Walking in circles.

Walking in circles.

We were lucky to have houseguests this week—family members who live much too far away, whom we don’t see nearly often enough. On Tuesday, we all piled the kids in the minivan and went exploring.


There’s a labyrinth nearby that I’ve been wanting to explore for ages, and one of our guests is a contemplative type (takes one to know one). He spent a few years living in a cabin he built in the woods; he even contemplated pursuing the monastic life. I thought the labyrinth would be up his alley, but if I was wrong, at least it was near a beautiful park we wanted to visit anyway.

Life in the maze | Modern Mrs Darcy

The labyrinth is on the grounds of a local school. Even though we were staring at the map, it took us a while to actually find it. I was looking for something stately, something striking. I was disappointed at first when I realized it was just a circle of bricks in the grass. I might have missed it entirely were it not for the simple park benches bordering it.


A labyrinth is an old tool for meditation and spiritual growth. The visitor begins outside the circle and simply follows the path as it slowly twists and turns its way to the center. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

The grown-ups gave the kids directions before we got started: Think about something that makes you happy. (Parties! Legos! Babies!) Think about something that makes you feel peaceful. And should you pass someone else as you walk, give them a big high five.

I’d never walked a labyrinth before, not here or anywhere else. But since I’d thought about coming to this place for a long time, I had expectations: it would be contemplative. It would be sacred. It would be quiet.


I got two out of three, because I’d never imagined coming with four kids.

The lush green grass felt good on our feet, prompting some of us to kick our shoes off into the center. And then we marched into the labyrinth single-file.

As we began to wind our way through the labyrinth’s eleven concentric circles, we started to spread out. And as we spread out, our paths started crossing. Well, not crossing, exactly, because everyone walks the same path. But sometimes, when we’d be pass each other on two neighboring circles, we’d high five. Or we’d find ourselves walking in the same direction on neighboring circles, and we’d hold hands for twenty feet. Or we’d be two circles apart—not quite close enough to touch—so we’d blow kisses.

We giggled—a lot. I don’t know if that labyrinth has ever seen so much giggling.

Labyrinths have a way of spurring reflection, even if you do have four crazy kids in tow. My mind filled up with metaphors as I walked, made more poignant because I was walking with family—with my dear family members who now live so terribly far away, with my dear children I share a home with, for now, but who change and evolve and grow more every year.


As we walked—and giggled—those concentric circles carried us far away from each other and then pulled us back together. Sometimes our paths crossed just long enough to high five; sometimes our paths ran together for a stretch; sometimes we literally couldn’t be farther apart.

If you stumbled upon us, not knowing about the form of the labyrinth, you might not have realized that we were all on the same path, headed to the same destination. In our own way, in our own time.

But oh, how we high-fived and fist-bumped and giggled when those paths crossed.

Do you ever feel like you’re walking in circles, maybe in more ways than one?

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    • Jen says:

      I was wondering the same thing. Also, what did the kids and other members of the group have to say about it afterward? Did they find any meaning of their own in the experience? I’ll have to search for one near me, it sounds like a great thing to experience/explore.

  1. I have always wanted to try a labyrinth and just found out that there is one an hour from us and at a university we will be visiting for a field trip. I wasn’t sure it would work with the kids but you have now convinced me!

  2. Tim says:

    That experience of sharing a time together on parallel paths and then parting for a bit, not knowing when the path and pace will bring you back together – what a great metaphor for our lives and relationships through the years, Anne. Nicely done,


    P.S. Did you catch Parallel Planes, a piece of short fiction on the same theme?

  3. Kathleen says:

    I took a spiritual disciplines class in college and I remember learning about labyrinths. Until then I had no idea they had such a deep meaning and purpose! I’ve never gotten to visit one myself.

  4. Grace says:

    Beautiful writing! My husband and I did a labyrinth with another couple, and we were also surprised by how it worked. I love your metaphor of it with life, so true.

  5. Annette says:

    Anne, this was so beautiful. It made me cry. Our family needs to go play there soon. Thank you for sharing your experience

  6. Sherri says:

    This might be my favorite post of yours. My husband walked the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral and has often talked about it. Now I need to find one for us to walk together.

  7. Emily says:

    We took our youth group to a nearby labyrinth, and the adults were surprised by how much they enjoyed it (we shouldn’t have been, but why is it that we always tend to underestimate our kids?). I think we can stress the “head” part of our being so much, and sometimes it is a good reminder that ALL of us is involved and engaged in experiencing the world. Walking in circles does just that–it puts us in touch with mind, spirit, and body.

  8. Allison says:


    I have walked a labyrinth a few times during a Prayer Retreat once a year not far from my home. I have found it to be a meaningful experience, but I haven’t ever done it while anyone else was on the path, let alone family members! Wow; I would imagine that would make it a much more intimate event. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  9. 'Becca says:

    I’m glad you had this great experience! There is a labyrinth here in the Pittsburgh area (just outside the city) that’s in between the river and a gigantic swath of big-box stores. It is wonderful to be able to stop off there in the middle of a shopping expedition! The first time we went was during Lent 2011 when I was serving on the church vestry and we were discerning whether or not it was time for our priest to leave, so I wanted to try this meditative experience…but I didn’t have the opportunity to go alone. My partner and I explained to our son, who was then in kindergarten, about quietly walking and listening to what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Our son went first, walked faster, and was waiting impatiently when we came out. He said, “Now that we listened to the Holy Spirit, can we go through there again pretending to be trains?” Nobody else was there, so we ran around all the paths again, chugging and whistling. 😀 I did find peace on the first round, though, and even got a message that suddenly popped into my mind: “Behold, I am making a new heaven and a new earth, and the former things will not be seen or remembered.” It was only after that day that I began to understand why it might be time to let go of our priest, whom I liked and identified with very much.

  10. Erin says:

    I’ve done one once… it was so relaxing in its own way.

    This made me think of a book I highly recommend – Love Story by Nichole Nordeman. I picked it up at the used book store and absorbed it. I even got my mom a copy for her birthday. I realized that it was something that I needed to really let sink into my soul so I limited it to one chapter a night (there aren’t that many) and it did wonders for me. She talks about a labyrinth at one point 🙂

  11. Angie says:

    I had no idea there was one nearby. Do you mind sharing where it is? I’d love to surprise my husband and son with a trip there. The last few months have been so stressful and this sounds like it would be a very healing experience for all three of us.

    • Anne says:

      This one was at the Presbyterian Seminary right off Alta Vista. There’s also one at the Episcopal church on Lowe Road but I haven’t been to it. At least not yet. 🙂

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