I recently went in search of a labyrinth I had read about, somewhere out at Land’s End. I’d set outlooking for it in the past, down the winding path adjacent to the Palace of The Legion of Honor, through the wind-swept Cypress trees, up and down steps that cut through fragrant groves of eucalyptus, always stunned at the breath-taking views and amazed that this wild-feeling place is part of San Francisco, but never finding the mysterious labyrinth. This time, I asked directions. Turn right at the sign to Mile Rock Beach, but don’t go to the beach; instead veer right at the fork and follow a narrow path down a steep cliff. Sometimes asking directions pays off.
The first glimpse of this piled stone labyrinth—laid out on a disk-shaped ledge sitting over the sea—feels like discovering an ancient ruin, a remnant of some pagan ritual practiced centuries ago. I later learned that this labyrinth was built by Eduardo Aquilera for the Spring Equinox in 2004; it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since.
Whether it be inside Grace Cathedral, outside on the plaza in front of Grace Cathedral, (once, with a convention of clowns!) in a wooded valley in the East Bay, at Chartres in France, or on piece of land jutting out above the ocean like an ancient landing pad, walking the labyrinth, is always a journey into self. For me, at least, I always have the sense that I am somehow tracing a timeless patterned landscape inside my brain, spiraling in and further in until reaching the moment at the center where everything momentarily grows still. It’s a place of total peace. A place to stop and breath and say thank you. While the journey in is often a solemn one, the journey back out back out into the world is joyful with invisible and unspoken treasures tucked inside secret pockets.
I have a small wooden labyrinth that sits on my desk that I trace to calm myself when the writing demons are on my shoulders, shrieking at me, telling me everything I’m doing is wrong. It’s been getting a lot of use lately, and has lead me to at least one revelation of why the particular revision I’ve been working on has been so difficult: I am used to working in a linear way—something happens, which causes a reaction that makes something else happen—it’s like climbing a stone laden path up a mountain. But moving forward on a path that stretches forward just hasn’t been working; I’ve continually found myself circling around and around, trying to figure out the right way to get into this story. I finally realized that the linear method wasn’t the way to proceed with this particular problem because I have a character who doesn’t have the information she needs to move forward, and I can’t just hand it to her. She has to find the clues on her own and actually needs to move in pretty tight circles for a while, into herself and into the heart of the story, before she can start to figure out what to do.
Spring Equinox is in just a few days (!) I think it’s the perfect time for my character and I to walk the labyrinth together for a while.
Take Good Care,
(And this is Emma, who always walks with me)