Friday, October 4, 2013

Cloudy With NO Chance of Meatballs, Only Wisdom

(Title borrowed from the book, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ronald Barrett)

If I added up the minutes of sunshine during my ten-day trip to Alaska, Washington, Montana and Idaho, I'm guessing it would be 28.  Okay, maybe 30, but that's stretching it. Apparently, a curious cloud had caught wind of my labyrinth retreats in Juneau, labyrinth visits in Seattle, Victor (MT) and Salmon (ID), and decided to tag along.  I know; I should have been flattered.  She was a sizable presence and could have attached herself to any number of worthy travelers, so I tolerated, even welcomed, her company.  Until Lost Trail Pass on the Montana/Idaho border.  Then I lost patience.

But I get ahead of myself.

Juneauites are accustomed to cloudy days.  After all, the city is located in the Tongass National Forest, a part of the larger Pacific temperate rainforest. Some variety of precipitation falls 230 days of the year, on average. So, when I visited Janis Burns Buyarski to hear the story of her labyrinth, she was 
prepared . . .

Janis not only built her own Living Waters Labyrinth, but was one of the creative minds behind the construction of the Merciful Love Labyrinth at the Shrine of St. Therese, a few miles down the road, where the retreats were held.

The cloud's on-again, off-again drizzle didn't phase the women walkers who donned rain jackets and dotted the landscape with multi-colored brightness.


At Tricia Layden's Seattle labyrinth, the cloud kept her distance, still present but aloof, observing, pondering.

She grew bolder, more inquisitive, at Patty Meyer's Redsun Labyrinth in Victor, Montana, dipping her wispy white hair closer to the ground.

Then swirled among mountaintops in Salmon, Idaho, mimicking Rebecca Foster and her new baby, Lilly's (bundled in a carrier), joyful labyrinth dance.

Lost Trail Pass (elev. 7014) loomed as my friend, Mary Toland, and I left Salmon, headed back toward Missoula.  An early winter storm warning for elevations above 6000 feet lay in our path.  With a fear of heights for anything higher than a step ladder, I was nervous, very nervous.  But the cloud had a lesson for me on this journey, one she had been waiting - for just the right moment - to impart.

I inched toward the crest of the pass at 40 MPH, as snow blew across the windshield and accumulated on the road. Mary calmly talked to me about -- who knows?  Her tomato plants, a Starbucks latte in our future, anything.  She even laughed.  She took the pictures. A constant connection.

At the top I felt victorious, until I realized that going down could be trickier.  I slowed to 20 and looked only at the patch of road directly in front of me, not at the drop-off beyond the guardrail.  That's all I was responsible for, the only thing in my life, at that moment, that I could do anything about.
I felt a sense of unexpected freedom, a joyfulness that comes from fully experiencing a moment,
the only moment you have.  

Much like the labyrinth. 
One step at a time.

The cloud smiled.   


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