Lay Down Your Litany

At lunchtime I fled the over-air-conditioned building I work in and walked the labyrinth at Lichgate.

Labyrinths are centuries-old tools of meditation, contemplation, self-healing, and prayer.

Christian churches, pagan practitioners, new age crystal fiends, health care professionals, and even scientists espouse their benefits.

There’s only one way into a labyrinth (and only one way out). It’s not a maze, where you are sure to get lost. It’s a path to walk until you are still, whole, focused, and full of reverence. It’s a place to find wise and inevitable answers.

And I was wrung out. Maxed out. You know the litany –

  • State worker-
  • Community organizer-
  • Behind-deadline writer-
  • Elaborate-vacation planner-
  • Wife-
  • Mother-of-a-mysteriously-ill-dog-
  • Yoga-teacher-training-student-
  • Over-fucking-organized caffeine addict.

My adrenals had been cranking for months and I just needed to sink to the green earth underneath the wisest tree I’ve yet to meet.

Lichgate on High Road

Lichgate is a gardeny sanctuary in the middle of our city. Trapped between haphazard apartment complexes and wacky college churches, the property once belonged to an FSU literature professor who built a small cottage near a huge oak tree.

She was inspired, in part, by Thoreau’s cabin. After her death in the 1990s she willed the cottage and three acres to the Nature Conservancy, and after some complication and convolution that I never seem to be able to follow, the property and grounds are now open to an adoring public.

Mostly adoring, anyway.

Mostly Adoring, Anyway

As I walked the rings of the labyrinth, created to mirror the rings of the ancient oak tree that the Lichgate property was built around, I could sense the energy that went into creating that jungle gym for meditation.

The intricacies of the design.

The multiple drafts, the exacting measurements.

The blistering work of digging the trench to sink the stones.

The strength to haul those pavers deep into the shady periphery of the property.

And finally, in the center, the artistry and effort to create and lay the tile and glass mosaic, now half shattered, half whole.

In the late winter/early Spring of 2018, the labyrinth was vandalized, just a couple of weeks before a local Buddhist monastery Buddhist monastery was also damaged and defaced.

It was the report of the destruction that drew me back to Lichgate.

Would it be completely destroyed?

Could I still walk the twists and turns of my very favorite labyrinth?

Would the experience still hold the power to help me get my shit back together?

I held my camera close and took step after step, through sun, through shade, over live oak leaves, treading carefully on the heart-shaped leaves of dainty violets weeks past blooming.

When I got to the center I knelt, and sang an ancient Hawaiian song of forgiveness and correction for the poor bastards who so missed the point of this concrete construction they took a sledge hammer to it to try and erase its beauty and purpose.

And then I heard a voice in the inspired spring breeze I’d first heard years ago in the jungles of Peru.

The labyrinth is fine. There is nothing wrong with it.

There’s Nothing Wrong With You

The jungle was bird-noisy, growling with life, and so many shades of green a painter would have gone mad trying to capture them.

I could hear rain in the distance like a rattlesnake in the weedy clouds of the sky. I wanted thunder, flash floods, a jaguar leaping from the thick emerald matrix of primeval growth and swallowing me whole. Anything to distract me from my own mind.

I sat on a worn cushion on the wooden floor of the large hut where we met to meditate, my back against a slanted board made from jungle hardwood by a native man who could plane planks with a chain saw.  After five days without electricity, running water, or walls, trying to still my mind enough to see into my soul, I heard the sweetest voice, soft as the wings of rainforest butterflies, as if one of the Gods themselves had sat down beside me and whispered in my ear.

The message was simple: There’s nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all.

The labyrinth is busted, the labyrinth is whole

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen, Anthem

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