In Colorado Springs I was once again the recipient of the hospitality of Tracey Kreiling and her family. After walking several labyrinths together Tracey and I agreed that our preferred ones are made of rock, gravel, soil or woodchips and built in natural settings.
One such labyrinth was at Benet Hill Monastery. As I walked the path, dried pine needles crunched underfoot, black squirrels flitted from tree to tree and the wind swept through the heights of the trees creating a cleansing, purifying sound. On labyrinths like this I don’t get the ‘when’s it going to end’ feeling that I often get on the Chartres labyrinth. It’s more like a stroll in an environment that I love and can respond to.
The most moving labyrinth for me in Colorado Springs was originally built by a local Woodland Park foundation in memory of a woman who died of cancer. The labyrinth came with the property purchased by Mike and Deanne Trodden. Mike is a Vietnam veteran who spent some time in Sydney on R&R in 1969. They shared the story of the time they heard a commotion from the hill above their house and labyrinth. A bear had managed to dislodge a large red boulder, which proceeded to land in the third path of the labyrinth without disturbing stones in the adjacent paths. It’s too heavy for Mike to easily remove. In some North American Indian medicine wheels, the bear is the animal of the west and represents rest, renewal, healing and recuperation. After walking the labyrinth I told Mike (while also telling him he was free to disregard anything I had to say) that for me, the healing energy was stronger in the bear rock than in the centre of the labyrinth. Given that Mike is a war vet, I sensed that the rock was meant to stay. His receptive response was: ‘Now I know why I haven’t been able to bring myself to move it’.
After Colorado Springs I went on a personal mini pilgrimage to Fort Collins where my family lived 50 years ago. I walked the labyrinth at the Pathways Hospice but the real joy was running around taking photos of the Old Town and university to see if Mum and Dad remembered any of it. I really enjoy university towns: more young people, more art and culture and better coffee!
In this city of fascinating architecture, rich art and culture and surrounding natural beauty I have met Marge and Bob McCarthy; Lisa and Chris Harrell and Paula Steinert. They are all members of the Labyrinth Resource Group which has been in existence since 1998. Marge and Bob are in their 80s and have built many of the labyrinths they took me to visit. Chris and Lisa similarly have built labyrinths that truly belong to this land in their garden and their local community at Eldorado.
One absolute highlight was visiting the labyrinths built by Elspeth Bobbs (now in her 90s). Elspeth is a dedicated gardener and the pattern of her labyrinth is based on the one in Ely Cathedral in UK and reflects the ‘only thing she believes in’ i.e. evolution. Throughout the path are plinths and ceramic plaques. They mark the stages of the planets progress from Big Bang times to the blight that is humankind. Alongside it is the “Fractal and Poetry Spiral”created out of metal work with poetry and mathematical equations along its length. Then there’s Elspeth’s garden: adobe walls and numerous hidden nooks and crannies with statues and figurines reflecting her great sense of humour. Elspeth lives among a community with a huge, thriving vegetable garden where a rapid harvest was taking place due to hail forecast for the following day. I was dying to pinch a freshly picked, ripe tomato!
Liz Paterson is a local artist living on the outskirts of Santa Fe. As soon as I saw her Goddess labyrinth my inner pagan jumped for joy. It was such a delight to come upon the myriad of female forms in metal and clay; the varied colours and textures in the rocks, stones and crystals lining the path; the cactus which is threatening to block entrance to the centre. It was so much fun. I could imagine building a labyrinth like this one day. And it was quiet. So, so quiet.
In the centre of the labyrinth in their garden, Chris Harrell has built a kivita (a small version of kiva: a chamber built underground by Pueblo Indians for the practice of spiritual rites and ceremony. The labyrinth is on a slight slope and the ground was very slippery due to recent (and ongoing) rainfall. It was a great lesson in slowing down and being mindful of each step. The 3 of us huddled in the kivita underneath a big umbrella and had a group hug. Chris and Lisa shared that they had held their dog in that space on her last day of life which had been two days previously. RIP dear Abbey.