Photo and Book by artist and author Catherine Anderson
May the path of the labyrinth support and hold you in love. Blessings and Joy, Catherine 2014.”
Catherine opens her beautifully written and illustrated book with the following observation: “We are not all fortunate enough to have a labyrinth in our backyard to walk whenever we feel the call to connect with the winding path of the labyrinth. This journal can be a place to turn when you yearn for the calming path of the labyrinth.”
Actually, Catherine and I are fortunate ones to actually have a labyrinth in our own backyards. She, just outside her home art studio, where I have been blessed to both walk her labyrinth in peace and gratitude for what both prayer and artistic creativity add to my life…and I, in the backyard of the home I feel graced to have found with my loving husband Tom, to live and enjoy our golden years and our golden Michigan sunsets off our deck just above our labyrinth.
Receding winter of ’15 and the labyrinth reappears
SoulCollage Facilitator Training Weekend with Catherine, 2014
As happy as I am to have the labyrinth in our yard, I still find it challenging to explain its essence to others without going “too deep into the weeds” in way of explanation. I, myself, first found it through Canon Rev. Lauren Artress of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.
I was at a weekend retreat at the Dominican Weber Center in Adrian Michigan on Centering Prayer. But her little black paperback book attracted me in the bookstore, “Walking a Sacred Path.” Eventually, my sacred path led Tom and me to Grace Cathedral, where we experienced another retreat and I completed training in Labyrinth facilitation. We also walked both Chartres designed labyrinths there; one on the Cathedral interior floor, the other just out the door, on the piazza, high on top the hills of San Francisco. Within a couple more years, we pilgrimaged, once again, to spend a week in Chartres France and attend a retreat on the labyrinth and Sacred Geometry, upon which the cathedrals of medieval times were built. We resided in the Catholic seminary housing right next to the the Chartres Cathedral, originally built in the 1300s, I believe. We walked within it and around it many, many times, photographing ad infinitum the architecture, sculpture and stained glass phenomenon that it was.
Chartres Cathedral is famed for its stained glass windows, the largest representations of Mary in all cathedrals and its labyrinth dating back to medieval times when pilgrims traveled to it for their annual pilgrimage when they could not travel to other holy sites due to wars and dangers.
Tom and I were here in May 2000.
So what does the labyrinth have to do with our life and our love?
One simple way of explaining the labyrinth is that it is a metaphor for life…..this certainly works for me! The circular pattern, once begun, yearns ever for the center. And you begin toward that center in wide sweeping circular paths and motions. You are free to stop anywhere along the path, for what? A breath? A silent message sounding in your heart? A casual gaze upon the blessings of nature and people around you? A time-out?
Who, among us, doesn’t do this in real life and actually need to do this? Not I, for I need them all to feel the center in my self. Or the lack of it. I may know where I am going. I may think I know where I am going. I may know that I DON’T know where I am going. I need to feel the Presence of the ONE who does know.
The labyrinth can represent this ONE, by whatever name we call it….for it has many. God, Source, Universe, Yaweh, and so many others.
The path on the labyrinth is not a maze…. you are never blocked once you have begun the walk. no matter the difficulty, no matter the shortness or length of the path, it continues inward and to the center. You experience turns, expected, and sometime when lost interiorly as you walk, a sudden turn appears abruptly.
These are the same types of turns, expectations, interruptions I experience in my married life. Certainly, Tom’s and my union and love resulted in many, many more changes of location than I would have ever anticipated. But on we went, supporting each other, working out the difficulties, enjoying the overflowing joys, and managing many, many times of “letting go” as we journeyed.
And that is what the inward journey on the labyrinth is about…..letting go…..letting it be……trusting……willingness…..mesmerized by watching your feet take……that one step at a time……seeing only a small part of the total bigness of the path, yet trusting that it is there for you.
Reaching the center, we feel open to receive gifts…what gifts? Any that come, receiving them in faith. For our marriage, I receive the fullness of nearly 50 years of the commitment spoken in our vows so many years ago. And just like one step at a time, I know it was not a “once only” commitment to I do. No, for us, the words once spoken to us by a priest during some of our Marriage Encounter years ring very true. “In marriage, you do not speak the words ‘I do’ only on your wedding day, you speak and live them every day of your married life.”
When you leave the center on your walk on the labyrinth, you walk freely, retracing the path that brought you into the center; it will likewise lead you back out to the world, bringing with you the gifts received in the center and being fully ready to share those gifts with others. If you have walked mindfully, you are returning from the labyrinth reminded of who you truly are — which is gift itself– and you have been gently guided back in balance from the calming path of the labyrinth.
In truth, over the course of fifty years of marriage, there are many opportunities for just the opposite of calm and balance to exist between the partners, and that has been true for us. I have appreciated and strongly relied upon the people and experiences in my life that have built up my faith and my optimism in myself and in my partner and in our life together. Because even with all the “rock ‘n roll” we’ve met along the way, today I can truthfully say…..
I count it all as grace and my heart overflows in gratitude for the life and love I have in Tom and family.