What I learned is that to visit labyrinths is one thing. To actually make a pilgrimage to a labyrinth, or even several, is very different. I have been a visitor.
What are my memories and lessons? Still digesting. All that I visited are sited well. Some are more dynamic than others. New Life Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, 54 feet in diameter and ten years old this year, sees pilgrims regularly. Footprints, artifacts along the path and in the center, totems like Kokopeli and Buddha on the edge. Ribbons, a candle. And, now, a feather from Iowa.
St. Chad’s Episcopal Church labyrinth is tucked into a corner with the mountains behind. Quail flushed. A chair situated under a small tree provided shelter. A seven circuit, but of a different pattern than I know. I have to ask Sandi Ohlen about designs.
Thursday, Rich and I walked the escarpment at Petroglyphs National Monument. Sandy soil, basalt. Pretty interesting but a bit disappointing. I don’t know why. After I studied this quail petroglyph closely, I was ready to leave.
Santa Fe proved cold and stormy but fun! Dee Ann McIntyre is such a sport! We first visited the E.J. Martinez Elementary School where Principal Nancy Olivares greeted us and gave directions to the labyrinth. “Out this door and straight ahead. You can’t miss it.” Well, we did! So, Dee Ann said, “Think like a labyrinth,” and we did! There, sited in a corner below the playground near trees and overlooking the valley is a playful and energetic labyrinth. Painted rocks and mementos lined the paths. Dee Ann and I walked in but the wind and cold drove us straight out. But, well done, to the school for keeping and encouraging use, especially in this day of uncertainty. A needed spiritual entity for the community.
The Museum of International Folk Art is situated on Museum Hill. A light snow covered the labyrinth inside the low wall. Certainly an echo exists, which appears to simply be connected to the wall. Nothing “mystical” or of trickery about it. Simply a cool effect. Two home school boys gleefully ran along the top of the low wall, leaping over the gaps while I swept away some of the snow to determine the design.
Unintentionally, the design was, as Dee Ann pointed out, a Raven, which is the common bird in the area and several of which glided over us while we were there. The gift shop was a delight of hand crafted items from indigenous peoples across the world. Dee Ann and I visited and shared good thoughts in the café. She is a good person, full of energy, knowledgeable, well-traveled and modest.
Our last labyrinth stop was St. Francis Basilica downtown. The
labyrinth is sited to the left of the entrance behind the statue of the native saint. Very cold. The twists and turns made me somewhat dizzy but I followed through to the center. Then, straight out and into the church. Amazing! The colors, the height of the ceiling, the images. The spiritual quality is peaceful. Holy Christmas music softly played in the background.
Lunch and the the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. Just enough. Not a huge space. Emphasis on her connection to nature. The docent really told a story and later she, Dee Ann and I shared finding synchronicities of college and being artists.
So, after a couple of days I wonder, why am I here? What are the lessons? How do I put some deeper meaning in these experiences?
We took a break from labyrinths over the weekend and drove to Taos through Chimayó which we both felt was like Ecuador. Small streets, dogs, the whole ambiance. Neither good nor bad. Just a memory. The Sanctuario de Chimayó is reputed to have holy dirt and pilgrims are encouraged to rub the dirt from a small hole over the body part that needs attending. Mary Swander, Poet laureate of Iowa wrote about her visit here in Desert Pilgrim. The energies were very different. A mix of natural elements, Native American beliefs, The Spanish influence, the Roman Catholic Church, northern Americans. I would like to have studied it more but Rich was uncomfortable and we wanted to get to Taos before dark.
Sunday we explored Bandelier National Monument which was the most spiritual experience of the trip. To sit in the small carved out enclosures of the volcanic tuff, touch the charcoal stained ceilings, peer out the smoke holes, climb the ladders, listen to the silence, watch the sun move across the canyon. Wow. A place to return to. Holy.
Monday’s snow kept us in Los Alamos and what a surprise! We found the labyrinth at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I have “seen” it before. But the Labyrinth Locator website does not show a picture of it. Working with Jim Foxx to uncover it from the snow was just such fun! We worked quietly side by side.
When Jane W read this in my blog, she replied, “Today I was reading your New Mexico blog about the forest labyrinth where you cleared snow with your foot and Jim Foxx shoveled. You mentioned, “How pleasant it was to work side by side in silence.” When I read that, I was instantly transported back to my grandparents’ snowy yard – winter of 1947 – where Grampy shoveled and I watched – both of us silent. In my memory I heard the sound of the shovel, felt and smelled the frosty air on that gray day. Lately I seemed to be tuned into another dimension. I’ve also been dreaming about places I’ve never been – somebody else’s dreams?”
The last labyrinth that we walked was back in Albuquerque on the way home. The Center for Action and Contemplation has a lovely labyrinth in a far corner with a Ramada and a typical Southwest feel of the cross, local plants, river rocks. Interesting, but I was done with the trip.
So, what have I learned and what do I want to write about all this?