Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It’s full dark.  The parking lot is empty, and our shoes crunch on the gravel as we start down the path.  It’s a clear night, moonless, the deep black of the sky studded with shy stars.  Here and there a bridge spans a meandering stream and I stop, tilt my head back and drink in pinpoints of light.   It still takes my breath away, how much I love to be outside after dark, on crisp nights like this, and I’m still at a loss to explain why I have spent 50 years denying myself this.

 We cross a pale field of autumn grass. The labyrinth is barely visible.  Even though we are in the middle of the city, we are in a wide open space bordered by trees.  I take a few moments to wonder at the fact that I am not worrying about doing this wrong, or about not being able to walk this far.  This recently befriended body moves easily across uneven terrain – we trust each other to show up, my body and I.  Traffic and streetlights are far away, but the stone path of the labyrinth is light enough rock that we can see where we are going.

 As we start down the path, my sister in law tells me “The going in is an emptying, a letting go.”  I take a deep breath.  I have a lot to let go of, these days.  That sounds good to me.

 The path curves, now forward, now back.  I can see the center. “Metaphor time.”  I say.  “I want to get to center.  I’m tempted to leap these benches and get there RIGHT NOW.  But ...” I shrug.

 “But there are things to learn on the journey.” She answers.

 We sit together on a bench overlooking the center.  I rest.  There is nothing else I want to know in this moment, nothing else I need to see.  We are hemmed in by the silhouettes of leafless fall trees and I am deeply grateful.

 I cross my ankles, uncross them.  Grin at her.  “I’m still not sorry I’ve spent so many years thinking you were a flake”, I tell her, and her genuine laugh fills the space between us.  “I’m just completely willing to admit I was wrong.”

 We head back to the car down a different path, through the trees, past the river, and I concentrate on holding the peace of this place somewhere deep, accessible, for the days to come, when peace is hard won.


 The next day, driving back home, with my family asleep in the vehicle as I drive away from sunrise, a phrase in a song on the radio blindsides me, and I am convulsed, first with a flashback, and then with horror.  Familiar territory now, a club I didn’t ask to join.  I breathe, stroke the steering wheel, use the coping skills I’ve learned.

 And then I remember the labyrinth.  “I am sitting here on this bench, in the crisp cool dark, and my good friend and I have just journeyed back to each other after too long away.” I tell the memory.  Remember the psychologist’s suggestion of a TV screen to hold the memory, while I’m in the safe place.  I imagine the screen off to one side, and the scene plays itself out as I breathe in cold night air.  Too big, that screen, so I shrink it to smartphone size, where it flickers its heartbreaking truth, barely visible at the edge of my vision.

 I imagine turning the phone off, but the labyrinth disappears, and the flashback fills my head.  They need to co-exist, this place of peace and this broken-ness, and I think that maybe I am learning something true and necessary.


CC said...

I love you my 'sister' n' friend in God. You are already healed in Him. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, that is your journey today...and soon you will find that whole and healed part of yourself in the center of Him!

joyce harback said...

I needed that today.