Saturday, May 15, 2010

Labyrinth 3 - Utech's Rainbow Dairy Goat Farm - Merril, WI


What's that? You think labyrinths are only for religious and New Age people? Are you saying that because my first blog was about a Catholic basilica labyrinth and the second was a Metaphysical store? Well guess what, suckas?

Boom!

GOAT FARM!

Where's your preconceived judgments now? I went to a goddamn goat farm in Wisconsin for this labyrinth! Fit goat people into your closed mind, maaannnnn. (That was supposed to be a hippy saying "maaannnn" not a goat. Although I find the goat-speak strangely appealing.)

I was on my way to a stand-up comedy gig in Wausau, WI, and decided to head nine miles north to the little town of Merrill and check out a labyrinth I discovered in Labyrinthlocator.com. The place is called "Utech's Rainbow Dairy Goat Farm" (click here for all the info on their labyrinth)

Awkwardness factor: Through the roof! Here's an uncomfortable phone conversation:

GOAT FARMER: Hello
ME: Um, hello, is this 3880 Rainbow Drive?
GOAT FARMER: Yes.
ME: Yeah...are you the people with the labyrinth?
GOAT FARMER: Yes we are.

Can you imagine how weird that would've been if he said no?
ME: Are you the people with the labyrinth?
GOAT FARMER: No.
ME: Ok-ayyyy, I'm a freak. Bye-bye then.

But he did say "yes". And then I said:
ME: So can anybody just, you know, come over and look at it?
GOAT FARMER: Yes, but it's not mowed. So you'd probably have to give us some warning so we can take care of it.
ME: I'm in your drive-way.
GOAT FARMER: Oh. Well, I'm busy but I suppose I can just point you to the field.

Possible serial killer factor: Pretty good! The goat farmer I spoke to on the phone wasn't outside when I pulled up, but two teenage kids listening to Screeching Weasel of all things were. One wore a hat and spoke, while the other remained speechless and did a lot of mouth-breathing. I asked Hat-guy if they've ever had anybody come out to look at their labyrinth. "We get visitors everyday," he said. "Lots of Japanese." Huh. Then, as we were walking towards the field, I asked if they were the ones who put up the info on the webpage. Hatty stopped, looked me dead in the eyes and said "Weren't not webpage people." Something about the way he said that, plus the supposed "lots" of Japanese who I didn't' see anywhere made me think I may have stumbled into the Wisconsin Chainsaw massacre.


State of Labyrinth: Unkempt. For the second time, I believe I got to a labyrinth before it was amply ready for the season. It was barely visible and flooded with dandelions. It felt like I was walking the yellow brick road, but instead of Munchkins, there were creepy-eyed goats and cockleburs. That being said, I actually think this is a time of the season I should be taking advantage of. When the labyrinths are nicely mowed and kept-up I'm sure they look great and you know where you're going without question. But when it's all scraggly you are intensely doubtful that you're going in the right direction. That's the whole point of the labyrinth: To put faith in the fact that no matter how long it takes, you'll get there. It's a metaphor for life and/or the spiritual path. Both going to the center (called "Jerusalem" sometimes) and on the way back, I doubted that I was going the right way. But I kept going. And both times I got through without fail. It's a good exercise in trust.

(Caption: The Beginning.)

Holy cra
p that's not what you want to see at the end of a "spiritual journey" factor: 100%


What is that, a goat-man? The Devil?! Why does he have a mustache? All creepy! I'm not easily weirded out, but that gave me the willies. I half expected to turn around and see the kids standing behind me as they calmly say "It's hoe-down time" and hit me over the head with a Garden Weasel. But no, they weren't there. I later found out that they were all tiles they made at school. If I'd have looked closer I'd have noticed two Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Tom Servo from MST3K, and Burt Reynolds if he were a star-system of some sort. Not entirely evil, I suppose. But still...Zen and peace and then Hitler Goat is not exactly what I expected.


Overall rating: This was somehow was the worst and best labyrinth so far. Worst because it was in shambles and barely perceptible. And the best because it truly tested my trust. For one, it didn't go or end how I expected. This was the first time that I wasn't sure if I was going to finish correctly. But I kept going and decided to put my faith in the path and I came out okay. This is the stuff I want to apply to my life, when I'm feeling stressed or scared about life. Just keep going...there's cockleburs and creepy goat-tile men, but in the end if you persist you will survive.

For further reading:
Labyrinth blog #1
Labyrinth blog #2

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Labyrinth 2 - Eye of Horus

Secret Garden Labyrinth - Eye of Horus


What's the complete opposite of a labyrinth on the lawn of the first Catholic Basilica in America? How about a labyrinth in the backyard of a Metaphysical New Age store called "Eye of Horus".

And yet, they are essentially the exact same thing with an identical purpose. Meditation, spirituality, contemplation and all other kinds of whatever googly-moogly you're into.

And both have pamphlets! I've been to two labyrinths so far, and BOTH have pamphlets about it. I don't know why, but this pleases me to no end. Are there people who diligently produce fantastic labyrinths and then skimp on the pamphlets? I haven't seen them yet, but when I do I may slap them in the face with a glove all French-duel style.




Incognito factor: I have been going to this store for a while now (I have a problem with rock/crystal buying, it's a fact) and I never even noticed that this labyrinth existed. It's all tucked away in the backyard. I would have said it's the "ninja of labyrinths", because of it's camouflageness, but I hear that ninjas are hack now. So I'll have to go with the less common and much less poetic "It's like the tree-person-that-you-didn't-realize-was-a-tree-person-until-you-got-too-close-and-grabbed-it's-apples-and-now-you-can-see-it's-face-and-it's-all-mad of labyrinths." That's a fairly accurate analogy, if you forget that labyrinths aren't malicious because they don't have the power of cognition, or apples.

Windy factor: That's windy like "Wind up the toy, Jim!" Not like "Man, Jim's butt smells bad. I wish it were windy!" (Believe it or not, I spent five minutes thinking it over and those were the two best examples I could think of.) The labyrinth looks tiny (at least compared to St. Mary's) when you first walk into the backyard, but it is deceptively intricate. It twists and turns 12 times. I felt almost kind of disheveled and turned around at all times. That's where I suppose the meditation comes in. If you keep walking, you'll get to the center no matter what, so you just keep focused on one foot in front of the other.

Spiritual/weirdness factor:
Like I said in my previous journal, they say that with practice, you might start to experience visions or revelations on your journey. So I remembered to keep my senses opened at all times. And half-way through, sure enough, like the Four-Horsemen of the Apocalypse, louder than all Hell came thunderous Mexican tuba music from the next door neighbors. Strangely enough, it's not bad meditation music. The rhythmic tuba really sets the pace for your feet. "Doot" Left foot forward. "Doot" Right foot forward. "Doot" Left foot forward. And so on.

Target paraphernalia spotting: There is a really cool, small Buddha statue to the side of the labyrinth. I love Buddhas. I practiced Buddhism for two years and it still holds a very dear place in my heart. Also, I recognized this particular Buddha as one that is sold at Target stores across the country. The very one I have in my apartment. So I felt much better that I'm not the only person getting my spiritual items from the same store that sells plungers and Miley Cyrus notebooks.


Meditations from the pamphlet: "When you walk a labyrinth, it is with a focus. This focus could be a question or situation, a need for peace, celebration, inner connection, clearing the mind of clutter, or a desire to reunite with the Earth, your Spirit, or with the Divine.

The journey can consist of three parts: the entrance walk is "Purgation" or cleansing of the affairs of the mundane world; attaining the Center brings "Illumination", the enlightenment of the Spirit; and the exit walk effects "Unification" or spiritual self becoming one with mundane self.

At the entrance, stop and reflect on your focus, intention or prayer. As you walk the paths, shed everything else as a snake sheds it's skin. Let go with each step, with each turn, knowing that even as you turn away from your goal, you are actually coming closer to the center, to rebirth.

At the center, step onto the Triquetra stone and take the time to reflect. You have reached not just a physical center but a spiritual location. Let in any guidance you are seeking. When ready, walk out by the same path, uniting the mundane and the spiritual as a whole being."

Overall experience: I liked this one a lot. Like I said in my previous labyrinth journal, I'm not exactly an expert yet. But I felt like this one did a pretty good job of keeping you on your toes and constantly guessing. And since I started a small savings account in order to some day buy that $80 chunk of Amethyst that Eye of Horus has, I'm sure I'll be back to traverse to tubas again!

From Labyrinthlocator.com:

Address:
2717 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408
United States
view map

Directions/notes:
About 3 blocks north of Lake Street in Minneapolis on Lyndale Ave. Look for Eye of Horus Store (labyrinth is walled off from the street by a false-front).

Contact:
Store Phone: 612-872-1292
Email: jane@eyeofhorus.biz

Web:
http://eyeofhorus.biz/minneapolis/labyrinth

Schedule:
Always open
Open during store hours, may be reserved for a private event, so call the store first.

Admission:
none

Type:
Medieval
5 circuit

Material:
Rock or Garden

Designer:
Jane Hansen

Builder:
Jane & Friends of the Labyrinth

Size:
20 feet diameter

Date installed:
June 7, 2005

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Labyrinth 1 - The Mary Labyrinth


I think things are all in how you phrase it.

Some people would say that I get mildly obsessed pretty easily. I like to call it "inspired". What's the difference? One person's "romantic" is another person's "stalker". I'm not a stalker. Yes, I'm sure that's what stalkers always say. Oh boy, off to a bad start.

Anyway, the point is, I am now mildly obsessed/inspired. My girlfriend, Zan, just randomly tipped me off to something called a "meditation labyrinth". No, it doesn't involve David Bowie's crotch. It's actually a winding path of varying styles that leads one through a contemplative metaphor for life and the spiritual path. Labyrinths have been around for close to 4,000 years and were used by the Egyptians, Minoans, Romans, Indians, Native Americans and many more. Even the Christians got in on it, starting around 400 AD. (Then they kind of banned them because they were too New Age-y, then recently decided to get back on the boat.) They can be made in the grass, with stone, on a tarp, you name it. Supposedly people have had visions on them. More realistically, people claim that they are excellent sources of walking meditation and calming relaxation. The path is supposed to be like the journey through life, in that you don't know where it's taking you. You only know that if you keep walking, you'll get there. How could I not have known about this?

So Zan showed me a website called www.labyrinthlocator.com. Somehow, this thing that I'd never even heard of yesterday, is catalogued all over the world. They're everywhere! Tons of them! There's a few a couple of blocks from where I live, there's some in Japan. Big ones, little ones. It's nuts. So I've decided that I'm going to go and walk as many Labyrinths as I can and see what happens. Since I go on the road, I'll be able to go to Labyrinths all over the country if they have them. Here's what I figured...If they have them in Toledo, OH, they'll have them anywhere. Labyrinthlocator.com SAYS: There's like six there! It's on!

So maybe I'll go to 100. Maybe I'll get bored and only go to one. But periodically and sporadically I'm going to update this blog with new pictures and thoughts on a different labyrinth. Starting with the one a couple blocks away:

--------------------------------------

The Mary Labyrinth at the Basilica of Saint Mary
(Click on the link above for a cool aerial photo of the labyrinth in season.)


Faith: Christian. This one is located at the giant Basilica off of Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis. Christian labyrinths use the path as symbolism for a pilgrim's, um, pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So the final part of the labyrinth, right before you turn back and go the opposite way, is called "Jerusalem."



(Above) The start and "Jerusalem".

State of labyrinth: Fair to poor. The design is beautiful and elaborate, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it hasn't been mowed since last fall. There are barely discernible spray-paint lines and it's kind of hard to see where you're supposed to walk. It doesn't look at all like the aerial photo from the link above.

Embarrassment factor: High. It's right off of Hennepin between downtown and uptown. Lots of cars driving by. Bums from under the bridge staring. But I think the worst case scenario is you just look like a crazy person walking in circles on a church lawn. I can deal with that. That might actually be a very good description of me.

Spiritual/weirdness factor: Half-way through the labyrinth, and as I was in the peak of zoning out into meditation land, I looked down and immediately in front of me was an adult robin. (See picture below.) He was just staring up at me, without an ounce of fear. And he was close. So close that I kind of assumed that he was injured. As I kept on walking (gotta mind your bird-business, don't want to get attacked by rapid robins!) he suddenly flew away across the street. That was the tamest robin I've ever seen. Actually, it was the only tame robin I've ever seen. Pretty neat.


Meditation from pamphlet: "All pilgrimages begin with a first step. It's the act of walking that makes you a pilgrim - in life or on a labyrinth. Open your mind and heart as you walk. Let yourself experience the changes of direction. You may get turned around, but you are never lost: trust that the path will lead you where you need to go. As you follow the path, let yourself relax. Take slow, steady steps to quiet the mind and enable full-body prayer. Walk at your own pace. Spend as much time as you like in "Jerusalem". Journey out and bring the peace of your labyrinth walk into the pilgrimage of you daily life."

Overall experience:
I am hoping that as I do this more often, I'll get a sense of why people do this. Right now I am overwhelmed with self-consciousness. I think that's part of the process. As you do it more, you'll stop thinking about your surroundings and start thinking about the meditation. I thought, despite the obvious state of disrepair that the St. Mary Labyrinth (hopefully temporarily) was in, that it was a pretty cool first one to go to. And due to it's proximity, I'm sure I'll go back again. So there. That's my first labyrinth review: "Pretty cool". I'm kind of easy right now. Maybe later I'll become the Simon Cowell of labyrinth critics. But for today, I'm pleased and excited to do more.


From Labyrinthlocator.com:
Address:
88 North 17th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
United States
view map

Directions/notes:
We are located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Mary Labyrinth is on the west facing lawn.

Contact:
Basilica Labyrinth Initiative
Phone: 612-333-1381

Web:
http://www.mary.org

Schedule:
Always open
Seasonal, daylight hours only

Type:
Contemporary
The Basilica of Saint Mary's labyrinth is dedicated to Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the Basilica Mary Labyrinth.

Material:
Outdoor Grass

Designer:
Lucinda Naylor

Date installed:
July 2008

GPS:
44° 58′ 2° Lat.; 93° 17′ 9° Long.