The labyrinth outside my door calls me. To the untrained eye, perhaps it is just a scattering of rocks. But to me, it’s the place I go to meditate. Or sometimes, just to walk. It isn’t a traditional seven circuit labyrinth. It’s what fits in my yard. It doesn’t matter that it is only four circles with four turns. It serves its purpose.
On the first day of the shelter in place order I placed fourteen small stones at the entrance of the labyrinth, one to carry each day. I’d walk the first thing in the morning, pick up one stone, quietly observe the new day and all its twists and turns, and then place the stone into the center.
As we neared the end of our fourteen day quarantine, we learned it wasn’t over yet. The virus had run rampant and there was a new order. A month at least. I’d need a bigger pile of stones. And not just one for each day. If I were to maintain any sense of peace, I’d need to do a lot more journeys through this maze.
My days began with the daily walk. As time went on, whenever there was something I needed to ponder, or when I felt restless or angry or sad, I’d take my emotions to that peaceful place. Each time I picked up one small stone at the entrance. I’d feel the weight of the stone. The coolness or warmth. The shape.
And when I got to the center of the labyrinth, I placed that small stone on one of the larger rocks. Each day I started a new stack. At the end of the day I could look at those cairns and remember each walk, the thoughts that crossed my mind, the weight of each rock left behind and the lighter journey out. Sometimes there was only only one small pebble. On other days maybe five or six balanced precariously one on top of another. I began to realize, the taller the stack, the more balanced I felt.
There would be 83 towers in that center now if nature had let them be but not all towers are built on a strong foundation. Some are built with careful thought and practice, balanced with precision. They fall easily, blown over by a gentle wind. Others are sturdy stones, flat ones, the ones that are simple to stack. The mass of stones that have fallen, lie in rubble. That is not destruction. It is a reminder that I can build a dream but I’m not in charge of the outcome.
It’s all about balance.
Sometimes it takes just a little bit of luck and sometimes you just happen on to something that brings with it a whole flood of memories. Thanks to someone I met two years ago at Silver Lake Sandbox when I visited Michigan, I stumbled on her FaceBook post announcing this new book by Ann Chandler. Terri was kind enough not to just get Ann to sign the book for me but also put us in touch with each other. Two days later I held the book in my hands.
Yesterday I dug through a box of old photos from my dad and found a bunch of shots from the early 50s. Then came the memories. Dunes, dune scooters, swimming, sunburns, bonfires, the lost village, rowboats, speedboats and platoons and my little green toy truck lost under all that sand. Strange sometimes what comes to mind.
Meanwhile, there is a short reference to the Silver Lake dunes in my upcoming memoir. It’s a meditation of sorts that gets me through difficult times:
I was six years old when I first climbed the razor back dune behind the cottages where we spent our summer days. I never once gave up in my climb to reach the top of that shifting sand and that struggle later came to represent the struggles in my life, literally two steps forward and one step back, but it was that stubborn step forward that counted.
I sit on top of the tallest sand dune between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan and feel as though I have reached the top of the world. To my right is Silver Lake, a mirror shining within a frame of small cottages. To my left is Lake Michigan, big as an ocean stretching into infinity.
I feel the warmth of the midday sun, burying my bare feet under the hot layer of sand. I lie back and sink into the fine white sand, cradled in its soft formations, snug and safe. I close my eyes.
I am quiet as my mind clears, letting go of the daily trials, giving them up to a power greater than myself. I listen patiently, waiting for some guidance. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t. It will happen in God’s time, not mine.
My mind is at peace and my body follows. I am safe, comfortable and everything is good. I know that all will be well.
Gently I return to life, opening my eyes ever so slowly. I roll to my side and push off, tumbling down the dunes, free from my burdens, ready for action.
As I rise to standing, I look up to the top. Then turn and walk away knowing that I can return anytime, anyplace.