Among my favourite labyrinths are ones drawn on the beach. Mandy and I ventured down to Ferring beach at evening low tide. I drew a classic labyrinth in the hard, ripple-patterned wet sand. We walked it. I wandered in to the water which was surprisingly warm. Suddenly we decided it would fun to make the lines more pronounced by outlining them with seaweed. We raced to collect it and string the bright green mermaid’s hair in the furrows of the lines. A young boy ventured towards us and asked what we were doing. I gave the fastest introduction to the labyrinth that I’ve ever given and the three of us managed to get to the centre and out again only moments before the sea reached and started to reclaim it. It was an exhilarating experience.
I struggled with the breakdown of a long term friendship at the early stages of my pilgrimage. It felt like something that may not have happened if I was a sufficiently ‘enlightened‘ human being. I guess I felt shame and whole lot of ‘not being good enough’. I have learnt much from the experience yet I find it hard not to let it taint my undertaking as well as my concept of myself. The healers and the labyrinths I have met along the way have helped me greatly. I am deeply grateful.
Canterbury was a real treat. Jan Sellers kindly took time out of a jam packed Saturday to take me to the University of Kent to meet the labyrinth she succeeded in having built there. Jan previously worked at the University where she established the Student Learning Advisory Service. She was involved in many creative campus initiatives including the construction of the labyrinth. It is located on a slope overlooking Canterbury and in alignment with the Cathedral. Finger labyrinths are etched into stone benches surrounding the labyrinth including a left handed one. The intention of the labyrinth is to provide a quiet, reflective space for students, teachers and visitors alike. Between its three universities Canterbury has a student population of 40,000. The ancient city centre and cathedral are overrun with tourists. The labyrinth, with its field of hay in front and wide distant vista, is a welcome respite.
The following day I walked to the Pilgrims Hospice. It was Sunday morning and not a soul about so I quietly made my way to the labyrinth garden which was the brainchild of Revd Lizzie Hopthrow when she was chaplain at the hospice. It’s a beautiful paved labyrinth with 2 stone benches at the centre. I felt ambivalent about them when I saw them but, on speaking to Lizzie about them later, their presence makes sense in their setting. People can stop in the centre if they’re short on energy. They can also chat, laugh, cry or share a beer. As Lizzie said to me: “The labyrinth welcomes whatever is brought to it”. As I walked it I sent love to all my colleagues at Calvary Hospital.
That afternoon I was privileged to visit Lizzie and her husband, John, at their labour of love: The Quiet View. This is a property in the Kent countryside that they have transformed from a bramble covered field to a day retreat space with a yurt, a labyrinth and varying quiet spaces scattered around the garden including Sunset Strip which is a row of benches looking across a meadow and cultivated fields to the western sky.