Last Sunday my daughter and I brunched at the Chocolate Maven where we enjoyed a quiche of green chilies and the best mochas I have ever had. I swear Santa Fe must be the only place on earth where you can find green chilie quiche. And, the pleasure in eating it was only enhanced by having had three days with my daughter.
Monday morning when we had to say good-bye so she could return to Los Angeles and her many responsibilities of children, husband, and work, my whole body felt the loss of the intimacy of our weekend. In the space between her departure and the arrival of my husband, I walked.
Often, when feeling troubled or sad, I want to feel close to the earth. On this day, in Santa Fe, I wanted to take in the Sangre de Cristo mountains whose peaks were whitened by Sunday’s storm, the deep blue of the cloudless sky, the brilliant yellow of a tree flanking the white stone of the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial. But I did have a destination in mind.
Walking San Francisco Street, I passed homeless people, tourists, and just ordinary folks. Ahead lay my destination – Saint Francis Cathedral, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as its backdrop. I climbed the stairs as visitors milled and photographed the church and one another. Rather than entering, I turned to the left and crossed the portico to the labyrinth. The only person nearby was a man reading as he sat on a nearby bench.
Here it was quiet.
Only the day before, Katherine and I had walked the labyrinth on Museum Hill. And, only a week earlier, Jim, my friend Leslie, and I had walked the labyrinth at the Benedictine Grange near Redding, Connecticut.
I had explained to Katherine my sense of the labyrinth, and how you had to place your attention on each step you took, how the exactitude of the narrow path required attention as it led closer to the center, and then wound away. Sometimes it was only a few steps until the path curved back in the direction from which you had come, while other times you were lead with many steps before the path curved, and you had to slow just to stay on the path.
A plaque beside the labyrinth explained that they had been used since at least 2000 BC and were found everywhere in the world. In medieval times labyrinths were built into the floor of churches where pilgrims came to walk them. The one at Saint Francis in Santa Fe was built on the pattern of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France.
I had told Katherine that I felt walking the labyrinth was like life. It reminded us that sometimes things went smoothly, then, suddenly there would be twists. Sometimes twist after twist required slowing and quick adjustments. Sometimes we approached the center, which for me is a closeness to a Higher Source, and we find joy. Other times our path changes suddenly and we may feel alone, abandoned.
Something felt soothing and healing on the morning I walked the labyrinth at Saint Francis. It did remind me of the twists in life we all face. But, in the space of time in which I walked the labyrinth, I moved from sadness to gratitude. I realized that in feeling such a connection with my daughter, I had reached a center – at least for a time.