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.
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.
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.
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.
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.