What I learned building a labyrinth

It's DONE!
It’s DONE!

I finished the labyrinth this week. It took several hours as I dug and chiseled enough dirt out of the way to inset the bricks. I left the paths au naturel with just the usual weeds, grass and dirt. It’s nestled in a part of the back yard that is sheltered by trees and bushes on two sides, and six foot fencing on the other. Now it’s just the finishing touches. As I worked on it, I reflected on what I was learning…


Busted tools! The rocks! The roots! The gnats and mosquitos! The heat! More than once I wanted to scrap this idea and call it a flower bed. But I kept going. 100 bricks to go. 75  bricks to go. 25 bricks to go. And then it was done!

Like so many things in my life, it is this slow process, tedious as it is, of sticking with the plan until it’s done. And then the results speak for themselves.


windchimeI saw beauty around me every day. Not just in the flower beds, but in the patterns of sun and shade on the grass. Of the gnarled beauty of a tree trunk. Of the sounds of a downy woodpecker tap-tap-tapping its way down a tree about five feet from me. The wind chimes humming in a gentle breeze. The riot of colors in wildflowers growing along the fence. The sound the wind makes through the leaves. The squirrels chittering and scolding as they dash around, always keeping this errant human in view. The way a rabbit hops when they aren’t in a hurry. The keening of a hawk overhead — and the sudden vanishing of wildlife in response!

None of these were particularly earth-shattering. It was the simple process of taking the time to notice them. It is a by-product of walking slowly, listening and hearing the slight tugs on my attention, and letting all the other “stuff” that clutters my life and my calendar sit to one side, if only for a few moments.


Rocks at the start of the labyrinth
Rocks at the start of the labyrinth

I have faced some obstacles lately. Each one is there for a reason, even if I don’t quite see why. They are memorialized by the pile of rocks at the start of the labyrinth, rocks that I uncovered as I inlaid the bricks.

Why does this rock pile represent forgiveness to me? I had to see each rock for what it was – An event. A moment. A person. An imperfection. I dug them out, tossed them in the pile and moved on. I recognized the obstacle for what it was – something to overcome, learn from and then leave behind.

I didn’t catalogue them: “You ROCK, you! You were under brick number 47!” Nope, I don’t remember where each individual rock came from in the spiral. They join the pile of The Forgiven.

Forgiveness is hard when there’s no context or reason. A couple of times a specific event or job prospect came to mind — one where I was, I felt, unfairly judged as lacking. I didn’t belabor it. I didn’t carry the rocks with me, moving them from brick to brick. (That is a lot of what unforgiveness is!) I was supposed to set the offense aside… and press on. Walk forward. Breathe. Pray. Forgive. Release. Move on.

Some of these events have made me cry with frustration, “WHY ME??”

I’m learning that it really has nothing to do with me. It’s more about living with and among imperfect people who are very much like me.


I can bend (cheap) steel!
I can bend (cheap) steel!

I started building this labyrinth with the wrong tools. Or not enough of the right ones. I had to fess up and buy a new trowel. And I had to go find a better shovel for digging into the packed clay and evening out the soil.

This was something I couldn’t hide. I went about it the wrong way and had to learn from my mistakes.

But I also learned that a companion to humility is compassion, or perhaps forgiveness of self. Giving myself room to try again, to admit mistakes, to find better resources.

That doesn’t work just for bricks, but for everything in life.


Recognize your predecessors
Recognize your predecessors

This is a fun one. I found what could be an arrowhead. (It might not be.) It reminded me that the land where our house is built was a plantation. There’s fencing embedded in the trees along would could have been a road. There’s an old apple orchard that extends across several yards. And there were some brick-shaped rocks that could have been part of the fill dirt.

My predecessors include my ancestors, my mentors, my professors and teachers. People who are a “lap ahead” in the journey. I thought about how much I had been given because of their generous investment in my life.

It’s something to pay forward. Gratefully.


There have been days where I haven’t been very happy, but I have had joy. Learning the difference has been important for me, whether it’s building a labyrinth, or taking on life, one day at a time. I’d love to say that all of my questions and issues are resolved by walking the labyrinth. Ah, well… no. But I have gained so much. If you’ve ever like to come take a walk, let me know. It’s a lovely corner of God’s earth.


There’s more I want to do to finish the labyrinth. I have votive holders I want to set in place, and a banner to hang. Somewhere there needs to be benches. And some kind of central focus. There’s landscaping and planting to do as well.

All in good time.

As it is, it’s lovely. And so am I. And so, incidentally, are you.

Our back yard.
Our back yard.


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