Labyrinths

Blogging during a pandemic that sent us indoors in March 2020 and barely let us out until March 2021 has been a challenge. And in the months that followed, I’ve done little more than exercise, go to the grocery store, see a few movies and a couple of friends.  

A few blogs back, I decided I wanted to write only humor and signed up for a class coming soon. But humor needs to attach to an incident, a life event, something other than eating, sleeping and writing. That is the challenge I’m setting for myself for future blogs: find more humor in a low-key life.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share a recently renewed interest that dates back many years, namely, a curiosity about labyrinths. And what are our lives like now, but a labyrinth of vaccine and mask mandates and limited social gatherings? 

Dingle, Ireland

Years ago, Lawrence Durrell’s novel, the Dark Labyrinth, introduced me to a group of British travelers on a cruise to Crete, who explored the labyrinth that once held the mythical monster, the Minotaur.  It’s been years since I read the book, but more recent occurrences have kindled a new interest.

This past summer, I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for a labyrinth at the National Nordic Museum. This event reminded me of a friend’s labyrinth and a labyrinth we walked around two years ago near a church and former convent in Dingle, Ireland.

Why do people build labyrinths? To expand on the inspiration for Durrell’s story, according to Greek mythology, in the labyrinth on Crete, King Minos held captive a Minotaur, a human-devouring monster part man and part bull, whose appetite was satisfied by the seven men and women sent to him to feed on every year.  

The labyrinth itself was such a confusing jumble of pathways that no one who entered escaped, which left few volunteers willing to step inside to seek out and kill the monster. Finally, a young man, Theseus, volunteered to be one of the seven men to be sacrificed. Instead, he killed the Minotaur, and with the aid of a thread given him by the King’s daughter, Ariadne, eventually found his way out of the cave.

Our Minotaur is the pandemic and Ariadne’s thread, the vaccine.

More recent labyrinths lack the mystery and history of the one on Crete. Most are above ground and they’ve been built in and near churches, in gardens, fields and backyards. Some are encircled by grass, others by stones, seashells, candles, plants, or trees.

Why build a labyrinth if you don’t have a monster to hide?

My friend Sylvia, who hosts guests in need of a place “to rest, restore,” and renew,” in her woodland garden, added a labyrinth to her offerings of special experiences to enhance her guests’ stay. Her labyrinth encourages walking meditation. She says, “I’ve noticed that the guests who do walk it are intrigued by its promise — a way of gaining insight without thinking too much — or they are familiar with its intention and find a sense of relaxation from the experience of walking a defined path that requires nothing from them but one foot in front of another.” 

She added, “I was personally a bit dubious about the idea of an uninvited inspiration, but after experiencing a very welcome, even important insight myself, it’s easier for me to recommend a labyrinth walk to others.”

All labyrinths have a center, which is the destination, and reaching it is sometimes described as a goal, a place for self-discovery, a point of “turnaround.” Walking the labyrinth is a form of meditation, a way to think about one’s life, a religious requirement. As labyrinth expert Gernot Candolini puts it, “…a labyrinth is a masterful tool for self-knowledge…it is our path to the center, a search for life, for the self.”

If we can’t find enough humor to see us through the end of pandemic restrictions, perhaps a quiet walk through a labyrinth is the next best medicine. Follow this link to a worldwide listing and find your labyrinth.

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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4 Responses to Labyrinths

  1. Darlene Bishop says:

    Well said, Ann—a very enjoyable read this morning including a bit of Greek history and references to literature and philosophy. And of course, suggesting our labyrinth aligning with this darn pandemic—thanks!

  2. Karen Klein says:

    Wonderful information on labyrinths, Ann. Thanks!

  3. dkzody says:

    Our church has a large vacant lot where I would love to see have a labyrinth built. I suggested it to the Boy Scout leader at our church but didn’t get much interest.

  4. Evelyn says:

    Thanks Ann. That was informative and inspirational.

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