Labyrinths of the East

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.

Ed_SwallowtailOnConeflower

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Summer Labyrinth Visitors

Summer is grand for walking the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. Kids and adults alike seem to enjoy the leisurely pace they assume while looking at different plants, watching insects move about or gather nectar, and searching for Monarch caterpillars.

Memorial Day weekend families gathered and the kids took off running the circuits. Then, surprisingly, they returned and walked sedately. After, some commented on what they had seen and experienced. An emerging flower here. A bird song there.

 

Michael_Motorcycle

Michael takes in the labyrinth

In June, Michael from Minnesota contacted me about walking the labyrinth.  On his way to the Amana Colonies for a motorcycle rally, he had decided to seek out something different. He commented that the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth caught his eye because it was created personally and he wanted to interact with people. So, we chatted about how and why we created the labyrinth, what he does in Minnesota, other opportunities to look for. A gentle time.  Then, he walked and was on his way to the motorcycle event.

7-4-2019_Bagels_Beverage_BloomsJuly 4th, just after our return from a long trip to the East and back, we had a “last minute invite” for Bagels, Beverages, and Blooms.  A few friends stopped by. We solved the world’s issues. And, they walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth under a cooling breeze on a hot day, smelling the light fragrance of the multitude of milkweeds that have hosted the caterpillars.

The Monarchs are in between generations, I think.  Some adults are flying around. The many caterpillars I found in mid-June I hope are in the chrysalis stage now. Other pollinators are flitting and crawling about.

The birds are feeding young. Some are fledging. Vultures, those denizens of the open skies are soaring. And, juicy clouds roll overhead.

It’s quite a summer.

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Firefly Walk

Lights twinkled in the yard and labyrinth. The faint perfume of milkweed wafted up on the still, hot, early summer air. Calling. Calling.

We had arrived home at dusk after a long journey home from the East. Still in “travel mode” we unpacked the car and put away most of our trip supplies. As darkness wrapped around us, we let ourselves release the tension that builds up from high-speed driving through eight states and visiting with numerous family and friends in four different states.

So, in the dark, with stars guiding me, fireflies dancing around me and the soft aroma of milkweed calming me, I walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.

How can I explain the grounding, settling in and the sense of “coming home” that flowed into and through me? I kept saying over and over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

To the rental car for its comfort. For safe travels by car, on foot, and in buses and subways. For great meals with friends and family. For respites in unexpected places. Fr color. For quiet. For seeing different parts of the land and meeting different people. For perspectives.

While my words are weak in conveying my experience that evening, I trust that some readers have had a similar experience the memory of which lingers in their soul. A memory they can return to time and again to calm, soothe, and refresh them.

 

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Sunnylands Labyrinth

A guest blog
by Teri Petrzalek

Background Information:  Sunnylands is the 200-acre estate outside Palm Springs of Walter and Lenore Annenberg. In 2001 they created a trust fund to “address serious issues facing the nation and the world community.”  A 25,000 square foot, Mid-Century marvel, this peaceful oasis is set in the center of a 9-hole golf course. The property is now used for retreats as well as high-level summits.

A visitor center was constructed at the entry and with it several breath-taking garden vignettes. As we toured the gardens, the tree-lined path around the great lawn opened to a clearing which contained a labyrinth. The 7-circuit path was wide and separated by low plantings.

I told my friends to continue on the main trail without me and I would catch up. I paused at the start to set my intention. “Release Worry.”

The wide paved path seemed to convey an ease, a peacefulness in an otherwise crowded place. The turns seemed more pronounced because of the plantings and the beauty of the spot was undeniable.

I walked more quickly than I usually do, hoping to reach the center before anyone else appeared. The labyrinth reminded me of the estate, grand but made of simple pieces. The structures had little ornamentation. That was provided by the plantings. At the center of the labyrinth I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I could smell the faint aroma of something thyme-like.

PalmSprings_CAThat made me smile. Thyme. Time. Wasn’t that what I’d been worrying about? Time.

I tried to follow my breath on the way out. In – relax, out – release as I returned to the entry. It was early enough in the morning that there were still shadows on one side. So, I kept moving – in and out of the darkness. Truly an oasis in the desert.

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Walking the Sacred Path Daily

Welcome rock

View of labyrinth in snow

What does walking the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth daily do?  For one, it gets me outside. Rain, snow, or shine. Chill, frigid, or warm. Windy, breezy, or calm. Noisy with traffic or quiet. Postholing through deep snow, skittering along the ice-covered path, treading on rain-soaked soil or pounding on pavement like rain-starved ground.  Winter’s pre-dawn dark or spring’s bright sun. The lingering aroma of Virginia Mountain Mint crushed between fingers and still pungent in January or the fresh scent of tenderly brushed, newly emerged leaves of May. The taste of chives popped up through the mulch. So,

reawakening the senses is part of the experience.

Too, is the opportunity to observe thoughts.  What am I busy thinking about? Am I calm? Worried? Angry? Playful? And, how do I wish to be with these thoughts?  So, the discipline of pausing at the entry and choosing to come from a place of gratitude has become key. Above all, a place of Gratitude helps change the focus and my demeanor for the day. Or at least part of it.

Lichen on a rock

A lichen labyrinth, Sedona, AZ

When I away, I also walk a labyrinth.  Either a physical one or a small cloth one created by Deb M. or by simply tracing the three-circuit pattern on my hands. Both hands. Good discipline and hand-eye coordination.

 

 

 

Statue in snow

Snow got deep this winter.

I started this daily walk in late December 2017 when Rich and I were experiencing extended family situations.  I continued through the weeks he was East with his family. Each pre-dawn, I’d pull on wind pants, extra socks, heavy coat, my “Fudd” hat, mittens and pack boots and schlepp to the road for the newspaper, return to the entry to the labyrinth and walk. Then, I’d open up the chicken coop where the hens still roosted cozily under the heat lamp. At that hour they were rarely enticed to fly down and peck at the corn I tossed out. All through the winter and into the early, cold spring I walked.

bur oak

Checking out the bur oak in the center.

Now in my second third of the year, I am taking in the growth and fullness as warmth returns – except for this year’s Three Cold King days. Wow! I wondered, “Where are my long socks, wool hat, and extra flannel?”

I regard where I need to dig up and move plants, note where the path will get too narrow and will need cutting back as grasses and forbs grow, and delight in, “Oh!  I forgot about that sweet plant!  How nice to see you again.” May through mid-August sees a riot of color, textures, plant heights and prairie smells. The walk will be different in the sunlight and fullness of the season.

We shall see what this time of walking brings. Where I will find other labyrinths to walk. And, come fall, ….it will come on its own accord.

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Blizzard in the Labyrinth

Snow pellets stung like needles as the wind hurled the early spring blizzard at us.  Thirty-five mile an hour winds and temperatures hovering in the low 30s – not cold yet dangerous because of the ice it forms on roads, trees, buildings, and ground. Hard to tell how deep the snow was because it was heavy and compacted by the winds.

Entry

After the storm.

So, I stood a bit, tightened my collar, and decided to plunge ahead and was surprised as I “postholed” over the berm and into the Harmony Phoenix Labyrinth. Snow cascaded into my pack boots. Hmmm. Not so much harmony today. Yet, maybe so. It will depend on how I look at it. This is what I teach at Kirkwood with adults re-imaging their lives. Life is 10% experience and 90% reaction or response.

The labyrinth is familiar, after all, friends and I created it a year ago and I’ve walked it regularly and daily since mid-December 2017. In the pre-dawn light shadows were muted and forms erased and so I decided to walk differently.

Snow on Ground

Turn at the lizard.

Some landmarks poked through the snow, and the stalks of burned off prairie forbs stood in contrast to the snow.  Looking at the overall shape, I began, pacing the steps, and noting the nose of the colorfully painted lizard from Texas that indicates the first turn. Then, I followed the easy, gentle sweep of the right-hand half of the Harmony Labyrinth to the far side. The limestone blocks humped with snow formed a natural barrier and I knew when to turn, following the unbroken carpet of snow again in an easy gentle sweep back toward the beginning. Now around by the birdbath heaped with mounds of packed snow.

Statue of Tapia

Metal statue covered with snow.

Past the NW rock – buried but had to be there – and by Tapia.  Tapia is a metal statue a welder friend made and brought one day when our son, Dan, was little.  So, we named the statue in our friend’s honor and Tapia has lived at two homes now for 38 years.

Sparkly Rock, Wisconsin Rock and turn left. Those were easy because, in spite of the snow depth, they stand out.

The inner circles were more challenging and I had to just trust the easy, gentle sweep of the arc. Noting the sundial covered with snow I knew I was close.

Child Statue

Pointing the way.

Then, I found myself greeting the little child statue that points to our Bur Oak and is the greeter to the entrance.  So, I walked around the tree twice making a nice circle then, stepped left out of the center and around the easy, gentle sweep of the other half of the Harmony Labyrinth.  Up by Second Bench I paused and crushed some Virginia Mountain Mint seeds in my bare fingers taking in the wonderful aroma of mint.  Amazing!  The seed heads and stalks maintain their distinctive smell all winter until the new leaves and shoots break ground.

Second bench. What a funny thing.  People would wonder. There is only one bench so….The story is simply that I had two benches when the Labyrinth was a seven circuit and an ancient, magnificent Magnolia tree graced the center. First Bench went in first.  Second Bench second. The re-design took out First Bench.  And, I simply kept the name.

Even without snow I sometimes get off the path as I move from the outer circuit to the next in. I am never sure why this confuses me sometimes. But, I knew I was on the right circuit when I stumbled in the dip created by the heavy truck that removed the Magnolia tree and then I found myself back and on the other side of the limestone barrier.

Then, the turn to “home.” Past the compass that points to the North Star, down the dual entry to the bell.

A pause. A nod to the day. A ringing of the bell. Then, inside for hot chocolate.

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Lake Labyrinth Metaphor

Flooded Labyrinth

Circuits covered with water on ice.

Winter 2017-2018 has been strange and stressful.  Extended elder family matters, aggression in politics, yet again a mass murder and the predictable outrage, blame and just plain horror have been among the stressors.

A constant grounding has been walking the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth in the front yard every day since late December. Many mornings I have walked pre-dawn after tending the chickens, fetching the newspaper and before changing to head off to teach.

A certain quality surrounds the early morning hours.  The quiet before the stirrings, brilliant stars, the darkness wrapping around me protectively.  Some mornings the only sound was the creaking of a tree in a light winter breeze. Walking was grounding.

Even by full daylight, the walks were centering. Noticing the rocks and artifacts as snow smothered them and then retreated under warming skies. How pleasant to take in the winter textures, colors, and aromas of the plants. The Virginia Mountain Mint that holds its fragrance all year is especially refreshing.

On bare, frozen ground. Bracing -20 degrees. Through accumulating snows. Under waxing, full and waning moons. In fog. In thaws. In rain and over the squishy ground. Sunlight and dark of night I walked.

Then, more rains pelted down, melting the snow but not penetrating the frozen ground. Suddenly, the labyrinth was under water!  So, I studied the labyrinth daily and carefully plotted a route only to find each day fewer options and more hazards.  Walking through water on ice isn’t the best idea, nor is stepping carefully on ice with a trekking pole.  So, I adapted.

One side of the Harmony Labyrinth is slightly higher than the other and until recently had been above standing water. I decided to be content walking that side to the center, pausing and re-tracing my steps.  On this day, the rain became a deluge for hours.  The water rose, threatening to overtop the drive, seeped over all the right side of the labyrinth and spilled into the center.

Bravely I ventured forth only to be foiled within a few feet. Back to the entrance for another go in another direction with the center as my goal. Hmmmm. No luck. I tiptoed on tuffs of grasses and forbs and slid across shallow spots of water supported by my trek pole to a dead end. Back to the entry. Maybe a direct path will work…or not.

Finally, I bit the bullet and plunged through water planting the trekking pole firmly before advancing and found myself in the center. Rather surprised, I paused, looked back, studied the bur oak we planted in the center so full of youthfulness and hope for the spring season, and cut back to the bench to sit.  Then, I stepped out of the labyrinth entirely, circled and came back to the entry.

Another day, I made my way carefully to the limestone blocks that mark the halves and tiptoed along them to the center and back out.

It’s all a game now and it doesn’t really matter whether I go to Center or not…and yet, it does matter. Inside. After all, I’ve walked the labyrinth every day for over two months.

I know that the ice will melt in the next thaw. The ground will soften and the water will percolate in. The surface will harden as it dries and soon, plants will begin to poke through the wintered soil. The impasses of snow, mud, water, and ice will be resolved.

Perhaps that is life, too.  We meet resistance.  Systems are difficult to navigate. After mighty efforts, we end up where we began with no noticeable progress. So, we adapt. Plot a different route. Try something new. Sometimes, we decide to be satisfied with the result as “imperfect” as we may consider it. The impasses and “impossibles” will be resolved.

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