My host and labyrinth ‘tour guide’ in Tucson was the wonderful Lynn Jarzombek. Together we visited beautiful desert labyrinths in church grounds, retreat centers and a resort but my favourite (I know there’s a recurring theme here) was at Peppi’s Place: the hospice at Tucson Medical Center. It was a Man in the Maze surrounded by colourful mosaic benches including one in the middle acknowledging the hospice staff.
I experienced two firsts when we visited Mission St Xavier: a Catholic mission on a Tohono Oódham Indian Reservation. Apart from the extremely ornate carvings and frescoes in the church there was a statue of Mary with the Man in the Maze labyrinth on her cloak and another of St Kateri Tekakwitha, an American Indian saint.
I always feel conflicted in mission settings and find it hard to glorify them. They emphasise what they think they brought. They never acknowledge what they took away.
It’s my observation that wherever you travel in the Western world it’s the (white) blokes who get glorified: in the portraiture, statues, naming of historical landmarks and erection of churches.
Even Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona only mentions possible encounters with male Archangels. Seriously, are no senior celestial beings female?
I was therefore thrilled to discover in Tucson a pamphlet for a walking tour in women’s history. So, I did my bit for the sisterhood at midday on a 38 (93) degree day (never said I was sane) and struck out to visit some of the sites acknowledging the parts that women have played in the city’s formation. One poignant place was El Tiradito or Wishing Shrine which is maintained by hispanic women and has been a place for prayer and reflection for 120 years. Following the blue line painted on the pavement I also visited the former residence of Therese Marx Ferrin, known as the Angel of Tucson through her work as nurse and herbalist and Storks Nest which was a maternity home from 1920s-40s and operated by Helen Jacobs. Also recognised are women who founded the Spanish language theater, ran Chinese markets and opened the Temple of Music and Art.
Prescott and Sedona
In Prescott, Arizona I was walking a labyrinth at Unity Church with a gentle soul called Robin Dilley on the 16th anniversary of 9/11 and holding the people in New York in my thoughts when a deeply resonant wind chime sounded in the tree above.
For all that main street Sedona is all gift shops and tour companies the surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful. The dusty browns, greys and fawns of the desert landscape turn to a deep, deep red. Among others I walked the labyrinths at Angel Valley where I was told on good authority that their Chartres labyrinth doubles as a landing pad for alien spacecraft (make of that what you will). Maybe that’s why they charge $20 for day visitors. For my money I found the labyrinths at the Unity church and Alma de Sedona much more rewarding (and free!)
Recently I volunteered as an energy keeper for the labyrinth society. We get notifications whenever someone needs to know that others are holding them in their thoughts as they walk a labyrinth. As I’m walking one (at least) every day it didn’t seem like a big ask. It was in this capacity that I learnt of the death of the daughter of one of the beloved members of the international labyrinth community.
At the same time I became aware of the death of one my former husband’s brothers.
I set out immediately to find and walk a labyrinth. As I was driving the sun was setting and a spectacular thunderstorm was gathering over the mountains. The distant rainshadow was pink and lightening jaggered through deep grey clouds.
Some of the labyrinths in Arizona have painted rocks among those marking out the lines. Usually words like ‘serenity’, ‘harmony’, ‘growth’ feature. On the scruffy little labyrinth behind Serenity Circle Wellness Center in Cottonwood one large stone bore the word PAIN. It felt very apt to the impetus that had driven me to seek it out. All I could do is walk and wish for comfort for those I knew who were suffering great and unimaginable loss.