“Could I get lost in there?”
The man had stopped to talk to me about the pattern I was drawing in the sand at Dumas Bay on Monday afternoon. He had watched me pick up a driftwood stick and begin carving out a circular path on the beach.
“No,” I answered. “You just keep going. A labyrinth is not like a maze. There are no dead ends. If you keep on walking, in spite of how it feels, you’ll get to the center. Then turn around and keep walking and you’ll find your way out again.”
I love the path of the labyrinth. It takes you on a circuitous journey to its center, and just as you think you are about to arrive, it turns and takes you farther away. Then, as you reassure yourself you’re still on the path and adjust your mind for a longer walk, it turns again and suddenly you have arrived.
So when a group of us at our church’s Senior Retreat had gone for a walk on the beach, I took the opportunity to draw a simple labyrinth and remind myself of its basic truth: I might not be where I thought I would be, but I am not lost.
That morning I had hopped on my motorcycle and headed down to the 7:30 ferry on my way to the retreat. There had been a stretch of time when we actually thought this retreat would not happen. Only 10 days earlier we discovered that our usual site, Rainbow Lodge, was suddenly unusable because of water contamination issues. We thought we would have to cancel. This was a particular disappointment because the retreat was full. People were really looking forward to hearing our new pastor Todd, and his wife Alison, present our program on the Divine Feminine.
When we heard about the water problem our dear retreat organizer Alan was frantic. What could we do? The cancellation seemed inevitable.
But with a lot of hard work, and re-organizing, and last minute scrambling, we found a new and wonderful site. Our retreat was moved to the Dumas Bay Centre down in Tukwila. The good news was sent out to all who had signed up. Now we would all be heading south rather than east. The retreat was on.
So Monday morning I was on my way. I had sent my suitcase ahead with my friends Margaret and Marcia, so I wouldn’t have to take it on my motorcycle. I was meeting with them at their house and together we would drive on down to the retreat.
That was the plan anyway.
The first indication for me that the plan might not go as we thought came when I heard a slight tapping noise coming from my motorcycle as I headed down the hill to the ferry. I noted it, and thought I had better get that taken care of after this retreat. That’s OK. It’s fall, and motorcycle season is winding down. Unlike in the spring, at this time of year most motorcycle shops have room in their shops for repair.
I slowed the bike and the tapping quieted down. But when I got to the ferry at 7:29 and technically should have been loaded on that boat, the ferry worker was loading the passengers and closed the gate. “You cut it too close” he told me when I protested. So I had to watch it sail without me.
I called Margaret to let her know I was going to be later than expected. But still, we would have enough time to get to the retreat by the 10 AM program start.
When I rode my motorcycle on to the 8 AM ferry, I noticed the tapping sound in the engine had gotten a bit louder. Still, I wasn’t too worried about making it to Seattle, only about 25 miles away. My friend Meighan who was watching the farm for me while I would be away, also was on that boat. She was using my car to get to her church in Seattle for the day and then return to the farm in time to put the sheep up and feed the dogs. I mentioned the noise I was hearing in the motorcycle engine. “I should be able to get to Seattle though,” I assured her.
When we docked and I got off the boat, the noise was even louder. By the time I had stopped for gas and started up again, it was so loud I was worried about getting on the freeway. But I had to get to Seattle. What could I do?
As I rode down the Mukilteo Speedway on my now-loud bike, anxious about getting on the freeway, I looked up and saw Meighan, right in front of me, in my car. I passed her, and pointed to the side of the road so she would pull over. I explained the problem, and we made a new plan. I would leave my bike in a nearby parking lot, and we would go together to Margaret and Marcia’s, where she would drop me off and go on with her day.
Although it was getting later I still thought I would make the retreat on time. But no sooner was I in the car then my phone rang. It was Margaret, telling me that their cat was sick and they needed to take her to the vet. They were not going to be able to go to the retreat.
Now I was really stuck. I figured it was too late now to find another ride. Surely everyone had already left Seattle on their way south. The only option I could think of was to drop Meighan off and take my car to the retreat. That meant I would not be able to stay overnight, since without a car Meighan could not be my farm sitter. But at least I would get there for the day.
Then, as I looked over the list of retreat participants, I saw Kay‘s name. Kay lives near Margaret and Marcia. Maybe she hadn’t left yet. I called and sure enough she said she could give me a ride. “Meet me at Margaret and Marcia’s house,” I said. I would pick up my suitcase there and Kay and I would continue on to the retreat.
But when I called Margaret and Marcia to let them know of this plan, they had already left to take their cat to the vet. “And your suitcase is in our car,“ Margaret said. OK, now I would have to move to “Way Beyond Plan B.”
I got the address of their vet and told them we would meet them there to get my suitcase. I called Kay and asked her to pick me up at the church instead of Margaret and Marcia‘s house.
And that’s what happened. I got my suitcase, went to the church, and Kay picked me up. Meighan went on to her workday, and was still able to watch my farm. And due to Kay’s “race car driving skills” (her description, not mine ) we arrived at the retreat only about 20 minutes late.
So there I was on Monday afternoon, on the beach, assuring the man who had asked me the question about my labyrinth. He could have just as easily been asking about how we all happened to get to Dumas Bay when we thought we were going to Rainbow Lodge. Or about how I had finally made it to the retreat at all.
Or, to take it to another level, he could have been asking about any spiritual journey we might be on. “Will I get lost in there?” No. Just keep walking. You might not be where you thought you would be but I am absolutely certain you are not lost.