Saturday, October 20, 2012


We've been discussing labyrinths on my Book Buddies blog, related to our reading of Diana Butler Bass's book on Christianity for the Rest of Us.  So two of us walked the labyrinth at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Chattanooga today.

The labyrinth was in a courtyard surrounded by the church's buildings, totally enclosed and yet outside.  We started at the "sunny" door (top photo), and this door was on a shady side.  Because the darker "guide lines" were faded, we each missed turns and had to retrace our steps.

The doors into the courtyard were locked, and the couple arriving when we drove up knew where to find someone to let us in.  While waiting for the key, we learned this labyrinth is based on the one inside Chartres Cathedral in France and the wife had been there.  Her access to that labyrinth was more difficult than our short wait, since chairs had been set up all over that one.  You can see the chairs in the photo are set up, but off the actual labyrinth.  This smaller one Donna and I walked today is patterned after the one at Chartres Cathedral.

As I started into the labyrinth, I noticed a feather.  When I passed Donna in an adjacent lane, I told her it was there.  When I came back around that area, I looked for the feather, but it was gone.  Looking across at Donna, I could see it in her hand.  (That white spot above her clasped hands is the feather's white tip.)  I spoke to her when I missed a turn, when I noticed she missed a turn, and probably several more times.  She said not a word, meditating as I should have been doing, if it weren't for all the opportunities to take these pictures for my blog.

As I approached her here, I noticed she was standing still, looking at the deep purple flowers beside the pink and white blossoms.  Just as I got there, I saw a bee fly away.  When we had lunch afterwards, Donna said the bee had an appetizer at one flower and went to another for his lunch.

As I walked, I was aware of splashing water off to the side.  When I had completed my walk back out of the labyrinth, I went to that wall and found a statue and water flowing over and dripping off all the leaves into the stones in the fountain below.  That's when I noticed names on the wall to the left of the fountain.

This had been the church of my neighbor and friend, so I went to read the names.  I heard the "sunny" door close behind me and realized Donna was probably cold and went inside the church when she completed her walk.  My friend Robin Holt died a year after my mother.

This handout from the labyrinth says in part:
"The labyrinth here at St. Paul's is a modified Classical Chartres design, similar to the one laid in the nave of Chartes Cathedral in France around 1220 AD. ... There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth.  Walk with an open mind and an open heart and receive whatever is there for you. ... May God bless you on your journey."
Donna quietly and persistently went through the labyrinth; I was focused on what I'd write and what photos I'd post this evening.  She was "mindful" while I was "mind-full."  Guess who probably got the most out of it?  On the handout is the feather she carried through the labyrinth and then took home as a gift for her cat Sammy.


Anonymous said...

I love labyrinths . Walked them all over the world. Great photos.

Shirley said...

Quite thoughtful.

A disadvantage of wanting to record an event (e.g., as a photographer at a party or graduation or wedding)is that one can then miss fully participating/focusing on the event. However, I appreciate seeing the labyrinth and reading your thoughts. Has Donna shared her experiences?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, I'll let Donna (AuntyDon) report on it, if she wants to. She googled and found another labyrinth here in town, so we'll probably do it again soon, at another place. Maybe I'll let Donna take any photos and try to pay attention to what I'm experiencing while walking the next labyrinth.

Zorro said...

I have not walked/prayed a labyrinth. Guess I need to go out and find one in the area and see what I feel after experiencing one.

AuntyDon said...

I walked the labyrinth yesterday for my cat, Sammy. I think she is in her last days with us and I wanted some peaceful time to gather my thoughts on how to help her. I won't take her to the vet because her most traumatic times have been there. When she was young, I took her for spaying and declawing and the vet assistant would not go get her because she was hissing and trying to bite, so I was sent back to get her. She didn't even recognize me she was so traumatized, so it took three or four minutes for her to recognize my voice and allow me to take her from the cage. I want her to die at home, so I can tell her I love her before she goes. The feather will go with her wherever I bury her. She talks and makes friends with birds, so this will be with her wherever her soul goes.

The bee was attracted to the blue-violet flowers and ate at three of them -- appetizer, lunch, and dessert!

Shirley said...

It will be interesting to hear your comparison between the two.

Shirley said...

The timing of Donna's labyrinth's walk sounded like an ideal time to help in her decisions of caring for Sammy during her last days. What a loving attitude! Too often we institutionalize life transitions preventing the being going through them to full realize the love that others have for them. Wishing you well, Donna, as you are with Sammy and as you cope with your loss.

Helen's Book Blog said...

What a nice way to spend some time and your reflection on your two different approaches is interesting. I'd probably be the talker as well, but I know I should take more time to be the meditator sometimes :-)

alisonwonderland said...

Thank you, Bonnie and Donna, for sharing your experiences! I am intrigued by the concept of labyrinths - and I am determined to visit one soon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Debra said...

Come walk the Labyrinth at Burks UMC. It's in the back of the property. It's open 24/7. It's in the grass. There are benches inside to sit down upon and benches on the exterior (there is a walking path along the exterior). There used to be a holder with explanation, but the holder disappeared. The literature is inside the church currently.

I also like the Labyrinth at the Bright School.

Thanks for writing about this one, because I didn't know it existed. :)

I haven't walked the one at the Mary Ellen Locher Breast Center yet. I think there are a few others locally as well.

I often walk the one at Burks UMC prior to morning services.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Ha! I didn't know Burks United Methodist Church had a labyrinth! And it's only a mile from my home. Thanks, Debra. Is the one at Bright School open to the public?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Debra didn't see my question, so today I googled Bright School and found it was written up by our local newspaper, including a tiny photo. However, there's a video showing the children walking the labyrinth. Actually, they look like they are almost competing to see who can walk it the fastest ... LOL. Here's the link, if you want to see the article and video:

Debra said...

I do believe the Bright School one is open to the public. They ask folks to let the office know you are there if during school hours. Otherwise, I think it is freely open. We walked it a couple of years ago with our Wednesday morning Bible Study group prior to our having one at Burks. It is a nice one.

We also made one out of garden hoses for a prayer retreat once. That was cool! It took several hoses and turned out well.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Debra! I'll try the one at Bright School some day soon.

colleen said...

Passing people in different lanes seemed so random, was fun and distracting at times.