Predawn “Stargirl” Labyrinth Walk

Who Is Stargirl?

Stargirl taught us to notice…to care.  You know Stargirl, the spritely, hippie-seeming girl in the Jerry Spinelli story of the same title who showed up at a high school, wrote notes to people, played the ukelele, was nice to everyone, and even cheered the other team’s successes. She turned typical high school life upside down. And, then, vanished.

We walk today in her spirit. Usually ground underfoot is stone-cold and rigid. But with this “winter that hasn’t been” mole humps yield underfoot. We pause by the bell of the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.

Cookie Monster has nibbled the rim of the waning Gibbous moon as it slips west. Guided by moon shadows we walk.

From the south Mother West Wind shakes out the Merry Little Breezes. Off they skitter tickling the tops of the firs and rustling the winter-weary leaves of the Derecho-damaged oak.

Four Directions

Stop. Breathe in the air. Neither too cold nor too muggy. It’s Goldilocks. Just right.

To the east, a smear of red on the horizon separates the black earth from the velvet sky. Father Sun, starting to wake up, stretches his rosy fingers. Yet, stars still sprinkle the sky.

The ancient basswood tree full of gaping holes stands silhouetted. How did it survive when the sturdy oak shattered? Perhaps because it didn’t resist?


Vultures return in March. In fact, I saw one the other day soaring overhead. Checking out the basswood that has been home of vulture families for generations. Some people don’t like vultures because they are homely and eat dead stuff. Who among us is a Hollywood beauty?

As for eating dead stuff, good thing they do…One of Mother Nature’s cleanup crew.  Otherwise, we would be knee-deep in rot. Maybe we are anyway. Good parents their keen eyesight and sharp smell lead them to meals which they feed their babies until they fledge.

Watching the young on their first flights as they swoop down, cross the labyrinth, then flap mightily to land in the fir on the far side is always a thrill. Vultures are good totems.

The pause by the birches feels like home. New England. Robert Frost wrote it well: “When I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy’s been swinging them. But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.  Ice-storms do.”

Call and Response

Ahh, off in the woods a call and response as two cardinals awaken and call. A turkey gobbles from a tree top.

At the Center of the labyrinth, I thank the earth elements, plant and animal kingdom, those I have known. I send Grace to those I dislike, which helps me most. I stop and thank guides and Divine love.

Horned Owl

Injured owls find a safe home at the International Owl Center.

An owl floats past. Silent yet hearing, unseen yet seeing all. Quiet knowing. Carrying us through the night into the day.

To the north the Big Dipper’s handle swings off to Arcturus and look! A shooting star blazes brightly dropping into the North Star.

Stargirl is with us.


Labyrinth Travels 2023

Each January I post labyrinth walks of the year.  Below are labyrinth travels 2023.

Wide Travels

Branching out from the Heartland, we explored different regions of North America and took in labyrinths along the way. Some labyrinth travels 2023 were deliberately to walk certain labyrinths. On other labyrinth travels 2023 we encountered serendipities of labyrinths and medicine wheels.  Along the way, we met new friends and reconnected with long-time friends and colleagues.

Spanning the years

Spanning fall 2022 into winter 2023, the Nassif Community Cancer Center hosted a time for home goods walks.  Staff and cancer clients walked the dual entry (processional) labyrinth leaving canned food goods, hygiene items, warm clothing, and backpacks.  Matt Schmitz, the coordinator, routinely picked up and organized items that he distributed in mid-January. Two friends, Tom Hess and Lynda Black Smith yet again helped design the labyrinth. Tom an engineer and Lynda an artist.  A team. What great friends to have who get down on hands and knees, chalk out the design, re-adjust and tape…and re-adjust again to make all this work well. Thank you!

Wanderers and Worshipers

Usually around the New Year friends stop by to walk and bless the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. It’s odd to see it without snow as winter begins in earnest. Throughout the year, both friends and pilgrims from afar surprise us to walk.  Always a welcome treat.

Each Friday since the Pandemic began, Veriditas has held Friday Finger walks that attract participants worldwide. Think about that!  For close to four years, Veriditas has supported people through difficult times. The following is loyal, new people join, the programs are engaging, and we have fun!  Four that I guided in 2023 with staff support were: First Walks, sharing about our first, or memorable, encounters with labyrinths; Drop Preceeds Flight, how we pick ourselves up after difficult times; Fair Things, how we can use HeartMath to counter the negative impact of events that seem to overwhelm us; and Walk In Beauty and Balance during this high season of holidays and Holy Days. What a wonder-full way to support labyrinth travelers 2023 worldwide.

The Minnesota Labyrinth group, organized by Lisa Gidlow Moriarty holds a winter walk each January.  Some years labyrinth walks are outside, other years inside. Fortunately, the 2023 walk was inside a lovely setting overlooking one of the myriad metro lakes. Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion welcomed us into her home and we met again at Kanuga Retreat Center in North Carolina in the autumn. This link shares the many labyrinths she has known across the world.


The Black Hills are always a treat to visit even in late winter.  Meeting with the Ohlens in town and at Terry Peak and visiting with the minister at Emannuel Episcopal Church where the lovely labyrinth wants attention.  The minister is working to make the labyrinth accessible. Rapid area has many labyrinths to explore and some Native American symbols and structures, too.  An impending storm chased us home early. Yet, memories linger of the sacredness of The Hills.

Medicine Wheel, Valley City, ND

Modern medicine wheel

Another intriguing structure of the West is a modern-day Medicine Wheel in Valley City, ND! In pouring rain we exited the Interstate and reveled in the care and intricacy of the wheel and the proportional alignment of planets represented by various stones reaching far out from the wheel. This is worth a stop and walk and reflection.

Closer to Home


Closer to home, Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, in Hiawatha sponsored four cross-quarter dates. Director, Leslie Wright skillfully guided novice and experienced walkers contemplating the changes of the year. She used each walk as part of the requirements to become a Veriditas Trained and Certified Facilitator. Always a joy to attend and participants shared tender perspectives. April found high school friends and me walking the Cangleska Wakan labyrinth in Solon, Iowa. And, then enjoying Dan and Debblie’s ice cream in Ely. Naturally, Bottleworks Labyrinth downtown draws walkers for a quiet stroll in an urban setting.

Easterly and South-Easterly

Cedar Lake North labryinth

A favorite stop

Tucked into the North end of Cedar Lake in Denville, NJ, is a charming labyrinth nestled among trees and stumps – remnants of Super Storm Sandy and Hurricane Irene. On our walks or paddles around the Lake, we usually stop, walk, and appreciate the care of the owner for the charming structures. A gentle pause.

Autumn found me winging my way to North Carolina’s mountains.  So much to take in with walking a labyrinth with a Veriditas colleague in Greensboro, NC, touring with a sibling in the Bedford, VA area, catching up with an OWAA colleague in Johnson City, and presenting with a Canadian Council colleague at The Labyrinth Society’s TLS Gathering.  “Channeling Mr. Rogers: How the Ancient Path of the Labyrinth Can Guide Us as Modern-Day Helpers.”

In Greensboro, Vicki introduced me to a lovely courtyard labyrinth wanting some attention.  What a challenge to renovate this to its glory.  The dual entry labyrinth at Kanuaga Retreat in Hendersonville, NC, fulfilled its duties as close to 100 walkers gathered, sang, laughed, learned, and walked. Leslie W, from Ontario, and I walked quietly sharing thoughts on our presentation. In the main assembly hall, participants walked the large labyrinth in the presentation, “Labyrinth Activism: A Powerful Practice for Peaceful Change.” One particularly meaningful program was the pre-dawn “Forest Bathing” walk on the large outdoor labyrinth.  The waxing gibbous moon and brilliant stars twinkling through crisp mountain air completed a sense of connection.


Into Canada

Summer Solstice found us camping in Montana, then lodging in the hamlet of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, Canada, attending a Legacy Labyrinth and Activism workshop at The Crossing, and exploring The Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, Canada. The skies are amazing, the weather incredibly mild and inviting like the sirens’ songs. Madonna regaled us with stories of pioneer days centered on the importance of aprons in women’s work.  We are working to have her come and present in our area with stories, songs, and dance.

In July a friend drove us to Stratford, Ontario, Canada, where a Council colleague and I firmed up collaboration on our Kanuaga talk, ate at local eateries, took in the town, and, of course, walked their splendid backyard labyrinth.


September is a fine month to travel in, even going South into heat.  And, how hot the weather was!  While we initially plotted several labyrinths along the way, we found ourselves taking different paths. One potential labyrinth in Gulf Shores, AL, proved out of reach. Ah, well.  But, unexpectedly on the way home a stop in Carbondale, IL, near Southern Illinois University we found a charming labyrinth next to a funky coffee shop/breakfast eatery.



Naturally, the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth gets a nod – spring, summer, fall, winter, wind, rain, snow, heat, cold. People walk, turkeys trot, deer browse, vultures swoop over, kids romp, adults help burn, and plants grow.  And, that wraps Labyrinth Travels 2023.

Greenest Church In Iowa

Coralville’s Unitarian Universalist Society Members
Live What They Profess

In the middle of a worldwide heat wave that scientists declared resulted, in part, from human-caused climate change, we entered the campus of the Greenest Church in Iowa, the Unitarian Universalist Society in Coralville, Iowa. Feeling depressed by climate change news, the visit buoyed our spirits and gave us a glimmer of hope for the future of our planet.

One of the Unitarian Universalists’ principles is respect for the independent web of all existence of which we are a part of.  The members of the Coralville church live the principle and others that form their core beliefs.

The Greenest Church in Iowa

As we turned into the Church campus, everything was softer and quieter. We drove past rows of photovoltaic solar cells.  Just past them was a world of green. Nestled within native vegetation was a lovely contemplative labyrinth.  A vegetated detention basin is both the home for pollinating insects and a place to catch stormwater, preventing it from scouring its way downhill.

We walked a delightful path circling the organization’s eight acres. Native flowers were alive with pollinators, and a children’s play area was meshed into nature. It’s almost as if this location were meant to be.

On entering the building, the Church’s low ceiling entry opens into expansive spaces, an echo of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. An immediate sense of calm and comfort enveloped us. Just beyond the cozy foyer, our eyes were drawn upward. East-facing windows framed an Iowa summer sky dotted with puffy clouds. Outside, deep green pines swayed in a gentle breeze. Members greeted us and Sally Hartman, chair of the Social Justice team, hosted us during the service. Worship leaders were engaging, the acoustics excellent, and the presence of the outdoors through the windows soothed us.

How Did This Come to Be?

Depending on one’s perspective, this church and location have been in the making since the 1990s.  More recently since 2013.  Sally, also a member of the Iowa UU Witness Advocacy Network, and Kirk Witzberger, who served on leadership teams that developed and implemented the plans, explained. Over many decades, the Society recognized that even with renovations, the former Gilbert St. site in downtown Iowa City could not meet 21st Century needs. Different teams looked for new property. After an almost certain deal for another property fell through, a member happened to chat with a realtor who mentioned the current site.  The Congregation voted overwhelmingly to buy and the couple who owned the land, former Peace Corps volunteers, were delighted to sell to an organization that respected the land.

Multiple meetings and myriad decisions followed. The result is a beautiful net zero building that the congregation shares with the community. The building burns no fossil fuel. Solar energy produces all its energy needs, including lighting, heating, and cooling.

Efficient and Flexible

The building includes a sanctuary, gathering spaces, offices, classrooms, and food service areas.  Tucked into the property, it fits well. As attractive as its outdoor vegetation is, the building was well thought out. Just a few examples include:

  • Efficient glass walls boost energy efficiency while allowing people inside to feel like they’re sitting in nature. We enjoyed watching clouds drift by during the service we attended.
  • Flexible space can accommodate large groups of up to 600 or be compartmentalized into smaller, more intimate gathering places.
  • All areas are easily accessible for folks with walking challenges. Even carpets are precisely flush with adjoining harder floors.

When we asked Kirk Witzberger, who was instrumental in the transition to this location, what the utility bill is he said, “We don’t have one. This is a zero net energy building… produces all its energy needs.” For members of an organization to live as lightly on the land as possible is impressive!

Living Other Principles

The Coralville Unitarian Universalist Society members live their commitments in other ways, too. Members take turns recycling compostable materials. When outside groups rent the space, they agree to a contract of sustainability – i.e. use only recyclable materials. The church is investigating how to be a “cool” refuge in summer and a “warm” refuge in winter. Further, members are researching ways they can offer a safe learning space for marginalized youth with activities like art and music. Members have held summer Nature Camps and environmentally-themed Trunk and Treats, and sponsored an environmental fair designed to raise awareness and action in caring for our world.

Inspiring Model

After touring the building and grounds we wondered why the model of the Unitarian Universalist Society isn’t more common in society. It should be. If people associated with all buildings everywhere did what they could to produce their energy needs through renewable sources the threat of climate change would be muted and our children could look forward to a cleaner and safer world.

Want to visit?  The Church welcomes you.  Details are on their website. 


2022 Labyrinths – Walks and Experiences

2022 Labyrinths

What about labyrinths draws us? The unique patterns? The locations? The need to center? Perhaps all.

Labyrinth walks of 2022 varied from ordinary to recognizing the structure needed attention and Love, to being “surprised by Joy!”


The Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth in the front yard was graced by groups and regular or random walkers. Sometimes we interacted with a wave or a chat.  Other times we were simply aware people came to walk. All winter the solar lights glowed above the thin topping of snow. By spring N helped gather in the lights that we cleaned and stored.  Then, come fall, P helped place them again at turns delighting in the changing reds, greens, blues, and whites of the solar lights at night. Rich and I reset the welcome pavers and trimmed the center oak that is stretching to the sky. One regular walker mentioned how tall the bur oak had grown this year. The autumn burn followed by Rich’s amazing weed whacker left the labyrinth walkable and rather sad looking.  We need snow to cover the burn marks and replenish the soil! When I gather the morning paper or evening mail, a stroll through the labyrinth refreshes me.

Four local labyrinths called for a visit and all but one needs attention and Love. The director of Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center enjoys the 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth and recognizes its need for renovation.  Together we are exploring ideas and resources as the labyrinth is a sweet one. The top-of-the-knoll Regis labyrinth has lost its luster yet the memory of walking it stays sweet. Some walkers have mentioned that the Nature Center’s while maintained is more like a long march over uneven ground than a tender commune with nature. New Bo’s is simply lovely. Separate. Private. Yet with and within the vibrant community.

Nassif Community Cancer Center. Tom H and Lynda B-S are such great colleagues and friends to again help create a labyrinth to inspire giving.  After the supervisor, Matt S, cleared having the floor used for a temporary labyrinth, Lisa H. Matt and I drew some dimensions.  Then, Tom and Lynda created their magic.  It’s always a challenge to figure out the centers – yes two! Then, to begin the spirals that lead into the center, around a corner and out past the other center to the exit.  Somehow they do it and with such a lovely spirit, too.

Each day new items appear along the labyrinth from canned goods, to household products, to clean clothing and backpacks.  At the end of the season, we will gather these up and donate to organizations that Matt researched.  Thank you all!

Derecho Labyrinth

Leslie W created this diminutive labyirnth of derecho 2020 wood.

Derecho Labyrinth. Tucked into the corner of a yard is a lovely diminutive labyrinth constructed of Derecho 2020 rounds. Linger and feel the creative energy fueled from a destructive event.



Across the Country – West, and North

Mountains beyond the labyrinth.

A serendipitous find!

Taking a break from the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s annual conference held this year in Casper, WY, Rich and I strolled along the meandering multi-use path on the North Platte River. Across the River, a copse caught my eye. The trees seemed to embrace an opening.  After crossing the River we walked back up the other side and found a delightful labyrinth! Well-marked and maintained it is a welcome respite for people needing some quiet. It is listed on the World Labyrinth Locator.

Alaska’s labyrinths were a mix. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church off Tudor Road in Anchorage is a lovely walk beside the main building.  Gently held by trees that screen it from the busy road, it is Accessible, Charming, and Soothing. Always a good stop.  Christ Episcopal Church’s is absolutely sweet. Created in the summer of 2020 perhaps in a burst of enthusiasm associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic it remains quite nice once you get there and can find the entry. It lies beyond a garden and greenhouse and is set in some young trees.  Approaching it to walk, the entry was unclear. I simply stepped on a circuit and began to walk. When I discovered the entry nicely set between two guardian trees but away from natural access, I noted that the path was overgrown. Basically inaccessible. Disappointing. A touch of maintenance is all it needed.

Homer, AK’s St. Augustine’s recently refurbished labyrinth is astonishing! Tucked on the end of the Kenai Peninsula, and set behind the small church, it overlooks the waters and mountains. The renovations suit it well with Nell Gustafson and Judy Millikin as two of the prime driving forces. We created a labyrinth program which was both in person and on ZOOM, was a satisfying experience with attendees from Alaska, Utah, and states beyond. An Honor. Fun!

Hot August Days & Nights

August found us in Missouri and Kansas with 109 degrees of heat! Wowzer!  And, the labyrinths in Liberty were wonderful. Grace Episcopal Church’s we’ve walked before. Created for an Eagle Scout Project it still attracts pilgrims with its tender turns and simple setting. Precious Blood Renewal Center’s was new to us and a delight.  Set off a path around a small pond, it’s made of flagstone pavers with a central pit. Depending on the light the path can be challenging to follow.  Just take time.  It is worth the stop.

Kansas City, MO, North Oak Christian Church square labyrinth is so sublimely set that it captivated both of us – the labyrinth and the surroundings.  Trees, walkway, grounds. All combined for a satisfying walk, in spite of the heat.

A well-intended, but neglected school project labyrinth in Lawrence, Kansas, again reveals the importance of commitment beyond initial enthusiasm.

Sweet North End

North End Labyrinth

labyrinth at Cedar Lake, Denville, NJ

On to New Jersey!  By far one of the sweetest tiny labyrinths has been created and maintained by Bianca Franchi on the north end of Cedar Lake in Denville.  Through multiple superstorms and hurricanes, the labyrinth has survived and been refurbished by loving hands. Twylla Alexander, board president of Veriditas visited and wrote about the North End Labyrinth in her book Labyrinth Journeys: 50 States, 51 Stories. Her talk at a labyrinth conference is how we met and shared the delight of this diminutive labyrinth and its journeys. I walk each time we are back East and Rich took a snowy picture of it on his December visit.


Iowa hosts a surprising number of labyrinths and we discovered two special ones on a Thanksgiving sojourn to SE Iowa. The backyard of a home in Washington, IA, is a quiet refuge for pilgrims and wildlife. Nestled among arbor vitae the labyrinth feels restful and holy. A few miles down the road at the Crooked Creek Christian Camp, we chatted with the director who shared that the camp hosts families and other groups and the story of the labyrinth. When we walked it, the happy spirit simply bubbled up around us. Fun! Fairfield, IA, labyrinth behind the Methodist Church is sad because the prime advocate for it has died. Hmmm. It is a nice labyrinth and just needs a touch of love. The town, however, is magical with Seven Roses Inn BnB run by the mayor of the city, great eateries, intriguing small shops, The Maharishi University, and miles of trails.  A great overnight!

Maintenance is always the issue.  Good intentions help people create. Diligence easily falls to the wayside when volunteers are expected to maintain structures. Part of the mission of Veriditas Council and led by Chuck Hunner is restoring lonely labyrinths.

Veriditas Offerings

Crystal Heart on Leaf

Veriditas Council the Heart.

The last categories of labyrinths this year are the Virtual Facilitator Renewal Day in January, and the regular finger walks that Veriditas has hosted each Friday since the pandemic began. Council produces the Virtual Facilitator Renewal Days on ZOOM offering a wide variety of experiences for people across the world. The Friday free, hour-long ZOOM finger walks also bring a Global community together. We see familiar faces and get to know people’s stories.  Veriditas Council hosts the third Friday of the month. This year I was honored to present in July from Alaska with the theme “View from the Edge.” The edge of the Pacific rim. The edge of the North American Continent. The edge of the United States. The edge of the Cook Inlet. The view is different. On November 11, I shared “To Everything There is a Season.” Armistice Day, Veterans’ Day, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day, and seasons of the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. Veriditas staff is fabulous with their support and choice of music, making presenting a joy. Thank you.

So, that is it! A year of labyrinths 2022. Check out the next Virtual Facilitator Renewal Day # 4 on January 14, 2023.

Taking the Direct Path – No Rules Labyrinth

Editor note: Because of a glitch in the system and being uncertain if this blog was published at the original time, we are sharing now.
Guest blogger, Shari McDowell

I walked a labyrinth this afternoon. The one in New Bo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, between the Bottleworks and the Bohemian. Usually, I walk the path as it’s laid out, stand in the middle, contemplate something that’s on my mind, take it all in, then walk the path out. this time I chose a no rules labyrinth walk.

No Rules Labyrinth Walk

Today was different. No rules, no expectations.

Approaching the labyrinth, I felt pulled from my center. I looked down at my feet on the ground and watched as I crossed all the lines and walked right straight through to the center. I stood there for a moment, then laid on my back and looked up at the clouds in the blue sky.

Blue Sky, Fluffy Clouds

summer sky from the no rules labyrinth walk

The warmth of the sun settled on my face and body. The air around me danced between a breeze and full-out wind ensuring the sun didn’t get too hot while simultaneously whisking away a few tears.

It was a gentle release. A reminder that when I know where I’m going I can just go there. I don’t have to take the expected path. I don’t have to do it the way everyone else does and it really can be simple and straightforward.

Listening to Intuition

I can trust myself, trust my own process, and my intuition. No fluff, no ceremony, no hoops to jump through. Just take action. Do what I need to do. Stop when I need to. Rest. Breathe. Be.

I don’t know how long I stayed there. My head got “busy” brain. I became aware of passersby. The moment had passed and it was time to get up.

I don’t remember if I walked straight out or if I followed the path. It didn’t really matter. I was ready to go so I went.

While there are many things to be discovered by taking the long road or the scenic route, sometimes a direct approach is good.

Now on to 2021 Labyrinth Walks!

Chronologically I trace the year in different labyrinths.