How Do You Create Calm from Chaos?

Reflecting on 2020 Courage and Creativity

When life is topsy turvy; When people we know get critically sick and some die; When our normal routine is tossed out the window, three questions come to mind:

How is mine to be? What is mine to know? What is mine to do?

So, I walk.  As thoughts emerge, I work to act on them in helpful ways.

This year, instead of walking various labyrinths on our trips, I walked those in town, virtually with Veriditas, and always, the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth daily.

Here is a summary of 2020 walking which actually turned out well as people pivoted and created sacred space.

Minnesota Labyrinth Group

Spirit Woods, Stillwater, MN

A lovely group of walkers

Lisa Gidlow Moriarty maintains a wonderful network of Minnesota Labyrinth Lovers. In January Rich and I spent the weekend with cousins in the Twin Cities. On Saturday, I joined the labyrinth group in Stillwater. The day was overcast, the home inviting, and the labyrinth tucked in a wooded spot. Such an intriguing group of people. A lovely walk.

Westminster Presbyterian Church

Early in the year the Westminster Presbyterian Church members and staff worked with me to create a blessing of the beautiful labyrinth they installed in the undercroft. Three colleagues worked with me on music, movement, and art programming geared to all ages as a way to include and encourage participation in labyrinth walking.

Then, the novel coronavirus shut things down. Poof!  Gone. Unfortunately, I have not heard from them and often wonder what they did for blessing the space.

From Trauma to Healing

August 10th a straight-line wind called a derecho swept through Eastern Nebraska, all Iowa, and into Illinois and parts of Indiana.  The powerful winds up to sustained 140 mph struck Eastern Iowa hardest. Thousands of trees toppled in the storm. Clean up will continue well into 2021.

From this trauma emerged Edith Starr Chase, a woman with a vision to create a healing space from the derecho wood.  Teaming with Wickiup Hill Learning Center, Edith helped site the location. The staff mowed a space and laid down mulch.  In September Edith, Becky and I blessed the space. A few days later on a mild October weekend, Edith began placing stumps for a five-circuit labyrinth.  Edith has such vision and energy in designing all sorts of labyrinths from tiny three circuit ones for elementary children to hand-sized finger labyrinths to painted ones on school playgrounds to ones of recovered tree stumps. She created a beautiful, sacred space.  Easily accessible, private yet nearby, adjacent to a marsh and prairie.

Honoring the Space by Walking

I’ve walked it a few times and on the Winter Solstice Edith hosted a labyrinth walk that over 50 people attended in the early evening.  Families in cars streamed in. All wore masks. Mrs. Claus greeted each, offered a votive to carry, guided them in, and thanked them as they left. A candy cane, an offer to enjoy a warm beverage at the kiosk, and an invitation to take a finger labyrinth she had created all completed the evening of peace and appreciation. After the first group of people left and before the next ones arrived, I quietly walked the derecho labyrinth.
Creating sacred space out of chaos. Well done, Edith.

Not All Walks Are Satisfactory

A prairie

Winter Walk

Late in the year, I walked an outdoor labyrinth I have known for a few years. The setting is pleasant enough.  It sits in a large prairie with mature oaks on a hill as a backdrop. Yet, there is something unsettling about it.  I am not alone in my feeling.  It is rather removed from the parking lot, down a long path, with other diverging paths. Which path to take? Others have noted that is it too big to comfortably walk.  Almost like a forced march. Something rubs the wrong way when I walk it.  Yet, leaving and following a different path across the prairie proved to be a pleasant walk.

Veriditas Finger Labyrinth Walks

Finger Labyrinth

Weekly finger walks through Veriditas.

The pandemic canceled the Veriditas Council’s plans for a Renewal Day in The Black Hills. After a pause, the group worked on and is sponsoring a Virtual Renewal Day on January 16, 2021. One Veriditas member expressed interest in re-scheduling perhaps for 2022.  Glad to hear people are looking forward to the future.

Veriditas itself quickly began scheduling weekly finger labyrinth walks that I attended. People from all over the world regularly participate on Fridays.  Including Christmas Day! Australia, Africa, Europe, South America, Canada, and the United States. The director and founder host webinars a few times a month on different labyrinth topics. Council members have graciously stepped up and presented. Facilitator trainings have moved on-line.  More people can participate and become certified. Successfully branching out because of the topsy turvy world.

Intriguing Seasons of the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth

We began and ended 2020 with mild weather. Then, by the first week of January winter arrived. Cold, windy, lots of snow.  Warm temperatures melted the lovely snowshoe snow turning it into treacherous ice. Walking with trek poles was the order of the day.

Spring seemed long in coming and then summer burst upon us.  First rain. Then dry spells. Then, August 10th! Damn, that was a lot of wind and rain.

Surprisingly the labyrinth did come back mostly.  Tall grasses stayed lopped over, but the blue lobelia that always intrigues me showed up in unusual places. Friends helped with the massive yard clean up and together we restored the labyrinth.  And, each day I did walk it.  Right after the storm, I had to be content to thread my way to the center and stand in appreciation. Then, when the circuits were cleared, I went back to walking the full labyrinth.


Early spring walking the path is an exercise in stepping around puddles. The path is checked with mole ridges. When the weather warms and a gentle rain falls, worm castings dot the path. The burned edges are full of winter stalks and promise. Summer mowing and trimming are part of the spiritual practice. Fall is when we burn the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  Always a thrill. In winter wearing snowshoes is fun. Occasionally, a snow person shows up. Sometimes at the entry. Other times along the path.  Once, even sitting on the bench taking in the view.

Sunrises. Sunsets. The heat of the day. When the wind blows. Hurtling rain and gentle zephyrs.  I’ve walked in all weather for over three years now.

So, 2020 came to a close. We still wait and wonder.  I still pause and ask: How is mine to be? What is mine to know? What is mine to do? Answers are there.

Although 2020 has been topsy turvy people have adapted and created sacred and safe spaces for all. May we continue to create in 2021.

How Do You Create Pollinator Patches?

When we moved into our home ten years ago, we ended up with more than a house.  The former owner had regularly mowed most of our two acres. Within the next two years, we shrank the lawn by about half. A steep former lawn north of the house is now prairie and a fairly level quarter acre between our house and the road is Marion’s labyrinth that she created within a prairie we planted.

Today, most people call flower-studded prairies “pollinator patches” and interest is strong in transforming lawns into them. Here are just a few of the good reasons:

Why Plant Pollinator Patches?

  • Color: Lawns are a monoculture of green. Pollinator patches feature three seasons worth of changing vibrant color as many species of wildflowers come into and go out of bloom. They are beautiful.
  • Water: Closely mowed lawns don’t absorb rain well. Much of a storm’s water runs off, worsening flooding. In contrast, deep-rooted prairies channel most of a storm’s water into the soil, where it eventually recharges the water table and doesn’t worsen downstream flooding.
  • Labor: We don’t enjoy endless hours walking behind a lawnmower.  We will mow our newly planted prairie two or three times this summer and in the following years, we won’t mow it at all. The lawn takes about a dozen mows a year. So, we’re saving time and mower gas that costs money and creates carbon dioxide.
  • Wildlife: We love watching our wren pairs forage for insects in our pollinator patches. By expanding our prairie we’ll welcome even more beautiful and interesting beneficial wild animals to our yard.

Partnerships Work!

Our new prairie will be close to busy 30th St. Drive, so motorists cruising by will see the land transform. We’re partnering the project with the Monarch Research Project, Linn County Roadsides, Sustainable Landscape Solutions, and Pheasants Forever.

Many people want to create pollinator patches in their yards but don’t know how to do this.   We will be blogging through the process to help folks know how this is done. Stay tuned and keep visiting to learn how.

Can We Find Solice Walking Labyrinths in 2020?

2020 The Great Pause

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.


Person walking labyrinth

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.

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.

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 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.

It’s all good. A discipline and a joy.


Fireflies and Milkweed Walk

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.

Walking the Labyrinth in the Snow

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.

Night in the labyrinth

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.

2018 Gratitudes – Why They Matter

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 the evening.

1-19 Facebook Live we talked about catalogs and treats for the hens.

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 noticed eagles.

4-27 Jenn helped me remember how to print PDF of Essential Ed.

5-8 Dinner with the Ogden/Muchmore.

5-9 Voted.

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 it!

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 Pathways.

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.

Laughter 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.

So, let’s go positively into 2019!