Finally the raised beds began deteriorating, and I knew I had to do something different with that space. I was fooling myself thinking it would ever be a garden. Somewhere in that time of wondering “What next?” the idea of a brick labyrinth was born.
I had originally planned it to be a group project. I drew up some plans, deconstructed the “garden,” and talked to some friends about having a labyrinth building weekend. Maybe in April?
Then, of course, the lockdown came, and the labyrinth became my three dimensional brick puzzle. It took about a year to build. You can read more about that by searching this blog for “The Brick Puzzle.”
These days my task is no longer building the labyrinth, but tending it. This “tending” work has surprised me in two ways. The first is in how much tending the labyrinth actually needs. Although I put down a weed barrier under the gravel and bricks, I can’t stop the opportunistic surface seeds from landing and taking root. Those seeds and the weeds they produce are tenacious little rascals. They appear practically overnight. They grow on the path and in the borders between the bricks. They are everywhere.
So for the last six months since the labyrinth was finished I find myself regularly out there fighting the weeds. I also trim back the wild rose in the southwest corner that shades the dogs and likes to grow into the labyrinth space as well. And speaking of dogs, since they spend time in the same area as the labyrinth, well, there is cleanup involved there too.
Labyrinths require tending.
The second thing that has surprised me is how much I am enjoying this tending of my labyrinth. I have developed a habit of walking it as I tend it, making my route less “section-by-section functional” weed removal and more “circular and contemplative” weed removal. Each time I make this care-giving circuit, I notice something new, or remember something old. The way the light plays with the different shades in the bricks. The way the bricks came together when I first laid them. How I tried and tried to get the gravel and the bricks level, and the places where I failed. That day Don Hill and I found the piece of stucco facade in the construction rubble as the University Christian Church came down. The way it found its place as a labyrinth stone.
Because walking a labyrinth can be a spiritual practice, of course tending a labyrinth can be as well. These are lessons every gardener knows, I imagine, but as mentioned above, I am not a gardener. I am, however, a labyrinth geek. And so just as I have come to love walking the labyrinth as a spiritual practice, I love these labyrinth tending lessons as well. I see how easy it is for me to think of my spiritual journey as a thing to be finished rather than something to be tended. I notice how quickly other concerns and urgencies can grow up in places I had designed for clearness. I observe how what I thought would be just mundane chores become blessing in themselves. And, as always, I am invited to remember the to centrality of “right here, right now.”
I’m sure there is much more. Of course there is.
The labyrinth, which looked so new and clean when I first built it, now looks like it has been there a long time. I imagine that’s at least in part because all the bricks are repurposed. They’ve been here before, just arranged in a different shape. But I think it is also in part because the labyrinth is settling in, and I’m settling in as well. The path is there. The weeds will grow. I’ll walk. I’ll tend. I’ll walk.