From the Center of a Labyrinth
All day yesterday, I passed over the labyrinth at the Idaho Botanical Gardens. Albeit striking in appearance, it was nothing of tremendous interest to me. If anything, I was annoyed that it seemed to be a maze with no walls to create any sort of barriers. I didn’t see the purpose of entering a maze that could be solved with no effort at all.
The show was amazing last night. The weather was perfect, without a sunburn in sight and a cool breeze in the evening to keep us all humble. I was fortunate to have a fantastic host of people to work with at the Botanical Gardens, on my staff, and from the tour. I took a short walk through the gardens while Alison was on stage and saw the last sunlight breaking through the cracks in the vines along the arbors.
I kept thinking I would sneak off for 5 minutes and check out the labyrinth yesterday. But as the day progressed, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find the time.
I followed the last bus out at 1:45am, locked the gate behind me and promptly crashed at the hotel. I shot out of bed the next morning to the realization that I had left myself 8 minutes to make the 17 minute journey back to the site. My dreams had been seduced by a nice group of Shriners who graciously offered to open the gate for the tent rental and port-a-johns company for me. “Sleep in,” they said. “You need the rest.”
7:30 is much too early for clarity after a 6-day run.
But thankfully, someone had opened the gate for me when I arrived and all was working according to plan. Shriners or not, someone had been thinking of my poor feet and my long-awaited sleepiness. So I said good morning to everyone and looked around for signs of work to be done. And then, I heard the calling of the labyrinth from across Outlaw Field.
The labyrinth is a pattern of concentric circles, present in many cultures for several centuries. Contrary to its appearance, it isn’t a maze at all, but rather a path with only one way in and one way out to and from the center.
Not knowing any of the religious implications of it, I tried to be respectful and took off my slippers as would any good guest. The cold, wet grass was not as bothersome to me as normal. To my surprise, the sun radiated enough warmth to keep the morning chill away from my toes as they stepped through the entrance.
I put some Hawaiian music on the iPod. It seemed appropriate to put it on as traveling music to accompany a journey toward the center of the labyrinth. Or toward the center of anything really, for that matter. From the outside of this circle, I was a navigator and a pioneer like my ancestors, in search of an unknown destination that would bring greater understanding. And so to honor the spirit of navigating toward the center, I pushed play and began my trip.
I was surprised by the length of time it took to reach the center. Recollecting those I saw sitting on the same rock yesterday, I thought of how simple I perceived their journeys to be. I had dismissed it as a casual walk along the contours of a beautifully manicured circle on a sunny day. But as the path continued to twist and turn over and again, my focus shifted from the superficial mechanics of the day, to the larger decisions to face in life, to a much deeper sense of connectivity with myself and the world around me in the past, present, and ultimately in the future.
The path of the labyrinth meandered with a distinct purpose that only the person traveling along the path would understand. From the outside, it seemed inconsequential and recreative at best. It was clear from that vantage point that just a few steps toward the center would be a direct route to the end result. And it was on more than one occasion yesterday. Faster than any other method, there’s nothing to stop a person from approaching the center directly.
But I really didn’t appreciate the labyrinth yesterday. I was intrigued by it, but had no concept of what amount of work would go into arriving at the center. I wasn’t prepared for the time it took to make the long journey, all the twists, turns, and switchbacks along the way.
It wasn’t until I was on the path moving toward this center that I would otherwise be unable to truly understand, that I realized I was finally exactly where I should be.
I’m not sure any resolution has come forth since I set out on this expedition. But I can say that by reaching the center of my own personal labyrinth, I have learned a few basic things.
While from the outside, I am a navigator and pioneer, I am most basically and earnestly a Hawaiian at my core. My heart beats more loudly than those who aren’t. I have a need in my soul for music that is akin to our need for the water we drink and the air we breathe. I forgive too easily and fight viciously to defend and protect my family and my values. I wear slippers to keep my feet close to where they should be. I believe there is a place for love, respect, integrity, and mischief to exist in one place. I spend my time at work thinking of ways to be a better host, and my time at home thinking of ways to teach my kids to be good citizens. At my core, in the center of this labyrinth, this is who I am.
And perhaps without this long journey, I would see these things from another vantage point without fully understanding their uniquely beautiful qualities.
I’m not sure what is on the journey toward the outside or what will be waiting when I exit the labyrinth. But for the brief moments I spent within its center, I found a very peaceful truth.