January 17th, 2011 6:46 PM / Location: 39.749269,-78.36806
Four Quarters Farm interfaith sanctuary in Artemas, Pennsylvania has an outdoor contemplative labyrinth long under construction. Part of it is paved in stepping stones and lit by solar path lights; some of it is still a mowed path and garden stakes and string, but it is a sizable enough structure to pick out in Google's satellite maps. Last summer, five of us who were camping on their grounds for a retreat planned to find it and Play in a Labyrinth. When we were first preparing for the trip, some of us were concerned that we were being a bit sacreligious for a contemplative space. Then, as word spread amongst the fifty or so people at the gathering that we were making an official outing of any kind to the labyrinth, more folks started coming with us. By the time we left camp, what had started out as a silly game became a curiosity, and then, a half-serious pilgrimage.
At least a dozen of us hiked a mile from our shaded campground into the unseasonably scathing June sun and up a winding hill, our chatter turning from games to the history of the Labyrinth and the Farm itself. And when we finally crested the hill, tired and wanting to get down to the business of play for which we came, every single one of us that had planned the trip and everyone who tagged along each felt quietly compelled to silently walk into the labyrinth via the path proper, just this once. We each separately silently decided to wait until everyone had gathered in the center of the labyrinth to break the contemplative spell that had caught us each by surprise.
And then, we played. We sang and fiddled and spun circus toys and played travel board games and card games with a Tarot deck, traveling through the half-imaginary walls dividing the path. It was no less special, no less sacred, than our respectful, silent entrance. And now, a full six months later in the dark of winter, looking back on those hours, I begin to understand.