This afternoon I’m speaking at 2:00 at the Lovetsville Library in Lovettsville, Virginia, so I don’t have time to insert photos before I leave. Hence, lots of links, which I can do the night before. <G>
This post is a result of the Novelists, Inc. onference in San Diego last week. Ninc ( www.ninc.com ) is a a group of multi-published authors of popular fiction, and the conference is laidback, professional, and very enlightening. Jo, Pat, and I attended this year.
On Thursday before the conference started, half a dozen of us decided to visit the famous San Diego zoo, and we also wanted to walk the labyrinth at a nearby church. With Jo’s permission, here is her delightful chronicle of the event, which she posted on the Ninc loop:
“Two intrepid Ninc members DID find the labyrinth, after the rest of the wimps took a taxi home.<G> (Note from MJP: I was one of the wimps. I plead jetlag. <G>)
There were maze-like elements, because finding it was a challenge!
St. Paul’s Cathedral was unknown to taxi drivers and none of us had thought to do anything so clever as print out a googlemap, so our plan to stop there en route to the zoo didn’t work. Someone at the zoo eventually, with great effort, figured it out and marked it on a map, but as it would have meant walking back aways, we all continued on through the zoo. Later, much later, after an enjoyable day, we returned to the taxi rank and decisions.
Most just made a dash for the ride, but Julia Ross ( http://www.juliaross.net/ ) and I (the redoubtable British representatives, you’ll note) set off to walk out of Balboa Park, map in hand. We even, in typically English style, managed a dash across a four-lane road and arrived triumphantly — 20 minutes after it officially closed.
Girding our loins with the spirit that made the Empire, we found an open door and explored, finally meeting a lovely sexton who basically said, to heck with the pettifogging rules, here you go, ma’ams. We tipped our virtual pith helmets and were left alone in a large church hall with a large labyrinth painted on the tile floor.
At which point Julia admitted she’d never walked a labyrinth. To be honest, she seemed a bit dubious about the reward for her endeavors. But I set off, and ever game, she started in after me. In the end, she pronounced herself pleased.
It was great because the size gave lots of turns — and I think it’s that, the switching from left to right sides of the brain that has the effect — though the actual paths were narrow. Julia and I were brushing when we passed and if a lot of people were walking, it could get awkward.
When we emerged, enlightened and transported, we decided we needed more mundane transportation. Which looked likely to be a trick unless we tracked down our friendly sexton again and asked for a phone and phone book.
But the British didn’t get an empire for nothing, you know. Julia found
something in her bag with the hotel phone number on it and I found my cell
phone. The concierge agreed to dispatch a cab, and we made it back, weary but triumphant.
Thanks, Jo! I adore labyrinths—my contemporary romance, The Spiral Path, is named for a labyrinth that was part of the hero’s healing journey, as well a metaphor for the complexity of the characters’ lives and relationship. ( http://tinyurl.com/2rjd7x ) )
I first became acquainted with labyrinths when my author friend Ciji Ware (http://www.rightsizingyourlife.com/ ), who was living in San Francisco at the time, marched us up the hill to Grace Cathedral after dinner and we walked the labyrinth. There is something immensely soothing about the process—right and left brain being balanced, as Jo said.
Intrigued, I did some research and found that originally the words labyrinth and maze were used interchangeably, but these days, “maze” is usually used for walkways surrounded by towering hedges with dead ends and an intention to confuse. The famous maze at Hampton Court in England has a man on a platform in the middle to tell baffled tourists how to find their way out. <g>
A labyrinth, in contrast, is generally two dimensional and has a distinct pathway through. You follow the path in to the center, and from there you follow another pathway out. The route swings you around so that you can be close to the center and not reach it, then become headed off to the perimeter again. Rather like life, which is why walking a labyrinth is such a meditative experience. Here’s a Wikipedia description that will probably tell you more than you really want to know about labyrinths <g>: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth
It turns out that Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is central to the current revival of interest in labyrinths. Some medieval cathedrals had labyrinths inside. People who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (which most couldn’t), could walk the cathedral labyrinth on their knees, praying all the way. (And those stone floors were hard!)
I can’t find my book on the subject offhand, but if I recall correctly, several people from Grace Cathedral went to Chartres in France, couldn’t find anyone to give them permission, so they moved the chairs and rugs and copied the pattern, then took it back to San Francisco. More on Grace Cathedral and its labyrinths: http://www.gracecathedral.org/labyrinth/
Now there are labyrinths everywhere, usually at churches. There are also portable labyrinths on canvas rolls so they can be moved around. To find one near you, check the Labyrinth Locator: http://www.veriditas.net/
While the labyrinth was central to The Spiral Path, I included mazes in a couple of historicals. In Dearly Beloved, the villain tries to hunt the heroine down in a maze so he can kill her. (I visited Hampton Court’s maze for the research. It was easy to imagine skullduggery there! http://www.tourist-information-uk.com/hampton-court.htm ) And in Silk and Shadows, the hero and heroine find some privacy in the center of a maze.
Jo also developed an interest in labyrinths and mazes when she was writing (the RITA winning) Devilish with the Daedalus metaphor. “Of course, Daedalus’s labyrinth was a maze, so it brings up that ambiguity.”
One of Jo’s favorite mazes is here: http://sistersofsaintanne.org/bc/photo10.htm She’ll walk it again when it dries out. (Which can be a challenge in British Columbia. <G>)
I’m lucky to have a labyrinth within two miles of my home. Here is one that we usually walk every New Year’s Day, after attending an annual open house given by friends who live nearby: http://www.bonsecours.org/bssc/catalogue/Labyrinth.htm It’s an amazingly lovely and peaceful site, a retreat center that used to be a convent.
How many of you have experienced labyrinths? Tell me some of your labyrinth experiences. And if you haven’t—have we whetted your appetite to seek one out?
Mary Jo & Jo