Unlike other years when we have traveled and walked labyrinths along the way, in 2020 we have pretty much stayed at home. Like the rest of the world. That’s OK. We found calm, solace, and yes, even joy.
Remembering day-to-day, when so much seems the same is a challenge, and I can only remember walking a few labyrinths this year. A friend recently termed it “Blursday.”
Except for the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth in our front yard. That, I have continued to walk every day. And, I am ending my third or fourth year doing so. Indeed a “Blursday” thing. How long HAVE I done this? More on the daily walking later. First, some labyrinths I have been involved with.
Great Plans Gone Astray
It seems that photos mysteriously disappear when I think I have placed them carefully on the computer. Ha! So, the photos of the walks at Westminster Presbyterian in Waterloo, Iowa, that I took in preparation for a March dedication are, like so many other things in 2020 – gone! Poof! The memory is sweet. I’d worked with a team there and colleagues and friends here to create a lovely workshop. We planned to acquaint the larger congregation with labyrinths through music, movement, spiritual readings, and art. By weaving in multiple modalities, we believed people would more readily use the labyrinth on their own and in groups from children to adults in religious education, special interests, and incorporate in formal church services.
The pandemic changed everything. I hope the ceremony happened at some time during the year. There’s been no communication from the church since the program was canceled in early March. May they all be well.
St. Paul’s in Cedar Rapids is home to a lovely indoor labyrinth. (Photo courtesy Mary H.)
Years ago, Mary H. and I worked together in Lamaze Classes. And, even though our paths diverged, we stayed loosely connected over the years. One day Mary and I visited by distance and she shared about a labyrinth at St. Paul’s Methodist Church on Third Ave SE. What a find! It is beautiful! And, what a treat it will be to walk when the pandemic ends.
From Destruction, A Creation of Healing
After the derecho that struck Iowa on August 10, 2020, a colleague, Edith Starr Chase, pursued creatively repurposing the downed trees and stumps to a labyrinth of natural materials. She found the right place at Wickiup Hill Learning Center. In September, three of us, wearing masks and keeping a distance, blessed the well-chosen site. Flat, surrounded by prairie and a lively marsh. Close to trails. Accessible. Near a parking lot yet, set aside for privacy. The county mowed the area and laid down woodchips. In October Edith and friends began measuring and placing stumps for a truly sublime labyrinth. At the entry stands a young guardian oak. A wide path opens to the tree-stump labyrinth. Walking it, pilgrims feel themselves releasing the trauma of the event, settling into the ground, resting and laying hands on stumps, recalling, restoring. Edith and her friends created a wonderful healing memorial. For the winter solstice, she planned a walk – one of many to come.
A wide path leads to the entry.
The guardian oak awaits the blessing of the labyirnth.
The stump labyirnth invites walkers.
Each wood stump has a distinctive color and shape.
Various patterns on the rounds make an interesting walk.
Creating beauty from destruction.
The Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth
We started the year with a mild winter’s day New Year’s Day Labyrinth Walk. Teri P. joined others walking for peace, tranquility, hope, and courage. Cold and snow hit later that week and the weather remained cold and snowy for several weeks. Each day, I strapped on snowshoes and crunched along the five-circuit dual entry labyrinth.
Practicing the Shamanic tradition, I often pause at each turn toward the Cardinal Points – East, South, West, North – Below to Mother Earth, Above to Father Sky, and Center – the emerging Bur Oak we planted a few years ago.
Some of us began the year with a New Years Walk.
Snow captured on seedheads.
Mostly I walk with Gratitude. For all – those I care about, those I don’t know, those I disagree with, and those I do not like. Asking for kindness in my heart and blessings to all. It’s hard sometimes. Insights are important, too. So, it’s OK to let my mind wander a bit and wonder. Nature. Seasons. Love. Hate. What drives people. Thankfulness for our families and this home and property.
Each summer this gnome finds a new home.
More species visit the labyrinth because of the diversity of plants.
Summer riot of color attracts pollinators
Up from Texas!
After the Derecho friends helped clean up the labyrinth.
Each day is different. The angle of the sun, sprinklings of rain, fog, presence of insects and birds. Tracks and poop in the snow are telltale signs of night visitors. Sometimes I walk before dawn even in winter, looking back at the house’s gentle glow from windows and smoke wafting from the chimney. Other times about 6:40 a.m. a neighbor’s truck lumbers up the road. We exchange a friendly wave. Occasionally, on early winter and summer nights I walk. The solar lights guide my way in winter. By summer the glow of twilight keeps me on the path. A bat swoops. A coyote yips. Crickets sing. Trees creak stiffly. Stars and planets glow.
One family regularly walks and runs the labyrinth on the astronomical and cross-quarter dates.
Summer delight was watching the sun kiss the sentinel fir trees.
Maintaining the labyrinth is work. And a way to connect.
Remnants of the Derecho blown into the labyrinth.
Sunrise after the derecho.
The most thrilling activity each fall is burning the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.
Evening walk by solar lights.
On our first lasting snow, I strapped on the snowshoes to walk the labyrinth.
Lights twinkled in the yard and labyrinth. The faint perfume of milkweed wafted up in 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.
The warm summer air brings out the subtle fragrance of the milkweed.
The subtleties of walking a labyrinth in fresh snow or in the dark have not been lost on me. Muscle memory, night vision, and simple observation help navigate the terrain when obvious landmarks are obscure.
Muscle memory helps find the path in the dark.
Before the snow fell, when I walk the labyrinth in the dark, the memory of the path, familiarity with the number of steps to a turn, and the various plant heights help me navigate. The funny little statues and boulders along the way form the boundaries. Lights from passing cars not only illuminate the path briefly and also wreck night vision. So, counting steps and simply being aware of where I am on the labyrinth help keep me on the path.
With snow on the ground, the snowshoes make terrific “pat down” equipment and after a few times walking is easy. So, until a new snow, I can just wear boots. Stay on the beaten path or find myself “post-holing” through deep snow.
The brilliance of a sunny day can be confusing, so after a fresh snowfall, I look for the burned stems of plants and the slight depression of past walks as guides. And, how the drifted snow reveals a different texture is fascinating.
Odd marks in the snow capture my attention. Little holes that appear from nowhere, then tiny tracks of a rodent, then another little hole where it dropped back in the security and relative warmth of the snow tunnels.
The fate of the incautious rodent is evident where tracks suddenly disappear with telltale feather strokes on the snow. Whoooo’s for lunch?
Walking the labyrinth in winter brings its own rewards.
What a tumultuous year!
Politics, weather extremes, human-created disasters, changes in work, working
through elder matters, untimely deaths. Wow. One could be overwhelmed and, using
an old New England phrase, think, “The world is going to H— in a Handbasket.”
Yet, when we shift the lens of our thinking and move into gratitude,
we begin to appreciate small pleasures and successes and help others move into
more positive places, so they contribute to gratitude and the healing of ourselves,
communities and the world.
So, here is a random selection from my 2018 Gratitude Jar.
Many gratitudes came from others helping me the many times Rich was East
helping his folks.
1-1 Walked the labyrinth two times and at the full moon in
1-19 Facebook Live we talked about catalogs and treats for
2-4 Working with Rich on Hoover Hatchery blog on chicken folklore.
3-25 We met a couple on Cedar Lake Train who feed birds and
4-27 Jenn helped me remember how to print PDF of Essential
5-8 Dinner with the Ogden/Muchmore.
5-24 A and D engaged!
6-25 Paige at Verizon helped with a discount.
6-27 Savannah helped again with household chores and sanding
the chairs. A really hot time and we did
7-2 Taught with Mary Pathways at KCC.
8-22 Judy S. talked with students for KPACE.
9-1 Edith and Tami at Illuminations labyrinth walk.
10-4 Ellen’s hospitality for Veriditas Council.
second week October travel to Nebraska and South Dakota and meeting the “real Deal”ranchers.
11-27 DJ at the photo shop made great postcards for Winding
12-7 Norma and I had a wonderful talk after class.
12-13 Helped Rachel at PCI.
12-26 Walked North End labyrinth in Denville.
I enjoyed this walk down memory lane as I browsed the gratitude
notes and remembered the positives of 2018.
What’s the benefit? We infuse ourselves with a large DOSE
of optimism and improve our health and that of those around us.
Dopamine, the “chemical of reward”, flows into us
when we have accomplished a task and been kind to others. For me, completing tasks I especially do not
want to do has always proved to be helpful. Then, I write these on the
gratitude papers and slip them into my jar!
It’s best when I do the task first. Then, it is off my mind and I am
really pleased. Good habit to develop.
Oxytocin, the bonding hormone that parents especially
feel toward children, is released by gentle and caring touch. My work with Reiki,
Healing Touch Spiritual Ministries and facilitating programs creates
connections and stronger bonds among us.
Serotonin the neurotransmitter that counters
depression is often stimulated by sunshine, thinking positively, and eating
foods high in tryptophan. Pineapple, eggs, cheese, Tofu, salmon, nuts and
seeds, and, of course, turkey!
Endorphins produced in the central nervous system
help regulate pain. They can help us push through a difficult physical task. Some
form of daily movement helps us be more cheerful. Walking the labyrinth daily since late 2018
has benefitted me. Grounding. Centering. Naming specific gratitudes as I walk.
Appreciating the changes in the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.
Online University has a great outlook on the neurotransmitters and hormones
that help lift us up. Then, we lift up others.
We create this better world most long for and which is badly needed.