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On Saturday, I spent several hours gardening in a labyrinth.
Now, I am not a gardener. My rooftop patio has not a plant on it (except for that weird thing growing in one corner that I didn’t plant). It is decorated with art and beach treasures and other things that don’t die and don’t need water.
But I love labyrinths. I love the twist and the turns. I love that you lose the path and have only faith that you will end up somewhere. I love that just when you are lost, you find the centre. And, I love that each labyrinth has it’s own energy – a heady mix from all the people who have journeyed within it plus the energy of the land that it resides upon.
So I volunteered to help garden the labyrinth. And the job on Saturday was to clear away last year’s growth, now dead. And, we cleared a lot!!
As I ripped out the dead old branches and leaves, clearing space, I realized how much new growth was hidden under the weight of that old growth. New shoots, green and fresh, reaching for the sky and the sun. In amidst the dead, there was life.
As I carried armful after armful of old branches over to the compost pile, I thought what a perfect metaphor for life this was. Because we have to clear away the old to make room for the new. The old growth blocks the space that the new growth needs.
Some of the old branches came out easily. Others, especially the vine-type growth that snaked it’s way through the grass, required more effort. And, it all went into the compost pile to make new soil. And so it is with each truth about myself I learn and relearn. Some are easy and fun. Some are pretty twisty and tough!
Often times, I think we lament the old. And certainly there can be a grieving process in letting go of the past. But, it too was once the growth that we revelled in and which nourished us. Growth builds upon growth.
In those sunny hours working in the labyrinth, I was grateful for the reminder that clearing away the old is a necessary part of making space for the new.
Oh, and that it is hard work and you should definitely stretch afterward if you want to be able to use your muscles again the next day.
I don’t want to be a farmer but I sure love hanging out at a farm.
On Sunday I had the opportunity to hang out at an organic farm for the day. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I’m not sure why I’m surprised about that but when I arrived back home exhausted I realized that I was completely content and smiling on the inside.
My tour guides were two young girls who live at the farm. Ages five and three and three-quarters (remember when you measured your age by part-years?). The five year old informed me that she had lived at the farm for a very long time and so she was the best person to show me around. And so she was.
We visited the chickens where we learned there were nice ones and mean ones. And, one who was allowed out to wander the farm outside of the pen because the other chickens picked on it (well, pecked on it) and so it needed to be held and petted.
We distracted the chickens with kale so we could visit the goats. They all had names, although I missed most of them due to the rapid-fire delivery of the list of names by my younger guide. It must be so frustrating as a kid to constantly have to repeat things until the adults finally understand. One goat was named Gorgonzola, which I thought was a great goat name.
We visited the labyrinth where it was okay to either follow the winding path or take shortcuts to get right to the middle.
We traipsed down the fields and watched the train go by. And, we visited the meadow. And then it was time for lunch and Mom’s mac-and-cheese, a clear favourite.
I had forgotten how kids that age are a steady stream of information, ideas, thoughts and possibilities. And, energy. And, noise! By the time the tour was done, I was longing for the relative silence of the 200 chickens.
And so I did what I suspect many a parent tries to do. I escaped to the bathroom for some peace and quiet.
I sometimes think that I should ditch the city and head out to live somewhere where the road isn’t the main source of sound. Maybe I will someday.
In the meantime, I think I might need to go back after the goats have babies. Anyone know what a little gorgonzola is called?
According to Wikipedia, liminality is the ambiguity or disorientation that occurs when you are in the middle of transforming. In ritual, participants “stand at the threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.”
The last few days I have felt that disorientation. Everything is outwardly fine and yet I can feel the sadness and slow colour bleed that marks my depression. I know we all feel depression is similar/different ways. For me, it’s like the world loses all its colour, leaving a grey landscape devoid of hope.
Usually I have tools, like paintbrushes, that I can pick up to recolour my life. Tools like meeting with friends, journalling, texting my sister, going for a walk or just a good night’s sleep.
But the last few days I haven’t quite been able to get the paint on the canvas.
This afternoon I decided to head to a labyrinth ritual down on the beach. The theme was the autumnal equinox; that liminal space between summer and winter.
It is a lovely day here in Vancouver. Blue sky and sunshine with a light breeze. The labyrinth was constructed way out on the tidal flats. A temporary space, a gift of the earth soon to be washed clean again by the sea.
We each received a walnut and a copy of Rumi’s poem – A Dumb Experiment.
Break open your personal self
to taste the story of the nutmeat soul.
These voices come from that rattling
against the outer shell.
The nut and the oil inside
have voices that can only be heard
with another kind of listening.
If it weren’t for the sweetness of the nut,
the inner talking, who would ever shake a walnut?
We listen to words
so we can silently
reach into the other.
Let the ear and the mouth get quiet,
so this taste can come to the lip.
Too long we have been saying poetry,
talking discourses, explaining the mystery out loud.
Let’s try a dumb experiment.
As I walked the labyrinth and silently listened to what was rattling my shell, I realized that this pent up pressure, this heaviness that prevents my spirit from flying, this weight that keeps me from picking up the paintbrushes, is fear. That’s all. Just fear.
Fear that I will fall into the grey abyss of depression and that I will be unrecoverable. That depression will drag me down and drown me in sadness. I fear I will be lost.
But there by the ocean, in the twists and turns of the labyrinth, I let go of being afraid of the fear. Yes, there may be sadness and anxiety and heartache in my life. But it won’t drag me down. If I can’t always soar above it, that’s okay; I can surf along it, be carried within it and be silent within it. I can learn its mystery and just be in this liminal space. I will surface again.
It’s okay to have a periods of ambiguity and disorientation when I am on the threshold between what is past and what is to come. Between who I was and what I am yet to be. In walking the labyrinth, surrounded by earth, air, fire and water, my spirit was re-balanced into peace.
My deepest gratitude to Les at Walking the Labyrinth for the gift of the equinox labyrinth today in this liminal space.