The Labyrinth That Wasn’t


It may be less apparent on here than in my home but I have become obsessed extremely interested in labyrinths and praying them. I’ve always been a fan of mazes, whether on paper placemats in restaurants or as part of playing Dungeons & Dragons, sketching out the corridors of some space hoping not to meet any deadly monsters. My return to labyrinths began quite by accident at a church women’s breakfast meeting. There was a courtyard with a labyrinth at that church. I was intrigued although I didn’t walk that one at the time. I did plan a prayer one for during our summer vacation, and that was the first one I actually prayed through. The previous three were simply to get a feel for the twists and turns, plan out when prayers were appropriate, and along the way, before I had even prayed on the labyrinthine path I had the flicker of a book (as if I needed any more prompts in my writing notebook).

I will be writing more about my experiences and sharing photographs of the wonderful places I’ve discovered. I’ve planned a few day-long road trips to visit others and we’re returning to Canada where I’ll be able to pilgrimage to and pray at least one, possibly two more. In the meantime, I found the listing for one in a nearby city. My husband has been asking to go to this city to do some shopping, and I’ve been reluctant, but after finding the labyrinth, I acquiesced.

We arrived at what was a main building in the city (I’d rather not name the city). Built in 1869, remodeled in the Nineteen-Teens, this Classical Revival was left to the city in 1932, and was added, in 2001, to the National Register of Historic Places. The bones of the place were more or less sturdy, and not knowing anything about the area it’s possible it’s undergoing another much needed renovation. The gardens were reminiscent of a Roman style, possibly because of the urns and rectangular bordered areas. For a city building, it had a surprising amount of green space.

There were stone steps, a patio, a portico, hedges, urns, and all sorts of what would be lovely grounds if they’d been kept up. This building is one that is actually in use, so it’s level of dilapidation surprised me. There were several areas where I was standing that were relatively high up and there were no fences or gates to keep me from falling over, about one story down,  and really getting hurt. There was one set of stone steps that were overgrown and almost entirely broken. Had I gone down them, I would have surely fallen. To be clear, there were no signs to stay off the property, no caution tape at the top of the broken stairs or around a very large hole in the ground that would fit a small child. In fact, in everything I had read, the public is encouraged to visit and stroll the grounds, and the day I went was a Sunday, so the building itself was closed for business.

Some views of the property around the city building where the labyrinth should have been. (c)2019

My husband parked and waited until I could find the labyrinth so he could continue on to his shopping and I’d be left in blissful solitude for about an hour. As I wandered around searching for the labyrinth, and taking photos of the space, I’d get an occasional text from my family asking if I was sure it was here with the final text a satellite photo from my daughter’s SnapChat showing NO labyrinth.
I was sure. It’s listed on the online locator. There was a picture of it.

But at this point, even I was becoming bewildered and a little concerned that my information was incorrect. There were only so many large flat-ish spaces on this property that weren’t already designated as parking lots and I still hadn’t found the labyrinth.

How could a labyrinth of this size (56 feet in diameter) just disappear?! It had to be here somewhere. It was on the lawn on the south side. Was I on the south side?

I found a shady spot to think, and then did my own googling: city, state, building name, labyrinth.

An article came up from 2016. I had to read it twice because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

The labyrinth itself was put in in 2013 by some townspeople with permission and blessing from the mayor’s office. There was also a garden with phrases and positive thoughts for peace. People used it. As an aside, in my case, I planned a whole day around it: visit the labyrinth, pray there, go shopping at a variety of local stores, have dinner.

The article continued: When the new mayor took office in 2016, one of his first “priorities” was removing the labyrinth. He didn’t state his intention prior to this, he didn’t speak to the people who volunteered and spent their time and energy installing it. He was asked and stated that it had nothing to do with any religious aspects that people may have related to the labyrinth (like my intention to pray, although not to leave anything physical behind). No one had complained about it. He just didn’t think it should be there, it wasn’t appropriate, although he didn’t specify what was inappropriate about it, and so he, as mayor, was removing it.

I was flabbergasted. I was angry.

Why was its removal necessary? Let me rephrase that: why did the mayor think its removal was necessary? Was it just simply an act of power? “I can do it, so I will?” I don’t know. Any other information I found was a repetition of the original article I found.

And now I’m sad.

I spent all morning yesterday looking online for a close labyrinth that I could go to, and give myself a fresh outlook. I feel as though I was mourning this missing one. It took me until early afternoon to reach that head-space where I wanted to walk intentionally; prayerfully. I returned to that first one; the one I found accidentally; the one that set me on this never-ending and winding road, and the timing was right. However, I still miss the one that wasn’t there.

The place where I ended up the next day. (c)2019

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