I enjoy walking labyrinths. Labyrinths are maze-like structures that have been used as spiritual tools for centuries. There are many of them around, and I am in the habit of trying to visit a lot of them. For more information about labyrinths, check out The Labyrinth Society.
I’m in Hopkinsville, Kentucky with my daughter in order to view the total eclipse of the sun tomorrow. This morning, we attended worship at Grace Episcopal Church right in the center of town. It was at a wonderful location, because the municipal parking lot we’ve been using to go to the huge “Summer Salute” festival they’re holding this weekend is just a block from the church. And between the parking lot and the church is a plot of land the church owns, on which they built a huge replica of the 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth in France.
It’s quite big, and like all Chartres replicas, takes a nice long time to walk. The picture above shows my four-foot tall daughter walking in it. As you might see from the picture, this is another in the series of “hidden labyrinths,” which aren’t easily seen from far away. This one takes that to another level. The two colors of pavers used here are a little too similar for my tastes; it took some attention to make sure you were still on the path. The view above is from a stairway leading to the church (my car is in the parking lot you can see in the background); here is the church itself as seen from the labyrinth:
I entered the labyrinth, finding it hard to come up with a question. It was 9:00 am, and already about 84 degrees. The sun was beating down on us, and I was uncomfortable. The question I came up with was this: “How can I make this trip wonderful for my daughter?” As I walked, and walked, and walked, the answer that came to me was accompaniment: I can accompany her in the things she loves, and invite her to accompany me in those that I love. This morning trip into town was a good example: our plan was to walk the labyrinth, then go to church, then go ride the rides at the Summer Salute and get some lunch. We were each accompanying each other in things we wanted to do. Then something happened. As she hurried down the twisty path, the way she always does, she apparently slipped off the path or got turned around or something. (Not too surprising on a Chartres replica that has low contrast between path and walls.) She ran out of the labyrinth, and got upset: “This labyrinth doesn’t work!” she shouted. I was nearing the center, but was actually quite close to where she ran out, and I invited her to come with me, and walk it to the middle. She did, and we stood inside the Chartres cloverleaf:
But she was still upset. She ran out again. Instead of chasing her, I told her that I was going to continue my walk, and we’d talk afterward. I encouraged her to sit in the shade, and then I walked out, feeling good about how I dealt with the situation, but also feeling more and more hot and sweaty and oppressed by the sun beating down on this shadeless maze. We did continue to accompany one another the rest of the day. I hope we can do that tomorrow with the eclipse itself. (I’ll tell you one thing: I will not be sad to see this hot Kentucky sun pushed out by the moon!)
Chartres labyrinths are my absolute favorite style of labyrinth to walk. I think it’s for a few reasons: they are longer, they are so intricate, and they have such a rich history. They’re not that common (among those I’ve walked, anyway), perhaps because they require so much room, and I imagine more care and resources to design and build. I’m slowly working on building a labyrinth in the woods behind my house, and there’s no way on earth it will be a Chartres! I am ever so grateful for Grace Episcopal for taking the time, effort, and money to create this, and to make it a public gift to the city of Hopkinsville, and thus to a pile of eclipse chasers like me.