Tuesday, February 18, 2014

If a Stone Turns

I resisted labyrinth walking at first.

I thought it would be upsetting in the way that walking a maze, with its Point A to Point B prescription, made me panic. Finding my way through the tall shrubs was a living nightmare. I didn't know if I should turn left or right. My heart raced. I was trapped by my own doubt.

I wanted out. I wanted someone to save me.

A labyrinth, however, bobs and weaves with meaning. The trail is clearly set. Walk within the marked boundaries and you succeed. In fact, even if you stray, the course will take you somewhere. Ultimately it doesn't matter how you reach the center or if you bypass it completely and return to the beginning for the second time.

You don't win or lose. You keep turning. One way or the other.

And turning is the point.

I live in patterns, routines, habits. I drive the same streets. I buy the same yogurt. I relive the same disappointments. Those brain channels deepen into a self-imposed A to B monotony.

When I finally walked a labyrinth, I was forced to turn at unexpected moments. It pushed my brain left, with my feet following instead of hesitating. Before I could get too comfortable with that left turn, I was sent right. I gratefully paced forward at a steady clip, only to be pressed suddenly right and left and right.

Whoa. What happened? How did I get here? But I was still going. And I was fine.  I was not lost. I was on the journey.

I've walked labyrinths less than ten times by now, so I still know just enough to be dangerous. On a vacation in Cincinnati, I found myself on one by happenstance. I thought I was walking it on a lark to introduce the concept to an uninitiated friend. It was a warm summer day, and I followed the path marked by rocks from the Ohio River.

I wasn't thinking about anything, although walkers are free to ponder a particular issue while winding. For some reason, I took my eyes off the blue sky and glanced down. There it was--my unexpected talisman, a small crooked stone. I stopped.

I think of river stones as evenly edged, not as something bent. I considered its crook formed over millions of years, I guess. (Geology is not my field.) Something clearly got in its way--an aggressive rock or a stubborn tree root or a resistant dinosaur skull.  

That rock didn't wait for the impediment to pass. It didn't freeze, hoping to be saved. It changed course. It turned bravely, however long that took, and never looked back. It continued on its journey.

I hold it in my hand from time to time as a reminder when my brain stops too long in one of its  time-scraped ruts.

The stone's bent edge reminds me of my own possibility. If I keep turning.

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