August 1, 2011
I finally got the labyrinth made, with a little help from my friends. Well, a lot of help, actually.
First Teri, a university teacher from the U.S. who teaches on peace and reconciliation, and is also here volunteering for a few months, had to drive me to Coleraine (about 45 minutes away) to the B+Q (kind of exactly like a Home Depot) for a large tarp and some black electrical tape. Then Maureen and Colin from England, who are here coordinating worship this week, helped me get it started.
It’s been a few years since I made a labyrinth, but I’ve done several in the past, so I pulled some instructions off the internet and hoped I would remember the process. They had an outside labyrinth here at Corrymeela years ago, but it became too much to maintain, and it was finally taken up. The idea of a portable labyrinth which could be taken outside or used in the Croi was very appealing to the staff when I approached them about making one.
Paul, the Director of the Centre, was most enthusiastic. “What I love is that you are just going to make it happen” he said. “At Corrymeela, there’s no shortage of ideas, but sometimes it stops there.”
Yikes, I thought ... the pressure’s on now.
The activity didn’t start well. It was a cheesy tarp – thin, and smaller than I would have liked, even when I taped the two tarps I had bought together. I tried not to sound too whiny as I mumbled to Paul as he walked by that I thought one got better, and bigger, tarps in Canada. “It will be wonderful” he said.
My bright idea was that we would make it outside on the pavement in front of the house. It was a bright sunny day, and we would have a large flat surface on which to work. It didn’t seem that windy out, but for awhile it looked like Colin, Maureen and I were playing the parachute game. Every time we tried to unfold it even the smallest gust of wind would catch it and fill it with air. Colin ran around with a bucket collecting large rocks from the garden to anchor it down.
“Maybe what we need are some heavy pots from the kitchen” I mused. Maureen, wanting to help, thought that was a great idea and ran into the kitchen. Within a few minutes she emerged with four large, heavy industrial pots to anchor the labyrinth. It was the perfect solution. We proceeded to mark the paths of the labyrinth, me holding the broom in the centre, rope with marked path widths tied around it, and Maureen on her hands and knees making the markings in concentric half circles for the top of the labyrinth.
We were getting along very nicely when about twenty minutes later I looked up to see Moira, head of the kitchen, and Shay, kitchen staff, walking out the front door in their matching black and white striped aprons, hands on hips. They approached me cautiously, with a look of disbelief in their eyes that said, “what’s the crazy Canadian up to now?”
Moira said ... “So I was looking out the kitchen window and noticed that you have some of our kitchen pots on the pavement out here.”
And I said, just as cautiously, ... “So I guess that’s not something that we should have done?” And Moira, very patiently and diplomatically, but firmly, told me precisely what the health inspector would do if she drove up (which she did a few days ago) at this moment. I apologized profusely, they took their pots back to the kitchen, and Colin fetched more rocks.
To be fair, Moira and Shay did come out afterwards, genuinely interested in what the heck we were doing. Because we were in such a public space, we did generate a lot of questions and the interest of many during the afternoon. After several hours in the hot sun, the top half of the labyrinth was marked and taped. We took a break for a cold drink.
When we came back to do the lower half, when we continued to measured it out, it appeared that we had made an error and there wasn’t enough room for the last, lower path. I tried not to panic, as this would be a huge snafu. But, I have to say, this seems to happen every time I make a labyrinth. My little mathematically-challenged brain always gets befuddled by the geometry of it all.
By this time I was just too tired, and I knew Colin and Maureen were too. I suggested we move everything inside (we were still having problems with the wind ...) to the Croi and finish it later. We got it to the Croi, laid it out, and I released Maureen, thanking her profusely. I knew I just had to sit with the damn thing and figure it out, like Jacob and the angel.
I looked at the instructions. I counted the paths. I recounted. I looked at the labyrinth. I looked at the instructions. Something just wasn’t right. Why couldn’t I see it? Finally, it dawned on me. For the lower half, you have to move the broom two paths to the right and then mark the paths. It changes the whole curvature of the bottom paths, leaving only six paths instead of the eight I thought I needed.
There was enough room after all! O joy, O bliss!!! My reputation was saved. I finished the lower right quadrant, and knew I could recruit some help to finish it off after dinner, which I did. Thanks to Irene, one of the summer volunteers, for coming and helping me finish it.
As I prepared a special worship service for Sunday to launch and bless the labyrinth, I was reminded once again about how wonderful it is as a tool for reflection ... as a metaphor for one’s life. On the internet I found this quote from a woman named Caroline Adams:
“Your life is a sacred journey. And it is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path ... exactly where you are meant to be right now ... And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.”
Several folks gave it an inaugural walk after the community worship time. Of course, I see all its flaws, and wish it were heavier, and bigger ... but no one else seemed to notice them. And already folks are beginning to think about how to use it in their programs with children, or as an evaluation tool with groups.
I have, however, thrown down the gauntlet with a challenge to all ...
“Find me a thicker, bigger tarp, and I’ll build a thicker, bigger labyrinth.”
What was I thinking? And with no kitchen pots? Now that will be a challenge.