Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meandering path through the looking glass

Back in the day, in San Francisco, when visiting Grace Cathedral was part of my regular routine, conversations often began this way: While I was walking the labyrinth ...

It wasn't just me, of course. Almost immediately after they installed the carpet labyrinth inside the church, I and my whole community seized every opportunity to walk the ancient pattern. I went two or three times every week, with colleagues and cohorts, alone, with friends visiting from elsewhere. I remember the truly spectacular parking karma I somehow achieved around the cathedral which is really crazy since it sits on top of Nob Hill. If you know San Francisco, you understand there is no parking there. None. Zero. Zed. But I always found a spot. A miracle!

With visitors it was fun to go take that meditative walk at the end of a day, since afterwards we could retire to the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel for rum based drinks and fake thunderstorms every half hour. But I went at all times of the day when the church was open.

When they constructed the outdoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, one of my teachers and I snuck into the construction site, put our fingernail clippings and small crystals into the ground so we would forever be part of that structure. That's a day I won't forget, Rose and I slipping under the construction ribbons while a Chinese couple stood staring at us, looking puzzled. Rose said, They think we're ghosts. She often said things like that, with an aura of authority. I bet she was correct.

We took a weekend workshop with Lauren Artress, the woman who brought the walking labyrinth into the mainstream of American spiritual practice. Basically we spent the entire weekend walking the labyrinth, then writing in our journals.

Here in DC I've walked countless versions of the Chartres style labyrinth, of course. One year we taught a whole witchcamp based on the labyrinth.

Needless to say, I've clocked some miles on the labyrinth. Oh yeah. So today when I went to check out the beautifully painted labyrinth in the Church of the Epiphany in downtown DC, imagine my surprise to see that whoever painted it, flipped the pattern. It's backwards!

The walk was completely disorienting. In fact I feel I'm still struggling to get my equilibrium back, hours later. It was like trying to drive around Britain. Whoa. Or should I say wow?

But that's me, a creature of habit. For most people who walk the backwards pattern, it will likely have the same kind of gentle, subtle, powerful impact that calms and brings insight. I wonder why they flipped the image. Such an interesting decision.

Even backwards, it is still exquisite to gaze upon. I enjoyed the stained glass windows as well. To learn more about the Grace Cathedral labyrinths, Lauren Artress, or to check out the Tonga Room, click the links. Those were the good old days!

I love life's surprises, I truly do. Shalom.


Steve Reed said...

How strange! I wonder if they flipped it deliberately, or was it accidental? That would be a pretty severe accident. Or maybe it's designed to be walked either way.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm going to figure it out one way or another!