And so I found myself in the glorious morning sunshine on Morecambe’s West End beach with the sand stretching out far into the distance. Firm, cool and damp, today was a day for creating a labyrinth on the sand.
I’ve had a loose interest in labyrinths for the past couple of years but it was only this year while I was convalescing at my parents’ in Oxfordshire that the “doing” part of my interest got started. There is a history of labyrinths being used within the Christian tradition and while in Oxfordshire I read a book about just that. Although not religious myself the history contained therein and, in particular, the practical “this is how you create a labyrinth” appealed. Having finished the book I then enjoyed drawing out some labyrinths for the first time – and coming up with my own “step by step” which matched my own preferences for level of instruction and lent itself to the way my brain works. All while enjoying the beautiful sunshine and green space of my parents’ garden. Wonderful.
The two types of labyrinth that particularly took my interest were the Chartres style (so named as the classic example of it is found in Chartres Cathedral, France) and the classic labyrinth design. The Chartres design has a great draw for me, but what I particularly love about the classic design is how simple it is to create. Having drawn out both types on paper in that wonderful sunny field, I realised that although the Chartres design is impressive it’s also a much bigger commitment to create. The classic design was something I could keep in my head and create whenever the opportunity arose. As it did this morning.
I hadn’t been down on to the beach properly for a while and I ended up there almost by accident (I’d been clearing some wind-blown rubbish from the front of my house and took the recycling on to the Prom to the recycling bins there). I’ve drawn classic labyrinths on the sand previously and it’s very much been a discovery with each one. As I contemplated today’s, I pondered which orientation I wanted to create it in, having experienced ending up facing a direction other than that which I’d hoped for. I also trialled a new technique: previously drawn with toes, today’s labyrinth was created with my heel. Oh, and that was a definite improvement – it felt a lot more solid both in its creation and on completion.
I’ve seen a fair amount written about guiding people through labyrinths, and the art of facilitating that process. However, without a guide or facilitator I find myself simply exploring what I get from the labyrinths I create – which is brilliant. Today I found myself really slowing down just steps into the labyrinth, even considering going even slower with something called “hara walking” I learned as part of my NO HANDS training. But today didn’t seem to be the day for that (I think I’d prefer a wider labyrinth path for that one) and instead I just enjoyed wending my way around the labyrinth, pondering possibilities for sharing this strangely powerful & simple act of following a labyrinth. At the centre I found myself turning around a couple of times on the spot, waiting for the right orientation…and ended up looking past Heysham Head to the power station. Strangely apt given I’d been reading a chapter in E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful all about power. Somehow being in a labyrinth (rather than just standing on a spot in the sand without any labyrinth drawn around me) helped me to take the time that I needed in that spot – again, all part of the slowing down. My exit from the labyrinth found me “ballet walking” out (lifting my knee and foot high, pointing my toe and really intentionally placing my foot down – arms out for balance and space) with a pause here and there. It was great.
The fact that any labyrinth I create on the sand will last less than a day I find really freeing: it doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be “the one” – it’s simply “today’s”. I walked around a groyne, got to paddle in some water and realised when I’d gone back up to the Prom that I’d managed to find a fairly invisible spot for my labyrinth. Which made sense somehow. And now, sitting at home wondering what will and won’t get done today (but, let it be noted, knowing that I am in the luxurious position of not having anything that needs to be done other than looking after myself and continuing my very intentional recharging of my core energy) I feel like today’s labyrinth has somehow solidified a connection I started toying with years ago. I don’t know where next for me and my labyrinthing (although even finding some bits for this post has resulted in finding some interesting labyrinth groups online) but whatever happens next, it feels good.
NB I didn’t take a photo of today’s labyrinth – perhaps I will in future but today’s, with it’s unexpected invisibility, is for anyone who finds it in the sand and then for the sea.
June 2019 update: just found an amazing summary of the types of labyrinths here