The Labyrinth: My Artist’s Date

CAM00580Almost a year ago I went out in the rain and wind to find a labyrinth near the retreat center where I was staying. I didn’t find it, but I hiked up the hill into old-growth timber, dipped my hands into a stream, and, generally, communed with nature. Nice. Then, on the way back to the retreat center, I slipped on the lawn, fell down, and broke my ankle in two places. Stumbling up, to my feet again (ouch!), I saw the labyrinth marked out with stones, just a stone’s throw behind the buildings. Needless to say, I limped back inside. No labyrinth that day.

Earlier this week, my friend Carla told me about her Artist-Date visit to a labyrinth. I remembered that, near my mom’s home in Allyn, there is a little sign that says, “Labyrinth Open.” Yesterday, inspired by Carla, and disheartened by a not very positive visit with Mom, I decided to investigate. Interesting how I have seen this sign every time I’ve visited Mom in the last four months, but it took a little prompting before it occurred to me that I might walk it.

The parking lot at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church was empty, and a sign on the office door to the side said “Closed.” I felt like I was trespassing, but there was that “Labyrinth Open” sign. And my Artist’s Date is supposed to get me out of my comfort zone–which made feeling uncomfortable a good thing, right? (And then the whole not irrelevant history with the broken ankle.) So I got out of my car and started walking around the church. I found the memorial garden and a memorial bench. I didn’t see a labyrinth. I found an information board and a brochure that told about the labyrinth and the St. Hugh’s congregation’s tradition of a “blessing bowl” full of stones, and an invitation to take away a stone. Still, no labyrinth.

I expected something obvious, lavender hedges maybe or raised stones. Maybe I expected something like a hero’s journey with obstacles, maybe stations of the cross. Instead I found only this flat patio with a creche at the center. As I hiked around the perimeter, investigating, however, I began to see that the colors of the patio stones formed a spiral pattern. I stepped onto the outer path and I began to walk. labyrinth2

I thought about Mom as I walked, my mother who no longer walks. I gave thanks for Mom’s long life and many blessings, and I gave thanks for my healed ankle. The blessing bowl full of stones sat beside the path and I picked out a white stone and put it in my pocket. When I had walked all the way to the center of the labyrinth, I spent a moment looking up, at the view of Hood Canal, and then I walked back through the spiral and out of the labyrinth. And that was that. My Artist’s Date.

Certain novels are like this, quiet, unobtrusive, little journeys that can seem almost pointless, except to the discerning reader, that perfect reader (as Hawthorne defined him or her in one of his prefaces).

We are, all of us (writing, or not writing) on a path. Once in a while we open our eyes and see the path.

8 replies
  1. Jennifer Bullis
    Jennifer Bullis says:

    Thanks for bringing us along on your path, Bethany. What a lovely reflection on your artist’s date.

    I’m finally getting caught up on your posts, and I’m very sorry to learn your mom had another stroke, and that interacting with her has become a sometimes-difficult experience. I’m impressed that you’re using such great creative and spiritual tools to process all this and enrich your work even as you deal with these griefs.

    Have you seen the labyrinth at Fairhaven Park? I’d be delighted to introduce you to it when you’re in Bellingham. It’s a beautifully designed brick walk with lots of natural images embedded in it.

  2. Sammy D.
    Sammy D. says:

    Hi Bethany – I just ‘found’ your blog a few days ago, and marvel once more at how something comes to us ‘in its own time’. I love your personal style in this post – from the seeking labyrinth but finding broken ankle to the ‘not great visit’ with Mom to your determination to broaden your mindfulness outside your comfort zone. They all speak of similarities, and isn’t that what good writing does? Connect reader and draw reader in.

    I look forward to reading more about your Artist’s Date, having committed myself to one day a week of a similar endeavor.

    • awritersalchemy
      awritersalchemy says:

      I’m glad to hear this–Julia Cameron equates the artist’s date with a “date night” to reinvigorate a marriage or other relationship. It’s all about nurturing that inner artist who so often comes in dead last in the competition for attention. Good luck with yours!

  3. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    After Ida collapsing at church and having to clear out for the medics and the siren of the aid car, and lawsuits and our own James Walker, now a policeman in Bellingham being nearly killed by someone he stopped and not so good visit with Beverly (I understand how disheartened you felt) – then the peace of the labyrinth. Funny how we fear to stop – there was one close to my house in Edmonds, but now the Ethiopian Christians bought the church and the family who gave the labyrinth in memory of a loved one lost their gift and all of us who walked it lost the gift. Maybe I’m meant to go the door and knock and cordially welcome them and I could make that an artists date. Maybe the labyrinth is there, but they are scared to be open.

  4. awritersalchemy
    awritersalchemy says:

    Carolynne, thank you for taking the time to write this. I found myself thinking yesterday that our church could have a labyrinth in the back, there’s plenty of space. It could be plantings or bricks or stones. It could be a youth project (if we ever have a youth group again!).


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