Follow me on my journey as a writer/artist newly transplanted into the utopian arts community of Arden, DE. Not everyone can make the move to an intentional community. My hope with this blog is not to demystify Arden so much as to share what it is like to have a daily life and creative practice here so that others may find ways to bring bits of Utopia (intentional living) into their own lives.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Walking the Labyrinth: A Heroine's Journey
Just as I found out I was pregnant at age 27 with our second child, I landed myself in a group of magical women (and several highly evolved men) at our church. We had joined the UU Church of Lancaster when I was pregnant with our first child for the sake of raising our kids within a faith tradition, but little did I know that I would be the one reaping the benefits. I was taking some courses and doing some discovery work with the divine feminine-- which is a very empowering subject to undertake while pregnant. I should have guessed that I was incubating a girl child, the first in many generations on my husband's side. All of a sudden I had sacred chants and totems to guide me through. The women I met through my studies were real guides in that they modeled Goddess light for me. In a society that is still patriarchal in nature, it was truly eye-opening and a major point on my personal path. If you have studied the Heroine's Journey (the feminist response to Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey), this would be the part where I met my allies: both human and supernatural.
Image of a seven-circuit labyrinth at night
One of these allies is Sarah Preston. She, along with many of the others I met, got together for the purpose of making a labyrinth for the church. I had not experienced labyrinths before, and I did not join the efforts of this group even though it included many of my new friends. I was thirty minutes from our church home with two small children, a full-time job, and a husband who travelled with his job. I do remember being excited about what they were doing and couldn't wait until their big project was unveiled. In the meantime, I bought some books on labyrinths to understand more. Labyrinths are unicursal paths (one way in and one way out) that are used in many cultures and religions (independently of one another) as a walking meditation. Labyrinths can be found in French cathedrals, Native American cultures, Scandinavian countries etc. Many incorporate sacred geometry into their design. For instance, a classic labyrinth has 7 circuits which correspond to musical notes on a scale, major chakras in the body, colors of the rainbow. Finally, the canvas labyrinth, a painted replica of the 12-circuit one in Chartres Cathedral was finished and open for walks. I took my mom to one of the early open walks. She was hooked as well. It became a catalyst for many outings together.
From then on, I looked for more labyrinths to walk. If I had to guess, I'd say I've walked well over 50 different labyrinths in about a dozen different states. Sarah Preston had a herb labyrinth in her back yard. From that labyrinth, she started her business Herbs From the Labyrinth in which she used the herbs to make lotions, salves, and other products, most of which had healing properties. Sarah is a healer. (You can read about her here.) Her knowledge of the body and natural cures is extensive, and I've consulted her on many issues. While I lived in Lancaster County, I taught monthly journal writing classes in her shop and even co-convened a couple all-day chakra workshops directly from her garden labyrinth in conjunction with a local kundalini yoga teacher.
Fast forward fifteen years. When the time came that Mark and I knew we had to move out of Lancaster County, I went on a writing retreat to Omega Institute in October of 2012. We didn't know where we were going to move, and I was pretty apprehensive about the mystery of our future, but every day I was at Omega, I walked the labyrinth on the grounds. I got still with myself as I walked the circuits, and let them do their magic. I didn't force it, but in the calm stillness I had glimpses of what I wanted my new life to include. By early December 2012, Mark and I were ready to call our realtor friend Cynthia to let her know of our decision to move to Arden, DE.
Art Map Poster of the Ardens with watermark
The night we saw our house the first time (we had signed an agreement before actually seeing it) and met the previous owners, we sat around the dining room table toasting with champagne and eating chocolate chip cookies. We discovered that the del Tufos were UU's also and that Keri was also raised in Lancaster County. That night, I told the group that Arden needs a labyrinth. I truly believed that walking the Omega labyrinth had directed me to live in this place. Keri loved the idea and enthusiastically agreed to help bring it into being. From that cold spring day in 2013, we allowed the idea to percolate. In June of this year we brought our plans of an Arden Labyrinth to the village meeting (to be voted upon in September).
I write this blog today because of two very exciting things that will happen at the Arden Fair on September 5th. The first is that I will be selling art maps that I designed for $20. All proceeds from these maps will help to fund the labyrinth project. Keri and I will be selling them out of Linda Toman's ceramics booth overlooking the Moonlight Theater. But I am also really excited to announce that Sarah Preston is coming to the Arden Fair as a vendor in the Peddlers, Potions, and Practitioners Marketplace at the Buzz Ware Community Center. She will have her full line of herbal products including bug repellent, lotions, baskets, etc. If she brings a tenth of the selection she has in Radiance, her Lancaster Shop, Arden is in for a treat. I hope that people will stop and say hello and make her journey worthwhile so that she will come again and again.
The labyrinth is a metaphor for our life's journey as it bends on itself and repeats themes, circling in on answers, asking more questions in the process. I am hopeful about the prospects of building a labyrinth here, especially since the energy seems to be bubbling in that direction. And while we have not reached our goal yet, I am thankful for my many mentors and guides and who have bought me to this place at this time in my life.