Walking the Labyrinth
Author: M. Elizabeth (Betsy) Westermaier
September 08, 2020
Walking the Labyrinth
The Labyrinth is not a maze but a single path.
The way in is the way out.
My first walk in the labyrinth was at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico almost 30 years ago. It was flat rock and sand in the high desert. The path was of small stones so you could hear as well as see your presence on the path. Earlier in the day I had found Dr. Lauren Artress’s book Walking a Sacred Path on a table in the lodge library and had read enough to expect a special experience. It was.
Twisting through the labyrinth, crossing and recrossing,
the threads of our lives resist braiding; unbound, unspeaking
we are footsteps among small stones…
The dry wind turns soft with spring; a quiet prayer and petals open.
Turning the last course, I stop and the stones are silent. —mew
And when I returned from The Land of Enchantment, my interest in the labyrinth and its sacred influences continued. I gathered additional books on the subject, attended seminars, and even talked with my AP English seniors about labyrinths. I taught them how to draw a simple seven circuit labyrinth on wet sand at the beach. When I retired from teaching in 2005, I decided to mow a Chartres style labyrinth into my front lawn. The inspiration was a similar labyrinth at Graeme and Janet Veitch’s home on Quadra in British Columbia. For several years we celebrated the Winter Solstice with Wassail and a walk on the sacred path at my house welcoming the returning sun and the Light of the World.
Walking the path on a hard surface has the advantage of predictably safe footing so your interior meditation may go uninterrupted; however, walking a path mown into a lumpy lawn is another matter altogether. Especially if you choose to go barefoot.
Walking the labyrinth at midsummer, discalced, barefoot, briefly…
Evening’s storm has strewn the path with oak leaves.
Soft grass underfoot warms with the sun’s rising. Early dew bonds leaves to soles,
then insteps and toes; pale slugs, too, ride pale feet.
The path turns and turns while the bell in the wind marks time,
sets the pace, sets the mind’s edge to watch for bees and acorns
(the guardian oak’s carpet tacks) as well as vole holes and rabbit droppings,
a puff of feathers the hawk has left, a beetle’s or cicada’s emergence
bits of moss or lichen… Begin barefooted, pale footed; return leaf footed
wet footed, web footed, slug footed. Lead the dance beyond the labyrinth. —mew
The experience connects you not only to a spiritual world but also to the earth itself and all its incredible life force. An opportunity to exercise all your senses, internal and external. …and to my listening ears all nature sings and round me rings…
In 2011, with the encouragement of the church staff, Jill Mascena and I decided to make a portable labyrinth on canvas to be used in Fellowship Hall during Lent and Holy Week. It is based on the 11 circuit model in Chartres Cathedral. Our canvas replica is in three parts and covers most of the floor space in Fellowship Hall. With the help of Judy Grantham and the additional painting skills of Dotti Peatman and Rita Brown, we had it finished in time for Easter. Since then it has been rolled out and used by adults, youth ministry and even the preschool.
In 2012 I was gifted with a trip to San Francisco and an opportunity to see for myself and walk the Chartres style labyrinth in the nave of Grace Cathedral. The sunlight through the stained glass windows casts beautiful colors on the path. It is worth the trip to continue one’s journey in that sacred space.