Early on in the pandemic, when we’d just begun the lockdown with work places shutting down, restaurants closed, and schools closing, we were only just getting used to having the kids at home, shopping once a week, avoiding people as much as possible, including even our son who lived on his own, plus being in a constant low level state of anxiety, keeping ongoing lists in my head, living, breathing, reading, and writing everything I could about coronavirus 20/7 with four hours leftover for sleep. Often, I couldn’t get through that minimum of four hours. I tried watching the White House’s coronavirus briefings; I thought they would be useful and informative. I thought they would quell my anxiety of those early days of unknown. My priest called them “dark days of confusion,” and they truly were. We’re still in them sometimes now. Those briefings didn’t help; they left me with higher levels of anxiety.
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.
September 11th is one of those days that will remain with people for as long as they live. To me I imagine this is how witnesses to Pearl Harbor felt in those first few decades. My witnessing was on television, and knowing friends who were there and who survived as well as personally knowing someone who knew someone who didn’t woven with my own history of life in New York and Long Island (who disproportionately lost a significant amount of firefighters) really affected me in ways that I believe the rest of the country can’t even fathom.
On that day, we had just returned home from New York and Long Island. We traveled under a similar clear blue sky and looked from the bridge towards the Twin Towers which could be easily seen. The next morning the television was on, and our door was open to the neighborhood; to anyone walking by who wanted to glance in at our TV and get a quick update. It was surreal.
We spent days, weeks even, glued to the television, at that time thinking that more survivors could be found. We watched and mourned, tears easily coming without warning all throughout that time. I remember that entire first year of suddenly breaking into bouts of crying and flinching every time I drove by the nearby airport when a plane was taking off or landing, fear paralyzing my driving for a split second that the plane was low in the sky.
That first anniversary was my son’s first year of public school: kindergarten. I felt that they schools, especially New York schools, should have taken the first anniversary off. We kept him home that day. The three of us went to the State Museum in the capital of Albany and looked at the exhibit with other likeminded, numb, silent except for some quiet weeping New Yorkers. We stood by the chain-link fence with missing posters signs and ribbons, photos and other memorials. We stood in horror and sorrow at the fire truck crushed under the collapse and debris of the formerly magnificent structures known as the World Trade Center. We moved from one thing to the next until we’d seen all we could.
In subsequent years, we’ve done different things. Our kids continue to go to school, and this is the first year that our children will learn about Nine-Eleven. My daughter who wasn’t born in 2001 is in her last year of middle school. My oldest son who was there with us at five years old is now a volunteer fire fighter.
I did not want the nonsense of this present Administration to have anything to do with yesterday. I stayed off of Twitter, and avoided any political content until the evening and after hearing what happened in North Carolina, I was very glad that I made that choice.
Instead, I began my day with Mass, where our priest was celebrating a couple’s sixtieth anniversary of marriage. They renewed their vows. There was one woman present who lost her son on 9/11. The tollling of the church bells at the moments the planes hit the Towers was profound and solitary and emotional. Fr. J gave me two words to take with me yesterday morning: peace & justice.
I drove from there to the Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville, New York to walk and pray the labyrinth there. It was a wonderful experience. As I sat in the middle of the center and prayed, again I knew I had made the right choice. On the way out, I was in time to see the Erie Canal Lock #5 in action as the lock filled with water, raising what appeared to be a small boat but wasn’t. As the couple rose to my eye level, we greeted each other and talked briefly before the gates of the lock opened and they sailed north.
From there, I went to Cracker Barrel for no other reason than it was on the way home, and I enjoyed a quiet lunch by myself and did some writing.
In my small ways, I honored the day, and kept it solemn in a way that worked for me. On my way home, I felt blessed. I hope others did the same and got through the day in ways that felt blessed for themselves.
At one of the church groups I attend, we rotate among members’ churches. The most recent one was this past June, and I was delightfully surprised to see a labyrinth in their courtyard. I didn’t walk among it; I simply admired it from afar and took a few photos.
While planning my family’s vacation to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I tried to find a shrine or a religious destination that I could take some time for myself to meditate and pray. I really enjoyed the spiritual time that I had in Ireland, and I would like to…not replicate it, but have that become a tradition on my travels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. I did however, find a public labyrinth in a park as well as about half a dozen more in the surrounding area of Toronto.
I began to think about how I wanted to approach it, and before I knew it, I was doing research into labyrinths as part of religion, as part of spirituality, as part of history, and discovered to my wonder that we have several within easy driving distance.
I’ve been taking notes and taking pictures, and it may turn into some kind of a book in the future. In the meantime, this is the first labyrinth that caught my eye, and I’m sure that I’ll share more in the coming weeks.
Enjoy the last week of official summer.