Feeling unsettled? Walk the Neighborhood Labyrinth

I stand at the entrance to the labyrinth trying to remember the dilemma I brought to it the last time I was here. There are many ways to walk a labyrinth, but my favorite—by far—has been to present it with a problem. A BIG problem.

As I weave my way between the narrow lines taking me toward the labyrinth’s center, I allow my senses to take in every aspect of the challenge I brought: what does it feel like, look like, sound like? How would I describe the problem to my ancestors, or to my great grandchildren? What would they say in return? Does it require a solution today, or might resolution come of its own accord in due time?

Photo by Jan Pelton Photography

I remind myself to breathe. If my pace has sped up to mirror chaotic thoughts, I slow down. I can make my way to the center of the labyrinth and back out in 20 minutes, even if I’m walking slowly. A hurried pace doesn’t gain much, so I slow down.

Plus, taking a solo walk in the neighborhood is one of few remaining sanctioned activities under Colorado’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Now I remember: the last time I walked this labyrinth I was deeply concerned about a friend who was diagnosed last year with younger-onset Alzheimer’s, the version of the disease that hits people under 65. On the way into the labyrinth I churned over her struggles and wondered how I might support her and her wife as they work their way through this frightening development in both their lives.

I was snapped out of my thoughts by a waft of cigarette smoke and looked up to make eye contact and smile at the neighbor taking a smoke break in a nearby chair. The smoke reminded me that I was annoyed at the bird poop scattered across the labyrinth’s surface, in between skid marks. A sign on the wall clearly forbids bicycling and skateboarding here.

Photo by Jan Pelton Photography

I arrived at the center and stood for a moment. I decided to invite my friend to walk a labyrinth together over in her neighborhood. There’s one a few blocks from her house. It was a simple idea, yet it felt satisfying. I took one more deep breath as I turned to make my way back out. Unlike life, the labyrinth is not a maze: there is one way in and one way out. 

It was the exact same path, but my steps had a lightness to them. I marveled at my friend’s resilience and sense of humor. I felt grateful her wife had rolled up her sleeves and started to make the big changes that will get them through this. I heard the birds above and felt the crisp air against my face.

Today, standing at the labyrinth again—with the problems of the world weighing down on me—I laugh at the tread marks and bird poop.

They remind me that we’re all together here, even when we’re apart for a while.

You can practice the centuries-old tradition of labyrinth walking at several locations around Denver, including in North Denver. North Denver’s labyrinth is hidden in plain sight on the floor of the Highlands’ Gardens Village Carousel Pavilion, tucked between the intersection of Tennyson Street and 38th Avenue and the Historic Elitch Garden Theatre.


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