Walking Labyrinths

Spring and summer have been great for walking labyrinths. Catch up with what has happened at the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth since snowmelt. On your travels check out The Labyrinth Locator to find labyrinths along your path. Read more on the wonderment tab of Winding Pathways.

 

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.

What is Spring?

What is that? A Patch of green!

This spring the upper Midwest languished in browns, blacks, and slate landscapes underneath piles of grimy snow with grey skies blanketing overhead. Meanwhile, the South was vibrant in green expanses of fields and brilliant bursts of blooms of every hue. Pinks. Yellows. Fuchsias. Lavenders. Blues. Chartreuses. And, the sun!

All were simply amazing and so welcome to winter-weary eyes and bodies.

Here are a few reflections from our recent journey into the emerging spring.

  • Farm fields were dotted with John Deeres tiling up the soil. Such a part of Iowa’s economy.
  • Emerald green lawns almost blinded us the first few times we spotted them.
  • Mississippi has one of the most beautiful welcome centers I have ever seen. A southern feel, magnolias in bloom, kindly attendants, refreshments for visitors.
  • Tucked in the emerging forest greens were dogwoods and wisteria. I remember Mrs. (Lady Bird) Johnson’s lilting Texas description of wisteria – one of her favorites – when I interviewed her many years ago about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
  • Down along waterways, in between piney forests and rolling hills, were miles and miles of raised roads above flood waters sloughing off the upper Midwest’s frozen landscape inundating the south with a toxic mess.
  • Foods are fantastic! Skip the chains and take in the local flavors. Real gumbo, etouffee, plates of mudbugs, beans and rice, baking powder biscuits and Southern cornbread. Sweet tea is popular with some. And, for me, Chicory coffee, again!  Yeah!!!
  • Hobbling around in a boot was made easier as kindly folks opened doors, hauled around my materials and took my arm walking.
  • Veriditas Council encountered movie makers at the Solomon Episcopal Conference Center. Fun characters in costume. Diligent technicians constructing sets. Safety crews on call – just in case. Lights. Tractor-trailers….An experience. And rain, naturally.
  • Our motel and café stops in tiny towns. OK accommodations and friendly folks.  Then, the casino stop along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, MS. Efficient, non-engaging.  But the view of the flooding river was great.  Barges laboring upstream and almost flying downstream in the rising waters. Navigating the shoals and bridges. What skill.
  • Following the Mississippi Mound Trail and stopping at some of the noted mound sites. Last year the archeologist at Effigy Mounds estimated that most mounds built by indigenous people across the country had been destroyed. So, seeing the signs marking existing mounds in the South was rewarding.
  • Did you know that Kermit the Frog was “hatched” in Leland Mississippi? We detoured to see the remains of Windsor Ruins – an elaborate plantation home with only pillars standing. The story is that a careless guest dropped cigar ashes in a construction site in the home. Well, that guest is not popular! Moral of the story is to keep guests and hot coals away from flammable materials. A group of Michigan high schoolers on a mission trip stopped by with us and took in the ruins and a group photo. Then, we turned back to the main road because the smaller road near The River was under water.
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi, was a turning point of the Civil War. We drove the loop past monuments to regiments and men on both sides of the conflict. Upon entering the visitor center, I felt the anguish from a siege of more than 150 years ago.  It was overwhelming.  So, right in the middle of the visitor center, I paused, spread out my hands and held space, inviting the lost souls to release and find their way to a safe place beyond this world. This experience has happened before – encountering lost souls and inviting them to pass through the veil completely. While I do not know if they chose to go, I do know that after a time, peacefulness began to flow in. “When will we ever learn?” We do have options besides anger and anguish. “In the end, only kindness matters.” (Jewel)
  • The sunrises and sunsets were delightful. The air was balmy. So, we retreated back north into winter. Now, we are in spring green, too, and our plants popping up.  Vultures nesting next door. Songbirds calling. It’s coming. Spring.

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!

2018 Labyrinth Pilgrimages

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
(Fiddler on the Roof)

As 2018 draws to a close and different cultures celebrate traditions near and dear to their hearts, I take pause and reflect on this year of walking labyrinths daily.

When I began walking the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth late December 2017, I didn’t realize I would commit to walking each day. Sunrise. Sunset. Wind. Rain. Snow. Cold. Hot. Still. In happiness. Sadness. Anger. Calm. Just because. With intention. With others. By myself. Content with nature. Content with self. In Gratitude.

In April when I attended Veriditas Council at Stony Point in NY state, one of the members, Chris Farrow-Noble gave me a book she had written and published on her year-long journey of walking labyrinths. The synchronicity of intent!  So, I began reading her daily entries on the same day I would walk a labyrinth. And, feelings often walked hand-in-hand.

Later in the year, I had re-affirmed that a way to success is to scaffold a new habit on an existing habit. I have a habit of writing a gratitude on a sticky note and putting it in a jar on the kitchen counter. Out in the open where I pass several times a day.  So, I simply started jotting a date and a comment on sticky notes and stacked them beside the jar.

Now, I have started scaffolding my fitness log on top of these two positive habits.

Once I thought about the labyrinths, I have walked this year I added them up. An incredible 32 different labyrinths throughout the year.  Most outside. Some canvas. Others cloth. A few wooden lap ones.

 

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
(Fiddler on the Roof)

As 2018 draws to a close and different cultures celebratetraditions near and dear to their hearts, I take pause and reflect on this year of walking labyrinths daily.

When I began walking the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth late December2017, I didn’t realize I would commit to walking each day. Sunrise. Sunset. Wind. Rain. Snow. Cold. Hot. Still. In happiness. Sadness. Anger. Calm. Just because. With intention. With others. By myself. Content with nature. Contentwith self. Extending positive energy into the Universe to be received where itcan be accepted. In Gratitude.

More recently, as the year closes, I simply enjoy the walk and listen to the sounds. Take in the sights. Become aware of the air around me– the fresh smell of the north wind, wood smoke from the chimney, acrid smell of the recent burn off of the labyrinth. Oh, and the southeast breeze wafting up the “odorless” sewer plant! The texture of the ground underfoot- squishy after a downpour, soft grass, crunchy ice, iron hard dirt, brittle burned stalks of grasses and forbs.

Coincidentally, I learned in April at the Veriditas Council at Stony Point in NY state, that one of the members, Chris Farrow-Noble, had also walked for a year and gave me a signed book she had written and published on her year-long journey of walking labyrinths. The synchronicity of intent!  So, I began reading her daily entries on the same day I would walk a labyrinth. And, feelings often walked hand-in-hand.

Later in the year, I had re-affirmed that a way to success is to scaffold a new habit on an existing habit. I have a habit of writing a gratitude on a sticky note and putting it in a jar on the kitchen counter. Out in the open where I pass several times a day. So, I simply started jotting a date and a comment on sticky notes and stacked them beside the jar.

Now, I have started scaffolding my fitness log on top of these two positive habits.

Once I thought about the labyrinths I have walked this year I added them up. An incredible 32 different labyrinths throughout the year.  One about every eleven days. Most outside. Some canvas. Others cloth. A few wooden lap ones.  And on rare occasions when I was flying and not at all in locations to use a cloth, lap or physical labyrinth, I used the palm technique of tracing a three-circuit labyrinth on my hands.  It tickles!

My thoughts are not deep or profound.  It’s just been a good journey.

Labyrinths Around the Twin Cities

                                    Around the Midwest

Hearing Aids Help Enjoy Wildlife

A tiny migrating warbler changed my life.  As I sat on my back deck a few springs ago a tiny bird landed on a twig about ten feet in front of me. I could see it singing but couldn’t hear a thing.

Military Training and Hearing Loss

My hearing loss probably started as an Army trainee in the late ‘60s guiding 50 caliber shells into a machine gun. Every time the gun spit a bullet downrange a massive blast of noise and pressure hit my skull. In later years I spent hours running chainsaws, vacuum cleaners, and lawn mowers. All to the detriment of my hearing.

Hearing loss is an insidious stealthy condition. It crept up on me so slowly and gradually that I never noticed it. My wife certainly knew something was going on as I increasingly asked her, and everyone else, to repeat sentences. Conversation in restaurants became challenging and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, became my constant companion. Night and day my ears never stop buzzing.

Call to Action

Dr. Jennifer Reekers

Fitting hearing aids is a process and building a relationship

Seeing, but not hearing, the warbler spurred me to call Dr. Jennifer Reekers at Heartland Hearing Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. Soon I was sitting opposite her in a hearing test booth that confirmed what I already Low-frequency sounds were easy to distinguish but my ability to detect other sounds dropped as high frequency increased.  Dr. Reekers shared good news. Thanks to modern technology she could improve my ability to hear and reduce the pesky tinnitus.

Shortly after receiving my new hearing aids I hiked a six-mile trail to Hanging Rock overlook at Effigy Mounds National Monument. Along the trail, I was serenaded by warblers and Orioles. In a moist trailside valley nature’s most beautiful sound brought me joy.  It was the first time I’d heard a wood thrush since my hearing declined.

Everyday Sources of Hearing Loss

Millions of Americans suffer hearing loss, often caused by loud noise exposure.   Although most people realize that gunshots and fireworks can cause hearing problems, few recognize that exposure to common everyday lower intensity noise causes gradual hearing loss.  Vacuum cleaners, blenders, coffee grinders, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and the dreadfully loud hand dryers in public restrooms can contribute to a permanent hearing loss.   Damage is cumulative.

Prevention!

Solutions exist! The best, by far, is to prevent hearing loss by protecting the ears from loud noise. Inexpensive muffs and plugs mute the scream of vacuum cleaners and power tools. I keep a pair by every noisy machine and always put them on before pushing the start button. Rather than allowing a restroom hand dryer I keep a clean handkerchief in my pocket and use it to dry my hands. Parents should be especially careful to protect their children’s hearing by choosing quiet toys over shrill ones and making sure kids wear muffs when exposed to noise.

Ironically enjoying music can contribute to hearing loss. Many concerts are at such a high decibel level that even short exposure can lead to lifelong hearing problems.   Fortunately, devices are available from audiologists that reduce the volume of noise entering the ear while retaining sound quality. They enable enjoyable safe listening.

Technology to the Rescue

By the time I recognized my hearing loss, it was too late to prevent it, but the hearing aids restored my ability to distinguish sounds. I will probably always have tinnitus, but technology has diminished its impact. These days I’m careful to muffle loud noise to avoid further damaging my hearing.

Thanks to Dr. Reekers my hearing aids help me enjoy conversation, birds, music, and more of life’s delightful sounds. I encourage everyone to protect their hearing from loud noise and to seek the help of an audiologist to improve their ability to distinguish sounds.

Man with binoculars

Birding again is a joy with hearing aids, thanks to Heartland Hearing