(7) The Labyrinth
Stone is a symbol of being, of cohesive and harmonious reconciliation of the self. The hardness and durability of stone have always impressed men, suggesting to them the antithesis of biological things subject to the laws of change, decay, and death.
J. E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols
For whatever reasons, I like to play with stones. After walking the Grace Cathedral labyrinth in San Francisco, it became immediately obvious to me that I needed to build a stone labyrinth in the back yard when we got home.
As with the cave building project, there was a lot more to it than I realized when I had the idea. Once again, I found myself involved in a massive project that would completely overwhelm me. It took another ten truckloads of flat stones to lay out the pathways, and even more truckloads of sand and gravel to construct a level pad for the stones.
I oriented the labyrinth according to the compass directions, keeping in mind Fairbanks’s 27% declination from the North Pole, and aligned it so that entry would be from the north. With great pleasure, I put in “the north pole,” a weathered driftwood log to mark the entrance to the labyrinth.
Arranging the countless stones in patterns to delineate the walkways was sometimes quite difficult, and often seemed like a never-ending task, but occasionally I had the feeling that some kind of additional help was being given to me, and the stones immediately and easily fell into the right place. The colors, textures, and patterns of the stones added a new dimension to the labyrinth walk, and the stones felt as if they had been there a thousand years.
As with the cave, I didn’t finish the labyrinth until just before our first snow arrived in October. I swept the snow off the labyrinth for several snowfalls, then reluctantly yielded to the winter.
No matter how many times I walk this northern labyrinth, I always find a sense of relief and perspective when I reach the center. And, in later difficult hospital times, I have found stillness and solace by walking the labyrinth in my mind when I cannot walk it in reality.