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10.24.2011 ~ mazes & labyrinths

by | Oct 24, 2011 | labyrinth, maze, Santa Fe

The labyrinth pattern of Chartres Cathedral, c. 1200 A.D.

Recently I had an extraordinary experience: I was invited by a friend to help her build a labyrinth.

If you’re like me you think you know what a labyrinth is. Chances are though you’re mistaken — as I was.
A labyrinth is not a maze.
A maze is designed to confound and confuse. There are many wrong turns and dead-ends, and you may not ever find your way to the sweet spot at the end. There’s a certain urgency and anxiety and threat of doom associated with mazes.

The goal of a labyrinth, on the other-hand, is contemplation. Peacefulness. There is only one pathway — the long and circuitous path to the center. There are stops and turns, but if you stay on the path you will find your way to the sweet center.

My friend Karen (of Artful Tea fame, who has quite an interesting personal story) is constructing a labyrinth in her backyard. The pathway is a mosaic of shards — broken bits of porcelain, stoneware, crockery, china, blown glass, mirror — many of which have storied histories all their own. These shards are pressed more or less randomly into a base of cement. It’s a long process creating a pathway of cement and glass, so Karen is inviting friends to help her along in the journey. I’m honored to have been invited to participate.

The first step of a new labyrinth mosaic artist is, of course, to walk the labyrinth design as is — partially completed, the rest sketched out in the earth — and get a feel for the journey.
It’s an intriguing adventure following this path of earth and glass, contemplating the colored fragments catching the afternoon sun, and the story of those who selected and placed these certain jewels.

The second step is to get to work: Karen mixed the cement, while I, on hands and knees in the pebbled dirt, selected my palette of shards. When the cement was ready and poured, I set about swiftly placing my shards in the soft (but quickly firming) cement. 

Each batch of cement was enough for a swath of path a little over a foot long; in the course of a couple hours we completed five or six swaths of pathway.
Since that sunny Saturday afternoon some weeks ago, I have found myself thinking about labyrinths….The beautiful symmetry of pattern, and the journey of the path therein.

I’ve been thinking too, about my own life’s journey, and the path I’m on.

Lately Life has seemed more like a maze than a labyrinth — a maze of meaningless clutter. I’m not talking about the clutter of brick-a-brac that needs dusting in the house (I cleared out much of that a while ago), but rather the clutter of constant visual, mental and emotional stimulation. Of being “plugged in” 24/7, bombarded with never-ending updates and soundbites of cleverness, inanity, gags, information, “news”…..everything.
My mind and soul just seem to be pleading for down time. For quietness. For contemplation. For thoughtful, meaningful, slow-time interaction with friends and, just as importantly, my own Self.

I’ll be departing on a journey soon. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly unusual or grand adventure. But it’s one that promises much time for contemplation and inspiration of the creative mind and spirit.

The Maze, I’m hoping to leave behind me
and step instead onto the path of my life’s Labyrinth.