It is just past midnight and the moon is not yet full. I am surrounded by houses in the small Maricopa County pocket that is considered East Mesa, Arizona. It’s a corner lot, yet there is no sharp turn, as the road gently passes in a rounded curve. In the not so far away distance, I can hear the rush of traffic on U.S. Highway 60. It is 2007, and I am but the toss of a stone away from my old modular home, yet I might as well be standing atop a Tor in ancient Briton.
I have walked to this Place — a slow, silent walk, alone with my thoughts and my God. Time melted away; space shifted and changed. No longer am I surrounded by squat palms and leafy ficus; rather, the trees have grown to oak and willow. Around and around from where I began I have come to this: in the center of a great spiral, I sit and drink deep the air that no longer tastes of desert, but reminds of a long-ago summer.
This night, I wrap my arms about my knees and lean back to gaze upon the stars. The stars are a link between the times, another reminder that I am connected by Spirit to all who have gone before and to those who will be. From this place upon the mystical Tor I sense my present-self upon the desert stones and know that it is time to return.
Standing once more, I begin the descent from hillock to valley, from dreamtime to realtime. Around and around I walk, taking care not to step upon a line. The path is narrow and I do not want to traverse where I should not go.
The cool Brithonic summer breeze shifts to warm and shifts again to desert summer heat. At the end of the path I turn to gaze upon the way I have come. This small labyrinth is once again but a simple spiral carved into my yard. It is a Mystery that it should have so recently been a passage between the worlds.
It had long been a dream of mine to have a home of my own, where I could create a space that is both homely and holy, both spiritual and mundane. Finally, with a little help from friends, I was able to purchase my own home. The day I moved in, I was struck by the way it was situated on the property. Smack in the middle of my little quarter-acre lot, this 1980s modular home had been expanded to 1800 square feet and has a nice porch and two “out buildings.” To me, it had an old farmhouse or cottage feel to it.
Standing in the dining area, I noticed that the kitchen window faced almost directly west — the master bedroom at the other end, directly east. This placed the front and back doors — almost exactly parallel — at the north and south, respectively. The center of the home falls somewhere between the dining room table and my private office; placing the axis mundi, the sacred center or heart, in perfect alignment with the place where we gather to share in good food and discussion as well as with my personal refuge for deep thought and written expression.
In honor of this sacred center, I planted my walking stick, along with its cronies of cane and broom, palm and branch, upright in their green urn against the wall between these two rooms. Wind chimes hung at the windows and doors in each direction: bright winged faerie to the east; iron sun to the south; dolphins to the west and dream-catchers to the North.
Above the table hung OM, the eastern symbol of the Word of Creation, which now hangs in my office window. At the entry to the hallway was a tiny birdhouse chime. These chimes have moved, but still they whisper the breezes of Spirit as it moves through the house. This is the indoors, and no matter how messy the mundane, Spirit can still be felt and heard, for we have prayed it be so.
Outdoors, Spirit is discernable even in the broad of daylight, despite the normalcy of a neighborhood founded on the retirement dreams of the not-quite wealthy. A huge tree in an adjacent garden-yard plays host to a multitude of birds. Citrus in other yards make fragrant boundary-markers. Upon my own land, we are surrounded by short palms planted along the street. One tall palm stands near the home, three shade trees thought to be ficus rustle leaves in the breeze, providing home for hummingbirds and other small flying creatures.
Small palmettos and ironwoods of varying age and size grace the yard. Two huge agave stood guardian to my front door, and all about the land were planted various things. Each season, I have discovered a new surprise.
One March I discovered along the north wall of my home an Iris. There was a night when I breathed deep and discovered the scent of incense– it brought to mind deep green forests, rich dark soil and golden amber. That night I wandered my yard and found the exact spot to place my labyrinth.
The labyrinth is a most profound path to that which we seek. A deliberate, silent walk to the center of a labyrinth is a sublime experience. The seeker of meaning can look deep within from the center and find his or her place in the universe. For the mystic, it is a corridor to the Presence of God.
Since the first time I walked a labyrinth, I’ve wanted my own. I wanted one that was organic, carved out and stamped into the ground, surrounded by trees, open to the full moon and the scattered stars. My labyrinth started as a simple spiral between the ficus and the cactus.
It has since been reconfigured to a comfortable five-cycle walkway. The center is just large enough for one or two to sit zazen, should they wish. Three or five could gather, standing, should they plan an arm-in-arm meditational hug. Mostly, though, I walk it alone, with only Spirit beside me.
The circle has been cast, the lines drawn with staff and hoe. I have walked it, meditated in the heart of it. Rains and watering overflow add greenery and rocks where there should be hard desert dirt. I prefer clearing the land myself. Like a woman who has taken vows, I make it a prayerful process. Zen-like, I ask the invading plants their forgiveness as I tear them away. I take hoe to ground and scrape free the loose dirt and the small river-rock.
Once again, I walk the spiral calling forth the path that had begun to diminish just a bit between the stones. I hope one day to walk the path barefoot and when I reach the center, I will throw my hands to the sky and declare my part in the Infinite.
Until then, I walk it shoe-clad, slowly, quietly. I know it intimately and privately. I walk it beneath both the moonlit sky and the dark-time. I listen to the night-birds as they call, and hear the almost silent movements of rabbits and other small desert creatures as they go about their nightly lives, whatever they may be.
About the yard, I have scattered playful things: garden gnomes, faeries and angels. Each new item I add to the yard, each basil or rosemary my husband plants, each wildflower or vine, each gnome, butterfly, or tacky pink flamingo is a declaration that this is not only home to a small community of humans, but that it is also Sacred Space.
It is a Haven. With the tiny labyrinth, it is so much more.
House to Haven: the original version of this piece was published in a small literary newsletter. A later edited version was published in 2007 in an edition of the Gold Canyon Ledger. This version was first published in Brigid's Arrow on Medium.