Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Labyrinth

On a winter break from graduate school, my daughter traced the winding path of a unicursal maze in the snow of a small clearing north of our house. In the thaw, we set stones at the turning points and piled brush to mark the paths. That winter I dug rocks and laid them to replace the brush between the stones, connecting the dots.

The labyrinth is about 40 yards across, surrounded by woods. Seven rock-lined paths twist back and forth among the trees and eventually lead to the center. As the woods change, old trees fall and saplings spring up. The clearing tries to become a grove again. 

This year I cleared the paths, removing coralberry and saplings, leaving black raspberries and gooseberries, occasionally discovering wildflowers I had planted years ago. My daughter and I moved some of the larger downed timber. A couple of fallen logs defeated us and remained across the pathways.

Clearing took about ten days, with breaks for rain and unseasonable heat. The snowdrops were finishing their bloom as I began. More flowers sprang up as I went through: in the south wood poppy and hyacinths, bloodroot in the west, wood anemones and lungwort in the east. North is the home of Grandmother Cedar, sheltering berries and Solomon’s seal. Blue and black cohosh mark the inner turn. Goldenseal and ginseng are spreading across one inside path; I left a corridor of redbud saplings to shade them. I reached the center yesterday and encountered the Lady of the Labyrinth herself under damp, half-burned logs in the fire circle — a small gray earth snake.

Today I walked the labyrinth, in and out. It already needs to be mowed. I’ll replace stones in several spots where tree roots and moles have been at work. This is my secret garden, my sacred space, wild and weedy, filled with ticks and treasures, a love letter to the land.

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