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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, June 10, 2006
    Everyday Labyrinth

    It's the shortest walk. But the longest. The Labyrinth. Short, because it all takes place within a circle about 12.5 metres in diameter, the length of the path only 260 metres. Long, because it's a slow walk. A deliberate walk. A radically engaged walk. The Altared Images labyrinth, which I walked this morning in Failsworth, is based on the one at Chartres Cathedral. The ancients used to call that La lieue - the league: which is a distance of about three miles. Because in the Middle Ages some pilgrims would walk the labyrinth on their knees, which would take about an hour, or the time needed to walk three miles.

    I have walked quite a few labyrinths in the past few years: portable canvas ones like today's, ones etched into Cambridgeshire church and cathedral floors (Bourn, Ely), turf mazes cut into village greens (Hilton), the extravagantly large brick maze on Saffron Walden common, and a surprise one in concrete on the campus of Lancaster University. Each time the walk has gone the same - walk in, stop at the centre, walk out. But each time the walk has felt different. Saffron Walden's - shared with children running around and dancing in the mound at the maze's centre; Ely - dodging tourists who, eyes aloft, failed to see where I was walking.

    Today's walk was quite sober, quite reflective, quite profound, walking it with some other Iona Community folk in a serious focussed mood, and I felt refreshed by that. Got me thinking what a pity it is that the labyrinth experience is so rare - unless you live near one. Until I remembered that the labyrinth experience is really just a walk - with a focus, an intention, and a central point to stop and reflect. The shape would be different but you could do a 'labyrinth' walk wherever you are - select a central point to stop and reflect and walk to and from it engaged, with focus and intention. The Everyday Labyrinth: it might catch on.