Charmed Circles: Becoming a Believer
Only then did I notice it. Standing alone in the circle of those beautiful live oaks was the most stately pine tree I had ever seen. It was tall and full, its branches spread out as if to enfold me and the entire labyrinth. "Yes, I'm different," the tree seemed to be saying. "But I'm as beautiful if not more so than the other trees." It was Quinn. Yes, he was different. But to me he was the most beautiful of them all. The tears came streaming down my face as I looked at that gorgeous tree and saw my gorgeous little boy, smiling, his arms outstretched, reassuring me that he was going to be just fine.
Was it spiritual, enlightening, clarifying, religious? I don't know. All I know is that it changed forever the way I looked at Quinn.
A year later I was anticipating going back to the spa, if for no other reason than to walk the labyrinth. Quinn had had a series of cognitive tests that spring; he had one more to do, the most crucial of all. The doctor called to say that the test had been scheduled for the week I was to be at the spa. Ben convinced me he could drive Quinn to the hospital himself and wait for him. So I went. At the appointed hour of his test I went up to the labyrinth alone and walked it, keeping an image in my mind of Quinn doing well on the test.
Several weeks later the hospital called with the results. We expected the worst and we got it. He had done poorly on all the tests. "There was one amazing thing, though," said one doctor. "Quinn scored higher on the last test than anyone else we've ever given it to." "What was that?" we asked. "The maze," he said.
I dissolved into tears. He wasn't lost at all. He was found.
After that I knew I had to have my own labyrinth. The spot I chose on our property on the St. Mary's River was formerly Indian sacred ground. As you walk up the slope to where the labyrinth overlooks the river, the air seems to shimmer even on the dreariest day. I invited about 20 friends to join me for dinner and Champagne at a dedication walking ceremony on a July Fourth weekend. It had to be July—my birthday is July 1. As the moon rose and the stars came out, I led a procession up the slope to a brightly burning campfire. Now it was totally dark except for the candles outlining the path inside the labyrinth, the moon reflecting on the river. I asked everyone to write down something that was an obstacle in their lives. Then we threw the notes into the fire. At the entrance to the labyrinth, I said: "May each person in pain find comfort. May each person who is broken find healing. May each person who is hungry and thirsty find they are filled. May each person who longs for peace find serenity. May each person who is challenged find strength for the demands ahead. May each person who is lost trust the path. And may each person walk this labyrinth, discovering an openness of heart and spirit, recognizing that we all walk the Path of Life together."
My friends, swathed in white, solemnly and reverently walked the path to the center. I knew them all so well. I knew what was in their hearts and minds, what each one's pain was about. I wanted them all to be lifted up, overwhelmed with a sense of peace.
Before the labyrinth, I'd never really had an understanding of the sacred or the divine. Now I did. I realized I had already experienced it. Making love to someone you love and who loves you is sacred. Certainly, giving birth to Quinn and having those beautiful, trusting eyes look up at me as he nursed was as close as I could imagine to experiencing the divine. And I began to understand that nobody gets off easy. There is suffering—or as the Buddhists say, dukkha—for everyone.