session.
While in West Virginia taking in a family reunion, I visited four labyrinths all in one day! The reunion hosting cousin actually took the time to walk two with me! Very cool on a boiling hot day.
Susan W’s yard houses two labyrinths. The large Chartres of mowed grasses and forbs is surrounded by trees. The encircled feel was warm and secure. A smaller seven-circuit on the side yard was delightful to walk. A simple design that is easily maintained.
Later, on the way to the reunion, Rich and I walked the C and O Canal then followed classic country roads (we were in West Virginia, remember) along the Potomac River to Harper’s Ferry and up to another intriguing labyrinth. Lynne and Joseph G. welcomed us even on short notice. It was quickly evident that Joseph had the engineer’s eye for reconstruction. When they bought the home and property several years before, the labyrinth was in disrepair. Joseph painstakingly researched the design, followed the outline and resurrected the large labyrinth on the side lawn. What a wonderful feeling to walk to the light applause of the cottonwood trees quivering in the breeze. Then, Lynne and Joseph invited us into the home for cool, refreshing spring water and a thumbnail history of their home. Imagine living in a modern home with a four hundred year history. Yes! Four hundred years! One section with the original rough-hewn logs was built in the late 1700s. An addition in the 1800s complemented the original cabin. In the 1900s another addition expanded the home and finally, in the early 2000s the final portion was added. All parts fit and blend so well. A treat indeed.
We managed the 90-degree temperatures at the reunion in the shade, the ventilated barn, and the air-conditioned house, looking at family history scrapbooks that various cousins had assembled and maintained. Remembering the movie Coco, and the importance of keeping family history and thus members alive, we poured through pictures, read old letters and reminisced as we fingered hooked and quilted rugs made by our aunts and moms.
After a brief rest at the motel, I took off to find the labyrinth at the Hospice of the Panhandle in Kearneysville, West Virginia. I am glad I did. The drive along, again, classic country roads was pleasant. The labyrinth is so fitting. All alone, I slowly walked the labyrinth tucked into an area by a small constructed pond and waterfall. A satisfying walk to end a busy, hot day.
Two more labyrinths were on our path through Cumberland, MD, and Wooster, OH. The Allegany College of Maryland houses a lovely labyrinth that needs a touch of love. It’s just off a walking trail that gets lots of use. Some attention would turn this labyrinth into a peaceful, inviting space.
Wooster, Ohio’s Unitarian Universalist fellowship labyrinth was a total surprise. Although set on a parking lot, not my favorite type of location, it is nestled close to the trees and provided a good feel. What was even more rewarding was turning off the busy street into a tree-lined drive, past a low set building, and into an area with discreet parking spaces, many trees, and gorgeous flowers. A well-done natural sanctuary.
Naturally, when we arrived home, unpacked, and cleaned up, I walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth in the front yard. So grounding after hours on busy highways.