Friday, August 10, 2012

The Labyrinth

The roof of the labyrinth gazebo caught my eye Wednesday while driving into the hospital's back parking lot on the way to a meeting. So I walked out twice Thursday --- early and late.

The second trip was to time how long it took walk the labyrinth --- this is a place for meditation, not counting minutes, and I hadn't the first time. Ten to 15 minutes to the center, same out, walking slowly.

The labyrinth is among Chariton's best-kept secret, although that's not necessarily intentional. And I remember just enough of its history to get into trouble trying to recall details. So to summarize --- it was a project underaken with broad support quite a few years ago on private property involving considerable effort and expense. The labyrinth paths were constructed of concrete in such a manner as to last generations. They remain pristine.

This was intended as a place of meditation, and it is --- a lovely thing overgrown and shaggy now, but unique in southern Iowa. I'd say the grass around it has been cut once during this long, hot summer. Nothing wrong that couldn't be put right, but the young trees have had a hard time of it during the drought.

The challenge always has been telling people how to find the labyrinth. It used to be --- turn east off Highway 14 onto Ilion Avenue, then just beyond the Illion Avenue Apartments look for a field driveway on your left, turn in and drive off to the north through the field. You can still take this route, if you can find it.
With the big new east hospital parking lot, however, it's easier. Drive as far east as you can in the lot, park, walk around the south end of the berm bounding its east edge and a short distance across a hayfield, keeping your eye on the gazebo in the distance. There you are. Five minutes at most.

This all has the slight feeling of trespassing and perhaps it is, but there are no "no-trespassing" signs.

This is not a maze --- it's a labyrinth. So multiple-choice isn't involved. You don't have to decide which way to go. There's once entrance, on the west side of the labyrinth, and one path. Decide to follow it, and you'll get to the center.

No one really knows why labyrinths developed --- the general pattern is ancient --- or why, or how they were used.

Recent incarnations, including the Chariton labyrinth, generally are intended for walking meditation, usually Christian, based upon conjecture that labyrinths embedded in the floors of great gothic European cathedrals, Chartres for example, were intended for that. I think the Chariton pattern replicates the Chartres pattern ---  although that's not guaranteed.  But walking a labyrinth mindfully is hypnotic.

A Buddhist probably would feel welcome here, too --- or a heathen. I did, although I was thinking while walking about the Tao, which admittedly is a little eccentric, for the middle of a hayfield, in Iowa. Then I went home and ate sweet corn and fresh tomatoes.

The entrance to the labyrinth (center).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The labyrinth was built by students and teachers in the SOAR program at Chariton Middle School. I was one of the students who helped build it many years ago. Originally, we had hoped it would be a yearly project, that every spring students would return to the labyrinth and weed and replant the gardens. Student projects included garden designs for the space in between and around the walkways, ranging from prairie grass and forbe mixtures to butterfly gardens, and assembling quotes that may aid in meditation to be painted on rocks and placed strategically throughout the labyrinth. I am sad to hear the project has fallen to the wayside, but happy to see that the labyrinth is still in tact and inspiring people such as yourself to right about it.