Today I dragged myself out of a doze from 5:15 to 6 a.m. to get the boys to school. E’s friend A is staying with us during the week because the rental house where he and his family (7 other kids and mom) was living had a rather catastrophic leak between floors and was then discovered to have asbestos. His mom is in the process of buying a house, but you know how speedy that can be, so I told her A was welcome to stay here until things settled down and I could get him to school, practice, etc. So the incentive to get moving today was breakfast at the Golden Arches. Works like a charm.
I got home right at 7 a.m., turned off my phone, went into my cave and crashed until about 11. Then I just lay in bed for nearly another hour. During that time, I remembered that we are on the way to the fall Equinox as well as the first day of fall. I felt the need to do something to mark this. For the last few days, I’ve been leaving the kitchen and living room windows open all night and the house has been cool in the morning, reducing the need for AC. It’s still warm during the days, but pleasant enough, not too hot. It’s getting to be my favorite time, and I’ve been planning a potential daytime getaway for myself for a while, just leave right after I drop the boys off and go somewhere and just wander until I need to be back to get them from practice. I think I need to do something like that.
Anyway, this morning I decided that I needed to go to Runyon lake and walk in the Peace Garden. The last time I was there, on my way around the lake, I discovered that someone had spruced the place up quite a bit and there was a lovely labyrinth there for walking, with a large rock in the center just right to sit and contemplate for a while. I thought this would be a good things to do today to help get me turned around and on a better path.
It’s a little unusual for me to go out walking, etc. in the middle of the day. Almost always too hot unless it’s the middle of the winter, but the equinox is about balance, if nothing else. Equal day length. Equal dark, equal light. And since I spend 4 days a week in a cave, it was appropriate that I go out and do something in the bright light of midday. And today is bright, not a cloud in the endless Colorado blue sky. With a little Chris Spheeris on the stereo and very little traffic, I got to the lake in no time. There were a few people fishing, but otherwise, the population was sparse. Another benefit of being able to do things on the weekdays.
The labyrinth is not far from the parking lot, over a little bridge where the spillway from the Arkansas River runs into the lake. I had to hang out there for a few minutes just watching and listening to the water. Then, down the path and around and there was the labyrinth on the left. It’s really well done, in rocks of varied sizes and shapes, with a little bit of concrete here and there to hold things in place, but not enough to make it seem like everything is paved. The pathways are dirt and gravel. The grasses had been trimmed and no one was around. The steel mill is less than a quarter-mile away as the crow flies, and the train tracks run on the other side, and downtown Pueblo is just over the hill, but somehow, this place feels like it’s a million miles from anywhere. The magic of a labyrinth, I guess.
There’s something about a labyrinth that makes you pause before you start to walk it. As if you realize that you’re stepping out of your current time into sacredness. Each step I took carried me further into the pattern, and every time I put my feet on the ground, the sound of shoes crunching on sand/gravel seemed so loud in my ears. Here’s an interesting thing about walking a labyrinth…the path takes you further away from the center before it takes you closer. Think about that. We’re born knowing everything, only we don’t remember it, or if we do, we can’t articulate it until much later when we’ve already started to forget. So once we become mobile and verbal, we spend years being drawn away from the center of ourselves, trying to please other people, fit into patterns and lives that other people want for us or think we “should” do, all “for our own good.” It takes years for us to wake up and realize that the true center is within each of us, and by then we are so far away from that place, even though it’s inside us, that it takes more years to get back to it. Years of breaking old patterns, learning how to stop listening to other voices besides our own, how to balance what we want with what other people what for themselves and how they want us to be so it makes them feel better.
All that falls away in the labyrinth. Under the hot sun, listening to the grasshoppers and the birds, hearing sirens and traffic in the background, everything becomes completely focused. I set an intention before I went in. I asked for balance. I asked for openness and receptivity. My two cards for this week were 7 of Rainbows – Patience and III – The Empress/Creativity. Once again, right on the money. Being patient and receptive isn’t the same as being passive. A dear friend once said to me, “You can’t receive with a clenched fist.” I have never forgotten that. I want to be the open hand, not the fist. An open hand can give as well as receive. Balance. Balance.
I paced myself walking. One foot down before the other foot rises. Slow, steady, feeling the ground under my feet, the dry crunchy grass, the pebbles, noticing the colors of the rock borders. Breathing, inhaling the scents of the lake and the river. The center arrived quickly, despite my deliberate pace. The rock in the middle is perfect for a meditation, and open-handed, I closed my eyes to breathe some more. It was hot. I felt sweat trickle down my neck. I was grateful for the hat shading my face and for my sturdy shoes. I knew when I opened my eyes, I would be temporarily blinded by the brilliance of the noonday sun, despite my sunglasses, and so it was. That was okay. Bright light can be as difficult to navigate as darkness sometimes. Balance. Balance.
And then it was time to walk out. Once again, slow deliberate steps. I think the journey out was slower, perhaps because I was more reluctant to leave. When you’re in the space, it fills you and it’s easy to remember everything you can do to keep yourself there. Once you leave and the “real” world rushes back in, it becomes much more difficult. But that’s part of the challenge, to find that balance in the everyday, in the mundane, finding the quiet, timeless moment that makes you remember exactly who you are and why you’re here. They happen every day, we just have to practice recognizing them.
At the exit/entrance, I turned and bowed to the center. It felt like the exact right thing to do. Then, I walked along the path that led under a huge mother cottonwood tree. She has many trunks, and I think it would take at least four grown people linking hands to reach around her. I have sat there before on my walks, when the grasses were grown up and I didn’t even realize the labyrinth was there. Mother tree welcomes everyone. I leaned against her rough, deeply scored bark and hugged her. Believe me when I say that when you hug a tree, it will hug you back. It is a sensation that cannot be adequately described and everyone should experience it. While under her arbor, I had a sweet conversation with a little bird I never saw. I have no idea what kind it was, but it was quite talkative. Then I followed the path through another part of the peace garden, past a rabbit bush laden with bees and one extremely large and stunning monarch butterfly. Of course, I had to stop and watch for a while.
Then it was time to go. The drive home was through town, navigating traffic, driving slowly. After an experience like that, I find it very difficult to drive fast. Fortunately, no one seemed to be in a burning hurry, so the way home was pretty pleasant. And here I am. One more work shift and then some time off. Maybe I can get out again. Maybe I’ll take E’s golf disks and go frisbee golfing at the City Park. Maybe I’ll just go sit by the river or find another lake. I’m going to allow whatever happens to happen. I will find my balance and all will be well.