Because I'm thisclose to finishing my book and don't have time to write a new blog, I'm invoking Wench Privilege to rework an old one on labyrinths.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I had two friends staying over the weekend so we drove to the nearby Benedictine foundation and walked the labyrinth on their beautiful leafy grounds. It was peaceful and relaxing even with the Baltimore Beltway and a county road maintenance yard literally a stone's throw away. Or less. <G>
Also, a few days ago I reread my contemporary romance, The Spiral Path. The title comes from a labyrinth that was part of the hero’s healing journey, as well a metaphor for the complexity of the characters’ lives and relationship. (And the reason I reread it now was because when I'm finishing a book, I don't want to be distracted with wondering what happens next in whatever story I'm reading. <G>)
I discovered labyrinths when I visited my author friend Ciji Ware, who was living in San Francisco at the time. She and her husband marched us up the hill to Grace Cathedral after dinner and we walked the labyrinth on the cathedral grounds. There is something immensely soothing about the process—right and left brain being balanced, even if several noisy teens are walking at the same time.
Intrigued, I did some research and found that originally the words labyrinth and maze were used interchangeably, but these days, “maze” is usually used for walkways surrounded by towering hedges with dead ends and an intention to confuse. The famous maze at Hampton Court in England has a man on a platform in the middle to tell baffled tourists how to find their way out. <g>
A labyrinth, in contrast, is generally two dimensional and has a distinct pathway through. You follow the path in to the center. After contemplation, you follow the pathway out. The route swings you around so that you can be close to the center and not reach it, then become headed off to the perimeter again. Rather like life, which is why walking a labyrinth is such a meditative experience. Here’s a Wikipedia description that will probably tell you more than you really want to know about labyrinths <g>: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth
It turns out that Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is central to the current revival of interest in labyrinths. Some medieval cathedrals had labyrinths inside. People who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (which most couldn’t), could walk the cathedral labyrinth on their knees, praying all the way. (And those stone floors were hard!)
Intrigued by the idea of labyrinths, several staffers from Grace Cathedral went to Chartres in France, couldn’t find anyone to give them permission, so they moved the chairs and rugs and copied the pattern, then took it back to San Francisco. They created both an indoor and an outdoor cathedral.
Now there are labyrinths everywhere, usually at churches. There are also portable labyrinths on canvas rolls so they can be moved around. To find one near you, check the Labyrinth Locator.
While the labyrinth was central to The Spiral Path, I included mazes in a couple of historicals. In Dearly Beloved, the villain tries to hunt the heroine down in a maze so he can kill her. (I visited Hampton Court’s maze for the research. It was easy to imagine skullduggery there! In Silk and Shadows, the hero and heroine find some privacy in the center of a maze.
I’m lucky to have a labyrinth within two miles of my home. There is another that I've often walked on New Year's Day after attending an annual open house given by friends who live nearby. It's a good way to balance thoughts of the old year and the new.
How many of you have experienced labyrinths? Tell me some of your labyrinth experiences. And if you haven’t—have I whetted your appetite to seek one out?