Friday, 12 October 2012

The Cottarton Labyrinth

Last summer, despite being the butt of all jokes and other disparaging comments I built a labyrinth in the middle of our field. Not a maze like you find in English country manors with passages framed by neat boxwood, most with dead ends, designed to bewilder you. Or a-maze? The labyrinth leads you in one continuous path though by no means a direct one, to the centre, and then back out.  You can walk it at any time of day or night, when you feel distressed, when you’re happy, want to meditate. Or you can walk it when you have absolutely no reason or purpose in doing so. Do it consciously, each step taken with awareness, and you find yourself emerging from the pathways  in a different space then where you entered.

The view toward the cottage

Building a Cretan-style labyrinth, or any other is quite easy and doesn't require advanced surveying skills. First, you learn how to draw your labyrinth on paper. Then you repeat the same process on the land. My introduction to drawing was a you-tube video.  I cleared away the space with my scythe. After I’d practiced my art skills and knew how the deisign worked, I repeated the process on the cleared space, using 3 foot long bamboo sticks as my pencil. I used them also to measure the width of the path and stuck one into the ground every three feet. The labyrinth axis is lined up with  Janetstown Hill,  the most prominent peak close to Cottarton,  so that the structure blends with the energy of the land.  I marked the  cross at the labyrinth centre with stones from our land. At the heart is a collection of white quartz. No doubt you'll find your own objects to enhance the structure you build. After drawing the labyrinth on the land I mowed the pathways, and kept them mowed throughout the summer.

During August white clover grew in the structure. On a warm day you could smell its honey. My favorite time of day was around 9 pm when the low angle of the sun lit up our grassy field in bright golden hues. There was a peace in the air that did not appear to originate in any human thought Something you might call, sacred. You wanted to indulge totally in what was there. Without boundaries. To walk in circles, with your feet constrained to move along a prescribed path seemed almost unnatural.  At other times, especially when one felt overwhelmed by  turbulent thoughts, the pathways were more welcome. Walking them awoke an inner movement toward harmony. There was no thought of suppressing unwelcome thoughts or feelings, but rather a process of becoming more aware of them. Seeing what was already there.

Stone circle near Aboyne

Some people like to go to a church, cathedral or other special building to pray or meditate. Lately I've found most such places, built by human hands, to be empty and uninspiring. The temple that inspires is not one that is built by us or by our clever thoughts. It’s outdoors in the order created by nature, with nothing to separate the sky from the Earth. The language is expressed in the grains on the grass stalk, seemingly haphazard clover clumps and gnarly pine trees. I suspect that our ancestors five thousand years ago or earlier also sensed a certain sacredness in such places which is why they built their stone circles. Not to create temples of worship. The temple was already there. But rather to mark those spots that were particularly meaningful. Where, if you spent some time, you might discover yourself and your connection with the land.

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