In San Francisco I’ve been able to walk two labyrinths that have been on my bucket list for a long while – the one at Land’s End with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and the one inside Grace Cathedral.
Land’s End is the first place where I’ve walked a labyrinth while people were hopping on and off for photo opportunities. After I walked the rocky path, I climbed up to a slightly higher point to photograph it and a pod of dolphins swam by. The whole experience was a playful reminder not to take myself or life too seriously.
I walked the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral a couple of days after the shooting massacre in Las Vegas. They had a special altar set aside for people to light candles and leave prayers.
There was group of school children experiencing the labyrinth at the same time as I was walking it. I noticed that their individual personalities were much more apparent in how they approached the labyrinth than with a group of adults: the clown, the reverent, the tentative, the matter of fact, the curious, the ones who want to ‘get it right’, the confident, the playful. They’re not afraid to let their bodies show who they are. There are those that skip, hop, stomp and tread lightly. I got just as much out of watching them as I did walking myself.
I also felt very close to the group that I was in Chartres with, particularly Lauren Artress. While Canon of Grace Cathedral she was one of the people who was instrumental in bringing the labyrinth to the USA and subsequently to other parts of the world. I sent out thanks to her and all the teachers who have been significant in my life.
In connection with that sentiment, when I walked the labyrinth at Stanford University, I reflected on how impoverished my life would be if I had never been taught to read and write, if I hadn’t had parents who actively encouraged my education, if I hadn’t met open doors at numerous learning institutions and if I hadn’t had amazing teachers in so many fields of endeavour.
An unexpected delight in San Francisco was visiting St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. Set into the wooden floor is a labyrinth whose pattern I’ve never encountered before and painted on the walls are pictures of “dancing saints”. The people for these icons were chosen because they “unified humanity”, often at their own cost and include Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Aquinas, Emily Dickinson, Lady Godiva and Martha Graham. Musicians, artists, writers, poets, dancers, missionaries, martyrs, judges, healers, monastics, straight and gay people are among the ones represented. Mark Dukes is the iconographer who created the paintings whose colour and life bring a fulsome sense of joy to being inside the church. They were all looking down laughing at me as I got lost on the labyrinth. There were also miniature looms in baskets beside the church pews and drums and other instruments inside the vestry. It looked like a place where people have a lot of fun.