From its vantage point high on the hills, the labyrinth at the Canberra Arboretum looks out towards parliament house and Lake Burley Griffin. It was among the first that I walked upon returning to Australia. The labyrinth garden is one in a series of seven and was envisaged by Amelda Keys who went through all the birthing pains that are familiar to labyrinth builders the world over. She saw her dream come to fruition in April of this year.
Providing a song very characteristic of this land, a magpie serenaded us we walked. I sent out vibes in the direction of our seat of government letting the politicians know that I expected compassion and common sense as they debated legislation for gay marriage equality.
Clare Holland House is a hospice beside the lake and has a labyrinth which serves in part as a memorial to Robin Wallace Brown who was a member of the press gallery in Federal Parliament for 30 years. He died of motor neurone disease. His family wanted the labyrinth to be a source of solace for people going through the stress of death and dying be they patients, family or staff of the hospice. I often look to nature for messages when I’m walking outdoor labyrinths. Whilst walking this particular one, a baby crow was calling continually for food. It raised for me the question: What insistent hunger dwells within me, apart from addiction to salted caramel chocolates?
On the morning of November 15, Alison Meritini and I were due to leave Canberra at 9.30 am for a commitment in Tumut: meeting up with Louise Halsey who was one of the instigators and coordinators of the building of the Tumut peace labyrinth. Haig Park in Braddon, two minutes’ walk from Alison’s place, was where people were gathering to hear the result of the gay marriage survey. I was feeling conflicted as we walked past. Part of me didn’t want to stuff Louise around, part of me wanted to be a witness to history. We were humming and hahing, toing and froing.
While Alison was buying petrol I walked over to the park and suddenly the whole of me knew I had to be there. I started to cry. It felt like my family and friends who were gay and lesbian were there with me. Louise gave her ringing endorsement to a later meeting and Alison and I were standing on a gloriously sunny morning among LGBTQ people, their dogs and their children with flags flying and bubbles blowing. We won. The majority said YES to marriage equality. Now we await the new laws (passed in the Senate this week. Only got the House of Reps to go!)
Part of the intention in building the Tumut Peace Labyrinth was as a war memorial. It felt very appropriate to be visiting it on such a day. Throughout its path it has plaques representing the position of the planets in the southern hemisphere at the time of the signing of the Armistice at the end of WW1. Under each of the plaques is soil from Hill 60, one of the battlefields on the Western Front. Mixed with the soil under the plaques are a dog collar and horseshoe to honour the animals that were involved in the war. Due to Australian quarantine laws only one of the 136,000 horses sent overseas for active service was brought back to Australia. Other momentos buried within the labyrinth include a soldier’s photo and letter home to his mother. There are explanatory plaques in the ‘way stations’ but no written words within in the path itself, allowing people to bring their own uncluttered experience to the walk.
I love such labyrinths where the meaning and symbolism is largely hidden and you need to engage with their storykeepers in order to plumb their depths.
Postscript: On Dec 8 2017 legislation was passed in the House of Representatives bringing about marriage equality in Australia.!!!!!