Posts Tagged ‘walking the labyrinth’

LAB 2 2011-06-25 18.29.26 AUTO

Walking The Labyrinth, Droid Snapshots, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The July Sun boils. Tomorrow may hit 100 degrees. It’s the heart of Summer in Minnesota, when deep Winter dwellers finally allow themselves to emerge from their cabin cocoons to frolic in the grass and spend intimate time with family and friends. The shadow of the July Thunder Moon will rise at 3:54am on July 1st. This New Moon Partial Solar Eclipse in the watery depths of Cancer offers an opportunity to enhance and transform relationships, and release outdated emotional patterns that might be holding us back. This is especially true of family relationships, since the sign of Cancer is rooted in home and family ties.

The partial eclipse also opposes the expansiveness of the planet Pluto, emphasizing the need for transformation of old patterns and routines. The Midsummer eclipse is a time of healing wounds, and setting intentions that allow us to work with old habits in new ways. There will be surprises that will jolt us awake and leave an opening for the clarity we need to move forward.

Be safe and have a good July 4th Holiday. Venus transits into the sign of Cancer on July 4th, calling out the feminine. Walk a labyrinth. Pay attention to the Sun, Stars, Moon, and Sky. The Earth will love you for it. Here’s an eclipse ritual I found in Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac. I thought it might be a good way to dive into the eclipse of a Midsummer night’s dream.

 ∞ Cancer Eclipse Ritual ∞

Think of a particular relationship or issue from the past that has been lingering or holding you back. Write a letter to the person (or people) involved that relays your honest feelings and emotions. Describe how you would like this situation or issue to change and what you need to feel better about it. Then, on the day of the New Moon, go to the ocean or find a stream, lake, or other body of water where you can be relatively private. Read your letter aloud to the spirit of the water and ask this spirit to help guide your message to the right place to allow you to heal, transform, and be free of these feelings that you have been holding on to.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 30th, 2011, Eve of a New Moon in Cancer Solar Eclipse

-related to posts: ode to a crab — haiku & mandala, Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives, World Labyrinth Day, Winter Solstice — Total Eclipse Of The Moon, winter haiku trilogy, November Frost BlackBerry Moon, Winding Down — July 4th Mandalas, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), The Shape Of July — Out Of Darkness Comes Light, Here’s To Rain On The 4th Of July

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At The Labyrinth’s Center, BlackBerry Shots, Winter Solstice,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


bright Winter Solstice
Our Lady of Guadalupe
burns at the center


Post Script: Last night we broke bread at a Winter Solstice celebration with friends. Bear made an appearance; we burned last year’s Yule Tree. At the end of the drumming, a Great Horned Owl called out from over the pond through the silence. Last night was the first time people walked the labyrinth our friends created in their front yard over this year’s Spring and Summer months. It was a beautiful Winter evening. In the days before Solstice, they shoveled snow from the path; the way through the cairns was clear. What we didn’t know until we arrived was that Our Lady of Guadalupe glowed at the center. I’ll write more about the creation of their labyrinth in future posts.


Winter Solstice Fire, Walking The Labyrinth Solstice Night, BlackBerry Shots, Winter Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Winter Solstice, Monday, December 21st, 2009. Happy Birthday Grandmama Della Elise. You walked through the circle with us last night.

-related to posts: Virgin Mary Sightings, Winter Solstice — Making Light Of The Dark, “K” Is For Kramarczuk’s, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets, voyeur haiku, haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Wisdom Ways Labyrinth, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wisdom Ways Labyrinth, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s the first Saturday in May. Happy May Day weekend! Hope you got out and enjoyed World Labyrinth Day, “a global event intended to bring people from all over the planet together in celebration of the labyrinth as a symbol, a tool, a passion or a practice.” A few weeks ago, two of our friends began building a labyrinth in their front yard. I told them to be sure and document the process and to register their labyrinth at World-Wide Labyrinth Locator.

World Labyrinth Day is designed to inform and educate the public, host walks, build labyrinths, make labyrinth art and more. Part of the celebration is to invite others to “Walk as One at 1,” setting off a rolling wave of labyrinth walking as the Earth turns by walking at 1:00 p.m. in your local time zone. In Minneapolis, Central Lutheran Church had their doors open to walk their labyrinth from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The labyrinth in the photograph is the Wisdom Ways Labyrinth near the Carondelet Center at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Carondelet Center, built in 1912, is a stately brick Beaux Art landmark that originally served as the Novitiate for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. A few years ago, I walked the labyrinth there over the course of a year, a practice in all seasons, rain or shine. In April, I returned to walk after a long absence. It felt like coming home.

Here’s what the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality says about the Wisdom Ways Labyrinth:

You are invited to experience an ancient walking meditation by walking our outdoor 77-foot diameter replica of the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. Walking the labyrinth is an ancient spiritual act and a physical meditation that has been rediscovered in our time. Anyone from any tradition or spiritual path can walk into the labyrinth and, through reflecting in the present moment, benefit.

The pattern of this labyrinth is a replica of the great 42-foot labyrinth embedded in stone within the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France, southwest of Paris. There is evidence that the Chartres labyrinth was first installed between 1194 and 1220. It was used in sacred devotion to take the place of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those unable to make the actual trip. The center is the goal and is shaped like a six petal flower.

A labyrinth is an ancient circular pattern found in many cultures around the world. In its classical form, this sacred path has one concentric circular path with no possibility of going astray – unlike a maze, there are no dead-ends or false trails in a labyrinth. Labyrinths have been found in almost every spiritual tradition in the past 4000-5000 years in such areas as Egypt, Greece, Italy, France, England, Sweden, Peru and North America.

Red Converse All-Star Walks Labyrinth, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Carondelet Center In Saint Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Labyrinth Bench Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Circle Bench, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Red Converse All-Star Walks Labyrinth, Carondelet Center, Labyrinth Bench Press, Circle Bench, Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 2009, photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Labyrinths on red Ravine

-posted on red Ravine, World Labyrinth Day, May 2nd, 2009 with gratitude to Lesley for alerting us to World Labyrinth Day

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By Lesley A. Goddin

Spirit walkers. Moving slowly leaves an energy impression on the path. December 2008 © photo 2008-2009 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Spirit walkers, moving slowly leaves an energy impression on the path, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Slow or fast.

This is suddenly the question of the century for me.

I was born slow. A brown-eyed, curly-haired Taurus—stubborn, plodding (yes, it really says that in horoscope descriptions). Maybe lingering and savoring, which is why we like food so much.

My childhood was given to many daydreams and meanderings, and walks in the woods, among the poison ivy and honeysuckles and magic of light falling through green leaves. Looking and sketching. Slow thinking. One thought cascading down upon another like water tripping down levels of a rock fountain. Nourishing.

But as time went on, slow fell out of style. It was FAST! FAST! FAST! Multitask—no time for lingering or even being present. In my 30s, I actually remember sitting in my corner office on the 35th floor of a building at 52nd and Broadway in Manhattan, thinking, “I am like a well-oiled machine.” I was proud of that, proud of being able to zing from one activity to another; excited by life, excited by my ability; buzzing with importance.

Golden nuggets. As I linger in the fading light, the rocks around me turn to gold. December 2007 © photo 2007-2009 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Golden nuggets, as I linger in the fading light, the
rocks around me turn to gold, December 2007, photo
© 2007-2009 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Now I am 51. And the fast life is losing its appeal. I moved to New Mexico 14 years ago, but kept up the pace. Except now fast includes email and texting and cell phones and being online with two email accounts and several social networking sites opened at once, as I sit in my home office and work remotely editing an industry trade magazine. Fast means keeping up with it all—answering emails the second they arrive; keeping my train of thought; not finding time to declutter my house or compound the oxidation that has formed on my 14-year old car hood.

This weekend, my body rebelled. It put a knot in my chest and a gasp in my breath and jelly into my legs. I know this syndrome—overloading my nervous system with stress and busyness and then trying to clear it out with intense exercise. My wise body wasn’t having any of it. Dreams of walking and yoga and deep breathing filled my head and my online research confirmed that was just what I needed. A return to the slow.

Solar lit labyrinth. The labyrinth awaits my slow, meandering pace. July 2007 © photo 2007-2007 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Solar lit labyrinth, the labyrinth awaits my slow,
meandering pace, July 2007 photo © 2007-2009
by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

So, this is my mission now. To live in the slow. To BE slow. To BE. To savor and linger and walk just a touch slower than I know I can; to do one thing at a time; to give up worry and hurry for Lent. I am remembering who I am; I am snorting through my Taurus nostrils and stamping my bull hooves and pawing the ground in stubborn slowness and defiance of the world’s ever-increasing pace.

I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more—except I am not mad. I am sane. I am wise. I will meander through the cobblestone-and-gravel labyrinth I helped build at a local church and let God talk to me.

Tonight, out for my slow walk at dusk, I asked for Divine direction. Across the street and up in the brown foothills, movement along the trail caught my eye. A huge deer, chocolate brown against the mocha dusty trail moved with grace, white rump flashing. Then another and another—seven in all. I stopped, stood smiling, watching their meandering climb, joined by a bicyclist to witness the miracle and share small words, all a gift of choosing to be slow. And I got my answer.

Pronghorns. Not the deer I saw in the foothills, but slow walking got me close to these pronghorn antelope in the Petrified Forest in Arizona earlier this year. January 2009, photo © 2009 by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Pronghorns, slow walking got me close to these
pronghorn antelope in the Petrified Forest in Arizona
earlier this year, January 2009, photo © 2009
by Lesley Goddin. All rights reserved.

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11, and drawing and sketching since she could hold a pencil. Her penchant for observation led to her becoming a paid professional as a trade journalist, publicist and currently as an editor for TileLetter, a trade magazine for tile contractors. She has also written for Guideposts, Walls, Windows and Floors, Floor Covering Weekly, and Low Carb Energy.

Her inspired writing life centers around topics of Spirit, including several sermons and an ongoing e-newsletter called Footsteps, for members of the labyrinth community in Albuquerque, an ancient walking meditation. She is currently working on a book of labyrinth-inspired essays called Letters from the Labyrinth.

-related to Topic post WRITING TOPIC – SLOW OR FAST?

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Ghost Ranch Labyrinth, with prayer rocks under Kitchen Mesa, Ghost Ranch, NM, August 2, 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

with right foot forward
in step with the searing heat
we walk in circles

prayer for healing
prayer to Kitchen Mesa
slow walk of courage

-related to posts haiku (one-a-day), Labyrinth Walker, and labyrinth haiku.

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Swirl, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Swirl II, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Eye Of God, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Eye Of God II, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Dust Devil, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Celtic Cross, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’m cutting it close on the March mandalas! In a few hours, it will be April. Though you would not know it by the 9 inches of blizzard outside the window. The Great Round: Stage Three mandalas follow one of my favorite forms — the labyrinth.

These have been the most fun for me yet. And to my delight, Liz began hand-drawing her own mandalas in March. She has a natural sense of design and color, and creates intricate patterns with line detail more delicate than the templates.

Again, I used Crayola markers and colored pencils. Liz used Fimo modeling clay (for the snake), Uniball gel pens, glitter glue, and Crayola markers. The Stage 3 mandalas are about exploring the body and its surroundings, and organizing the information into a map of reality.

According to the book Coloring Mandalas by Susanne F. Fincher, The healing benefits of the labyrinth as mandala are:

  • creating flexibility & openness in healing old wounds
  • communicating with the Ancestors
  • contacting animal Spirit Guides
  • encouraging active searching & exploring that is not goal-directed
  • translating information from the ego into symbolic language that communicates messages from the unconscious to the Self

FIRST PAIR:  The first mandala pair is designed after M.C. Escher. They are the same mandala, photographed from different angles. The challenge of Stage 3 is to show up and keep walking, even if you don’t know final outcomes and goals.

SECOND PAIR:  The second mandala pair is also the same mandala, shot from different angles. The center rings were added in the process of coloring (the center space on the template is empty white space). Stage 3, the Labyrinth, includes experiences of divergent realities and nonordinary states of consciousness. Shamans cultivate their abilities to move in and out of this stage at will.

THIRD PAIR:  The two mandalas in the 3rd pair are different templates, the Spiral and the Celtic Cross, often designed and used by medieval Irish monks. In the Celtic knot, what appears to be a single endless meander is actually two separate pathways, crossing many times but never joining each other.

Spring Dance, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Chromosoma, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Diptyph, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Turtle Bread, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spring Dance, Chromosoma, Diptych, Turtle Bread, hand-drawn labyrinths created by Liz, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The four mandalas above are the beautiful hand-drawn labyrinths that Liz created for The Great Round – Stage 3. She agreed to let me photograph them from her sketchbook and post them with the March mandalas. The coiled snake below is 3-D, made out of clay. You can see names, titles, and more about each one if you click on the image.

Mandalas have been used in Christian churches in the form of stained glass windows and labyrinths since the 12th century, and their centers are often occupied by a mystic rose representing Spirit coming into matter. Walking the labyrinth is a metaphysical pilgrimage, and many travel to Chartres Cathedral in France to walk and meditate on the medieval labyrinth there. The grass labyrinth I walked last year at Sisters of Carondelet in St. Paul is based on the Chartres design. More mandalas to come in April!

Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Snakey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, March 31st, 2008

-related to posts:  Coloring Mandalas, The Void – January Mandalas, Bliss — February Mandalas, and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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Skin Of A River Birch, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Skin Of A River Birch, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

haiku (one-a-day)

This post was created for a very specific purpose: writing a haiku a day. Some of our readers have expressed an interest in haiku. And some have left haiku in our comments on various posts. I wanted to create a space for our readers to come back to, anytime they wanted, and drop in a daily haiku.

Last year for the 4 season Writing Intensive in Taos, we read Clark Strand’s, Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. It is a book I go back to often to support the practice of writing.

Clark Strand is a former Zen Buddhist monk. In 1996 he left his position as senior editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review to write and teach full time. In Seeds from a Birch Tree, he describes haiku as the following:

A haiku is a seventeen-syllable poem about the season. Arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, and balanced on a pause, a haiku presents one event from life happening now. However much we may say about haiku, its history or its various schools, it is difficult to go beyond these three simple rules: form, season, and present mind.

loving its whiteness
I walk around the birch tree
to the other side

haiku practice

When we did our post a few days ago on the release of Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend from Far Away, one of our regular readers, breathepeace, made several comments on haiku as a practice:

Natalie introduced me to haiku poetry. This year, I am committed to write one each day (or more if I choose).

Haiku is a precise way of working with words and I have found that it does lead me to other writing: poems, essays, etc. I’ve also learned that it helps me to focus on detail, finding just the right word (with the right number of syllables!) and, yes, it is a bite-sized writing practice. I’m happy to hear others exploring and playing with the haiku form.

According to Clark Strand, all you need to write haiku is some familiarity with the form and a simple notebook:

The correct way to use a haiku diary is just to be very free and open. Don’t set a single format. Don’t organize the book five haiku to a page or limit it to poems and dates, excluding prose. You may even find that you jot down an occasional phone number or appointment in its pages when no other book is handy, or — if you are an artist — a sketch of some interesting scene.

Write down your haiku just as they come to mind, without too much deliberation over whether they are good or bad. Improvement takes place slowly, so set them down the way they come and stay alert for the next opportunity to write.

Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

haiku walk

In the summer of 2006, Natalie took us on a field trip to some of her favorite places at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. We wrote, swam, and took a haiku walk up Box Canyon. For me, Ghost Ranch was one of the most inspiring trips of the year. Natalie had us follow Clark Strand’s outline for walking and writing haiku:

In the simplest form, writing haiku is closer to collecting shells than searching for the proper word. When you go to the shore to collect shells, you just walk along in a relaxed way, now and then stooping down to look at something interesting or beautiful. Sometimes you pick up a fragment for its shape or color, and sometimes a fully formed shell. If you take a daily haiku walk in this same spirit, soon you will find that haiku come all by themselves.

Loosely, Strand’s haiku walk goes something like this:


  • make sure your purpose is only to walk, to be outside in nature
  • you’re not trying to get somewhere, or even to write haiku
  • relax into the feeling of being outdoors
  • notice weather, plants, animals, but keep walking


  • let your body loosen and relax
  • let nature displace the ordinary day to day concerns
  • take time to pause over things that strike you as beautiful
  • pauses create space in your life for something to enter

end (beginner’s mind)

  • let that something come in
  • take your notebook out of your pocket and carry it in your hand
  • the space you created in your life a few minutes ago now becomes the space to write a poem

Last year, I walked a local labyrinth in St. Paul to write haiku. But it can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood. Or walking around the block. After a while you won’t need to structure your walks anymore. You’ll know the right moment to write.

haiku – looking out, looking in

Haiku as a poetry form provides a way to be present to the outside, in order to go deeper within. Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, is known for his haiku. In the year before he died, he wrote the following verse:

Chrysanthemums bloom
in a gap between the stones
of a stonecutter’s yard

Near the end of Seeds from a Birch Tree, Strand speaks of Basho’s greatest work, The Narrow Road to the Deep North:

Haiku, in many ways the most outward, most concrete, and most perpetually grounded form of poetry, is also the most inward. It requires a lot of inner work.

Basho titled his greatest work Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North). Basho traveled a long way north on a journey with his student and fellow poet Sora and kept a diary of his travels. The diary contains some of his most famous haiku.

The way north is the way within. This kind of understanding comes when we realize that in looking out, we are also looking in. We learn it by looking carefully at the world.

Basho said:  There is one thing which flows through all great art, and that is a mind to follow nature, and return to nature.

Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.          Skin Of A River Birch, August 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Feel free to drop a haiku into the comments in this post, any time, day or night. Tomorrow, or 52 days from now. It doesn’t matter.

Write a haiku a day for a month. If you wish, break structure and form. Be playful with your writing. With practice, you’ll find your way home.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

-one writer’s review of Seeds from a Birch Tree, Hyperion, 1997 (including more haiku from the book)Tony Lipka on Clark Strand’s Haiku of Mindfulness

-short bio of Clark Strand: World Wisdom

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1567, from Anglo-Fr. memorie “note, memorandum, something written to be kept in mind” (1427), from L. memoria (see memory). Meaning “person’s written account of his life” is from 1673. The pl. form memoirs “personal record of events,” first recorded 1659. 
                                             – from the Online Etymology Dictionary


I’ve been thinking about memoir, the word, the difficulty people have pronouncing it. If you write creative nonfiction, chances are you read memoir. I am reading Bone Black, the bell hooks memoir about growing up in the South. Reading other writers jogs the memory.

My thoughts are pulled to the South because my step-mother in South Carolina passed away a few days ago. I wasn’t close to her, and had not seen her in a few years. Yet when I heard the news, I was flooded with memories of the time I spent with her.

That is the power of memoir.

I have a great sadness at her passing, though our relationship wasn’t as much about the present, as it was the past. Memoir is about the past. It revives and documents the history of living. History is full of contradiction.

Some of the sadness I feel is for my step-dad, who I was very close to as a child. In honoring his loss, I am sad, too. But the grief for me is deeper.

The most vivid memories of my step-mother are from the mid-sixties, my preteen years, a tumultuous time when my younger sister, two brothers, and I were uprooted and moved to the North. It was a difficult transition, and painful to be distanced from my family in the South – the only family I had ever known.

Looking back, it turned out for the best. I was exposed to a whole new culture in the North, different ways of thinking, talking, and living. I met my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Juarez, who made me read Dickens, believed in me, and inspired me to write. My experiences grew richer. All of them have led me here.

It has been 4 years since I’ve seen my step-mother; it was the year I quit my job and started writing. My last memories of her are leaning back in her rocker recliner, laughing and joking with us kids. We were all grown, well into middle age, attending a short reunion a few miles south of the border river that flows between Georgia and South Carolina – the Savannah.

Grandkids and great-grandkids were running, dancing, and jumping across the dark brick family room between rounds of lazy adult chatter and a noisy TV. I used to watch The Trooper Terry Show in that room, on a black and white with rabbit ears. It was the same 202 address, with the same aluminum mailbox, that received my letters to my step-dad in back slanted 6th grade handwriting.

The letters would soon drop off in 7th grade, a direct correlation to the rising teenage anger that welled up inside me. I attended New Cumberland Junior High in Pennsylvania and was teased mercilessly for my Southern accent. It wasn’t easy to change the way I talked. They might as well have asked me to cut off my right index finger. Yet, eventually, I did lose the accent. And ties to my Southern roots became confusing and disjointed.

It would take me a number of years to integrate and appreciate my past. That’s what memoir’s for. And in a few months, I’ll be travelling with my Mother to the South to begin researching my book.

Old endings. New beginnings.

I have done a lot of work since the sixties. A lot of letting go. On one of the last visits with my step-mother and step-dad, they told me how different I was from that dark, brooding teenager that sat in the corner rocker and never spoke. Those were their last memories of me.

When you don’t see distant relatives much, you tend to freeze them in place, lock them into distance and time. They are who they were the last time you visited them. But it works both ways. I am frozen, too – a still-frame snapshot in their memories.

Letting go is a great gift. It allows me to make room for all the good stuff. My memories may only be trinkets, shards of 40 year old bone, unearthed from iron-rich banks of Georgia clay that used to muddy my corduroys as a kid.

But my memories are mine. I choose to remember my step-mother for all the good things she gave the world, for what I loved about her:

  • Southern manners, the way she turned a phrase, the lawdy mercies! and come here, shugah’s, and my pet name for Liz, Shug
  • her warm smile, the way she laughed, a loud cackle that could fill a room
  • Southern cooking, buttery mashed potatoes with thick gravy, piping hot cornbread that melts in your mouth, spinach greens with just the right touch of vinegar and salt, fresh turkey and cornbread dressing, sweet iced tea, and a huge vat of homemade banana pudding. That girl could cook!
  • sipping 7up through a straw with me that time I was sick and laid up on the couch
  • she liked to go bare foot, paint her toenails bright red, and always wore flip-flops
  • she loved Granny and Pop the way I loved Granny and Pop
  • she loved the youngin’s, the babies, and hugged them every chance she got
  • she loved my step-dad, who I love, too

I live in the Midwest now. I walked the labyrinth on Monday and thought about how swiftly a little girl can shoot from 11 to 50, with barely a sneeze in between. My step-mother’s passing marks another fading link to my Southern childhood, roots whose stories die with the people who planted them.

I don’t remember the last time I openly grieved. We live in a youth-driven culture that does not emotionally or financially support taking quiet time to honor loss. But writing is a constant process of letting go.

It’s important to live well. Each time someone close to me passes on, it reminds me that this one life is precious. And the threat of death makes you want to live just a little bit harder.

In memory of my step-mother, Betty, who travelled into Spirit, Wednesday, March 28th, 2007, and is being laid to rest as I post this.

For all that has passed, and all that has been forgiven.

Friday, March 30th, 2007

-related to post, Labyrinth Walker

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i come here often
to ponder higher learning
ice like busted glass

crinkly brown leaves glow
first bare feet of the season
away from center

cool black mud follows
the ripple of blowing hair
under secret feet

out of season wind
shadowboxing the bare elm
blending crabapple

winding in and out
green spouts under black pant cuff
gnat, a rising star

twisted shadow branch
you can walk any season
while going nowhere

juicy green center
the perimeter is dry
sweat between my legs

grubby spring tadpole
dark undertones on the lake
snap to attention

winter is over
from crumbling insanity
springs eternal life

humbled by the saints
who walked tight curves before me
moon high in the sky

talking to Louis
in lotus blossom petals
Chartres calls me home

sun hot on white face
naked feet to unthawed ground
mosquito flits by

near the end of March
how bad i need a haircut
stepping in the door

wavy grass petals
undefined by crooked lines
spikes from a spiral

tennis ball popping
off a catgut racket head
damp earth underfoot

rings of blanket ice
i miss the snowy season
the itch in my nose

lone fly buzzes by
a leaf between pasty toes
yells, “March 25th!”

I stopped at Porky’s
remembered the fire pig year
grass grows as I walk

on the edge again
a stubborn leaf pricked my sole
out came a reindeer

a woman walks near
fire red pants & orange striped top
she wants what i have

drive peace & spread love
dare it to follow you here
chasing a faux tale

part of my practice
mixes raw heat with cold fire
a mother’s last wish

-haiku from labyrinth walk, March 26th, 2007

-related to post, Spring Walk and Labyrinth Walker

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Labyrinth - March 26th, 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved                  

spring walk, March 26th, 2007, entrance to labyrinth, St. Paul, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-related to post, labyrinth walker

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I walked the labyrinth yesterday. It was 83 degrees in the Twin Cities on a March 26th. Shirts were off, motorcycles tuned, potholes exposed. The temperature threw me. Three weeks ago, we were knee deep in the worst blizzard in 25 years.

I took off my Land’s End quilted moccasins, stripped off my wool socks, rolled up my pant cuffs, and started walking. The cool mud under my feet grounded me. Twenty minutes to the center. Fifteen minutes out.

The journey out is always faster. I don’t know why.

I sat at the center of 6 lotus drops with undefined edges. Growing blades of grass mark the petals in other seasons. But we are only a few days on this side of Spring.

I wrote haiku into a Supergirl pocket tablet with the new Space Pen Liz gave me last week. And then I plopped on my back, legs straight out, and stared at the sky. The moon was backlit against a crisp New Mexico blue. I snapped a few photographs from my position on the ground. I had a thought of David Bowie – planet earth to moon, planet earth to moon.

I was thinking about my step-mother in South Carolina as I walked. She’s been sick, bedridden for some time. My brother called from Pennsylvania on Sunday to tell me that my step-dad wanted me to know – her time may be short. I prayed for her as I walked. But if it is her time to let go, I prayed for the strength it would take to surrender.

With the cool earth at my back, in the center of 41 feet of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet labyrinth, my brother called on the cell. I had forgotten to turn it off. I debated whether or not to answer it. But I knew what he was calling about. So I flipped open the phone.

I told him where I was. He smiled; I could hear it in his voice. We talked for only a few minutes. But the connection felt true.

I sat a few minutes longer, observing a twisted shadow in the distance across the lawn. The walk out moved quickly. I stepped. I wrote. I swerved out of the lines to let a woman pass on the rutted path. She nodded and whispered, “Thank you.”

Each toe dropped to the earth in tune. I can’t tell you how good it felt to have bare feet on earth. In the space between winter and spring, I had both feet firmly planted on the ground. It was the first time in weeks.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

-related to post, Labyrinth

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Last week there were cracked pocks of ice along the trail in the park near my house. This week, no snow remains. Only dead dry crinkled brown with lime green shooting through the cracks. The ice skating pond across the street is almost dry. There are pools of water waiting to soak into permafrosted soil. I am lonely. I am lonely most days. I was writing about this in another practice this morning. I think it’s part of a contemplative life, this loneliness.

I want to go walk the labyrinth. I wonder if the snow has melted from her curves. I need to go pick up my taxes and mail them. I want to run wild. It’s not possible. I have obligations and responsibilities. Next weekend, I’m going up to Duluth with Liz. It will be thawing on the North Shore, too.

A photo of Wordraw standing near Caffe Tazza flicked across the screensaver as I was writing. I briefly glanced up and there he was on his cell phone to a friend with a newborn. I remember the lady bugs in the window of the Taos storefront. And how warm the sun was on my face. Spring comes to Taos earlier than here in the North. I wonder if it’s the way the ground freezes real hard here. And tumbles out of itself in gusty March winds.

It doesn’t feel like a typical March. Seventies yesterday. We opened the windows and a cross breeze blew through the house most of the day. I am weary. And need a break. Next weekend away will feel good to me. I am noticing that I am ready to make a life of this writing thing. Not really the way I thought it would look. I might never get to do just one thing around writing. It may always be this combination of darts in and out of the real world and the fictional one in my mind.

I was perusing creative writing blogs this morning. I saw one in Portuguese, one in Swedish. I opened them but I couldn’t read them. I simply stared at the characters on the page, hoping something would sink through to me. I am that connected to someone who speaks Portuguese or lives in Sweden. And they are that close to me. I shrink when I realize that they will probably be able to read my blog. Because English is the dominant culture language.

I’ve been reintroduced to dominant culture thinking through Riane Eisler and Jean Shinoda Bolen and Alice Walker in the last month. I listen. I read. But all I have to do is go walk the labyrinth and the barriers melt away. The Spring thaw. Because that’s what happens with archetypes. All people can relate to them. The universal language.

But I’m supposed to be writing about spring break. When I was in college, we didn’t take the kind of wild spring breaks I see on TV these days. Thank goodness for small favors, to quote my mother. We might head over to a remote beach at the ocean for a day and walk the boardwalk. Back then I owned a mint green Ford Econoline van with my lover. I worked at an Alert gas station in the summers. Or pumped gas for semi’s.

It’s hard to remember spring breaks. Everything seemed to run right into fall and winter.

Monday, March 26th, 2007

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Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, from Alice Walker’s, The Same River Twice

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, from Alice Walker’s book, “The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult”


I walked the labyrinth many times last year as part of my practice. In the year-long writing Intensive the two of us attended in Taos with Natalie Goldberg, we were encouraged to keep and log our practice. Every day – as part of the structure of our writing.

Practice included anything that anchored, grounded, or sustained us. It could be writing, slow walking, drawing, photographing, swimming, or sitting. I chose to continue my daily writing practice. And walk the grass labyrinth at The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul.

I walked in every season. I carried a pocket notebook and Space Pen and sometimes as I walked I’d jot down haiku, page after page after page. It poured out of me. I can’t explain why. Except to say that the labyrinth is an archetype. It is not unique to any one person or culture.

What makes the labyrinth so powerful is that many have walked it before me. And many will walk it to come. We all walk together. The QuoinMonkey avatar is an image of The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. But not just any image.

Many years ago, before I ever set foot on a labyrinth, I was drawn to the symbol and scanned it from the front of one of Alice Walker’s books – The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult. The book is about the challenging journey of turning her book, The Color Purple, into a blockbuster movie. It is a book about process. I recommend reading it.

I saw Alice Walker at Borders in 2004. Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart had been released. She came to speak at Block E on Hennepin Avenue in the small first floor café of the bookstore where I worked. The place was packed. I sat on the floor at her feet. I could not believe my good fortune. She is one of my mentors.

I don’t know her personally, except to shake her hand when she signed my book. But I’ve read everything she’s ever written. For over 25 years, she’s inspired me through her work. Her books were my mentors. I even had the chance to tell her that. But that’s another story.

Inside the front cover of The Same River Twice, Alice quotes another writer, Jungian psychologist, Jean Shinoda Bolen. As fate would have it, I saw Jean speak at Amazon Women’s Bookstore in Minneapolis a few weeks before I attended the last Taos Intensive in February 2007.

I told Jean I was thinking about teaching writing but I was scared. She said if it is meaningful to me, fun, and motivated from a place of love, I should do it; it would energize me and give far more than it would take. Then she smiled and signed my book. When I turned to the back cover, there was a quote from Alice Walker.

If you’re a writer, I don’t have to tell you that everything is connected. You already know.

Practice. And keep walking.



Labyrinth excerpt from Alice Walker’s book, The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult, 1996


Once we enter the labyrinth, ordinary time and distance are immaterial, we are in the midst of a ritual and a journey where transformation is possible; we do not know how far away or close we are to the center where meaning can be found until we are there; the way back is not obvious and we have no way of knowing as we emerge how or when we will take the experience back into the world until we do. There are no blind ends in a labyrinth, the path often doubles back on itself, the direction toward which we are facing is continually changing, and if we do not turn back or give up we will reach the center to find the rose, the Goddess, the Grail, a symbol representing the sacred feminine. To return to ordinary life, we must again travel the labyrinth to get out, which is also a complex journey for it involves integrating the experience into consciousness, which is what changes us.


Journal excerpt from The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult, 1996


It is a blustery partly sunny day in the country. It rained all night, which should be good for the trees. I’ve still got a dozen trees and shrubs to plant. But I spent four hours weeding the garden yesterday; after feeling depressed and as if I had no support. But really, I have the support of the Universe. And if I meditated more, I would feel less alone.

-from Alice Walker journal entry, March/April 1984, a “strong” period


Saturday, March 17th, 2007

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