As I step into the labyrinth, I say silently, “I let go of the old life and walk toward the new.”
I try to pace myself as I wind in circles. Just like the yellow lines on the road don’t really contain us—they just serve as a guide, but we obey them—I’m only guided by a line of stones. I could step over them at any time and cut to the middle, where a pop-up shrine of contributions is gathering mass. You can’t make out what’s in it until you get close up. But what’s my hurry? This is a meditation.
In my periphery, I hear this conversation:
Woman 1: We really have to move away from…uh…
Woman 2: Aloneness. We have to move away from aloneness.
On the way to the labyrinth, I passed three burly guys rocking on a porch, saying, “With the structure and manpower of a militia—our militia—we could instead build a humanitarian corps. We could go to Somalia and set up more refugee camps. We could plant food and feed all the starving people. There’s no reason famine like that should exist.”
Then my consciousness returns to the labyrinth. I try to be present in this time and place. I realize that healing centers attract people in pain—divorcees, troubled people, bleeding hearts. “Are you in any pain?” the place seems to ask. Am I in pain? I cry a little.
“Are you in any pain?” ask the moss-covered stairs leading up a steep slope to a pagoda dedicated to meditation. Outside is a koi pond with lilies so vibrant and waxy you doubt they are real, even as you reason they must be real because it’s Omega. The produce is all local, if not all organic.
I hammered on a bell that emitted a low, relaxing hum, and watched even the frogs meditate on wet stones. We got to see the resident flower arranger carefully bless a sunflower before replacing a red dahlia in a hanging vase. He moved from arrangement to arrangement, blowing on the flower petals, and fondling and fluffing them with great care. I felt like his guest and his audience.
“Are you in any pain?” ask the flowers. “Touch us and transfer your pain to us. We won’t wilt. Let our fragrance be aromatherapy. Our colors cheer you along your journey.”
“Are you in any pain?” asks the lake. “Come, cool your burning heart here. I am a fountain of youth. Laugh and splash. Remember summer camp. Swim now and sleep better later. Fall down without getting hurt. Float weightlessly for half an hour. Your body is a boat, or we have boats for you to drift in.”
So, on this balmy day, as rain threatened, I felt my cares melt and merge with the scenery; in the leaves, in the water, caught in the rain, my tears were camouflaged. Everybody smiling in the rain looked like they were crying and laughing at the same time.
How many of us actually did cry today?
At the center of the labyrinth lay a pile of bric-a-brac: a lipstick; a page from a magazine; a beer bottle; a nail clipper; a prayer stone; a ponytail holder; some loose change; an orange; macramé bracelets, beaded necklaces, and a pair of army tags. I had absolutely nothing in my pockets to donate, so I picked some mushrooms and laid them on top. There’s a weird understanding that you don’t disturb this cairn of junk—visitors, in their questing states of mind, lay their contributions here with intentions we cannot guess, and which we respect nonetheless. That pocket knife; that seashell; that ballpoint pen represents someone’s sin or miscarriage or frightening memories cast off—like my mushrooms.
“Are you in any pain?” the labyrinth asks. “Gimme what you got. I’ll take what’s left at the bottom of your pocket, when you least expected to be asked for a token. It means something to me. It’s between us. Nobody has to know, but together these cast-off coins form a collection. In some minds, art.”
“Are you in any pain? Walk it off. Follow the stones, and stop worrying. You are safe. Life inside the labyrinth moves at a gentle pace. Amble or march. Walk barefoot and massage your feet on my wood chips. Take this one step at a time. Right now, you are fine. You are walking and you are breathing. What more could you ask? It’s a gift. Now, give something back. A piece of hair; an earring; a shoelace—what you wish to forget will be immortalized here on this shrine; so, you are not obliterating your problems, you are simply leaving them here.”
The labyrinth said a lot to me. Here are some photos.