RUSHING TO CATCH the water taxi, I shifted into high walking speed. All day I’d wandered Venice, taking in as much of the Biennale, a multi-venue art show, as was humanly possible.
But one more creation caught my eye: the doorway of a tiny church opened to a labyrinth. I stepped inside, eyes wide, then ran to the Grand Canal to board that last boat, and the flight home.
That was 2017. I knew nothing of labyrinths. I never forgot that one.
This October, I started hearing about walks. First it was the musically-enhanced indoor ones — free — at Fort Worden’s Madrona MindBody Institute (MadronaMindBody.com).
Co-owner Renee Klein informed me the 11 a.m. Wednesday sessions, for people age 60 and up, will start today; Madrona’s capacious ballroom safely accommodates up to 10 people.
The thought of gliding around that space, sunlight pouring in its high windows, is enticing. I’m just underage, however.
A different walk waited around the corner.
A friend clued me in first about the labyrinth tucked into the forest at H.J. Carroll Park, near SpringRain Farm & Orchard on state Highway 19 in Chimacum.
Next I learned of another, startlingly close by.
Uptown Port Townsend’s 155-year-old church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, has a petite public labyrinth. First Presbyterian Church, a couple of blocks away, reportedly had one built as well.
By the light of the full moon on Halloween night, I walked over to St. Paul’s — and in the courtyard a few steps from the church’s red door, there it was.
Thirty feet in diameter, this work of “sacred geometry,” as it’s called, is a compact copy of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France.
With that big moon and a small flashlight, I could see it’s a thing of beauty.
This discovery was all the sweeter in light of my numerous oblivious walks past the church.
At dusk on dozens of evenings, I’ve visited the Fire Bell Tower on the blufftop at Jefferson and Tyler streets, to look out over the water and downtown.
I didn’t know St. Paul’s labyrinth was right behind me.
I walked it uninitiated.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I followed the circular path as it expanded and wound back to the center. Then I wanted to learn more.
My aforementioned friend, a student of labyrinths, recommended Lauren Artress’ books, including “The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform.”
While Artress is an Episcopal priest, she emphasizes how labyrinths transcend religion.
Sometimes described as meditation paths, they invite the body into a space where the mind can quiet.
I thought of a pool, with the circles as ripples.
“Because we are bombarded with noise and images coming at us from the outside, we can lose our capacity for reflection within,” Artress writes.
“We can feel parched inside … We are drawn to the labyrinth because it replenishes our imaginations and restores our natural rhythms. The literal path becomes the symbolic path leading us through life.”
After reading Artress’ opening pages online, I drove, shortly before sunset, to H.J. Carroll Park. I love that its 40 acres have room for many walks of life: disc golf course, ballfields, basketball court, native plant garden, labyrinth.
My time there was a respite from the exhausting noise Artress writes about.
Walking the path showed me that, just when the conclusion seems near, you’ve got another circle to go. And as you wonder when you’ll ever reach the heart, you find yourself standing right there.
Maybe that’s my Lesson One: Don’t overthink it; keep walking.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.
Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Nov. 18.
Reach her at [email protected].