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Walking in Circles

Walking in Circles

Mazes never beckon me; labyrinths do. Located off busy highway exits, or located in out of the way places, mazes are designed to confuse. With their high walls and nonsensical paths, they are for getting lost in. Labyrinths are spiritual spaces often laid out right in public areas. They follow a proscribed path even if it can’t be easily discerned. Meditative, they are designed to help you find yourself. Or at least momentary peace and calm.

A skinny mile from our house, a labyrinth sits on the grounds of an interfaith center. I had never visited despite meaning to, despite driving by it at least twice a month on my way to somewhere else. You know how it is; we need out-of-towners to get us to experience life just beyond our backyards. In this case the out-of-towner was my daughter, home for a long holiday weekend.

Driving home from the mall after a restock-the-basics shopping trip, I made a spur-of-the-moment turn into the interfaith center’s parking lot. There were no other cars but ours. The labyrinth sat empty, expectantly; its brick patterns complex and inviting. The afternoon was cool; the mist in the air absorbed much of the street noise, cocooning Emma and me in quiet. We got out and started walking.

I entered the labyrinth first, Emma following at a slower pace. A quarter of the way in we laughed, realizing what a precise metaphor it was for our relationship. Sometimes we walked side-by-side, close enough to touch fingers. A few more paces and we suddenly found ourselves on opposite sides of the labyrinth, able only to wave and call out to each other. Then back again, passing each other face-to-face before continuing on in our own direction. I tried to trace the path visually, trying to discern how we would end up in the center, but it just wasn’t possible. There were too many turns and switchbacks. The labyrinth offered up another lesson: keep your eye on the present; the future will take care of itself.

The mother-daughter relationship is complex, its path marked and marred with any manner of confusion; many times it feels more like a maze and we wonder how will we ever find our way out. It can seem like we do nothing but go in circles, ending up in the same place (again!) despite all attempts to the contrary. But we keep walking the path, head down, following our feet, hopeful that if we just keep going we will get somewhere eventually.

Emma met me in the center. We embraced. We jumped around, crossed the lines, played in the shadows and returned to center. All around us brick patterns spun out in whorls and waves. Standing there with my daughter at the center of this brick universe, I felt a strong sense of the infinite. Sometimes going in circles is very best thing to do. Emma left the labyrinth first, leaving me to follow.

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