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I cut a five course medieval labyrinth in the backyard with the lawnmower.
I walk it every morning and every evening, rain or shine.
This evening the September monsoon rain continued to fall in Tulsa. Bumbershoot weather.
Have you ever walked a labyrinth? Not a maze, a labyrinth. A maze has false turnings and dead ends; the way in and the way out are hidden by walls or hedges. A maze is a puzzle or a trap; a sort of crossword for the feet. The purpose of a maze is to get lost. A labyrinth does not need concealment; it has curves and turnings that in the end bring the walker to the center of the pattern. The way out is the same as the way in. Turn about and follow the same meanders coiled on themselves. Step over threshold and exit where you entered. Like all forms of meditation or prayer the only change is the self of the one walks the path. The purpose of the labryrinth is to be found.
I walk my labyrinth with head inclined, because the lanes are 20 inches–the swath of the lawnmower blade–wide, and I need to watch where I put my feet. I stop to look up and take in the view at whim at points along the way. When I reach the end of the turning path, the center circle of the labyrinth, I take a breath, let it out, walk the inside of the circle counter-clockwise, then clockwise, take a breath, let it out, step out of the center circle and wind my way back to the threshold, take a breath, let it out, and step off into the higher grass of the rest of the lawn. There’s no particular reason why I do it this way. It’s just the way I do it. I recommend stopping to breath and take in the view.
I first walked a labyrinth one evening by candlelight, with my wife and several hundred other people, at a war protest, way back when it was still an invasion and not an occupation, a mission that could be accomplished, according to the man who set it all in motion. It was a temporary labyrinth staked out on the lawn in front of the local United Church of Christ (The “Don’t put a period where God put a comma,” people). Walking that labyrinth was like being wrapped in a prayer; we all committed magic without a license as cars whizzed by on Harvard Blvd.
The experience of that labyrinth moved me, and moved with me. I wanted to do it again. I laid out my first labyrinth–a classical seven course labyrinth, a pattern that comes down from prehistory–in the backyard of our previous house, using scavenged bricks and pieces of brick, tiles, glass insulators from old telephone poles, and chunks of native sandstone and limestone, the goaf left over from my hobby of fossil fossicking. The homely junkyard-visionary aesthetic of my original labyrinth did not please Mrs. Dr. Omed. She does not share my fondness for the rocks and heterogenous junk I collect whilst going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down in it.
I had to take up that labyrinth and leave its materials behind when we left the old homestead and moved to our present abode. I still wanted a labyrinth. Took me a year to get around to it. Now I mow my own–A simple, elegant solution for which I cannot take credit. I saw one cut into the lawn of a local Episcopal Church, and I stole the idea. Mrs. Dr. Omed likes the way the new labyrinth lends form to an otherwise undistinguished rectangle of suburban greensward. She’s been walking it herself. The simple act of walking within bounds of a ritual path cut in grass does her good, she’s found. Now if I could just talk her into adding a couple of menhirs…