Sometimes when I walk the labyrinth inlaid in the church floor, the turns are coils of intestines that will spill out no matter how one tries to fold them back inside. Sometimes they are the bend of the uterus or the doubling back of a neural tube that will blossom into embryonic life.
I am no hero in my journey, never one of those who always seems to know where to go and what to do. Always I stumble my way through, fairly clueless, love my only gift and it a gift I never can stretch to the people I feel I should spend it on and a gift that makes people frankly uncomfortable, anyway.
I am no hero in my journey but I am the journeyer, and I must meet all the archetypes even if I have no weapons or cleverness with which to defend myself.
Every year I make the winter pilgrimage to honor the women who have guided me without the ties of blood or genes. This is symbolized by taking a bag of cookies and oranges to a former boss who still lives in town and who cared for me well when I was a young woman working hard for a cause. On the way, the archetypes crowd in to meet me and leave messages I must puzzle over all the years after, trying to grow.
First: "Ma'am, Ma'am!" The car pulls up behind me as I walk along. I try to ignore it but he keeps calling so I whirl around, projecting fierceness. The man in the truck reminds me that he works for my uncle - do I need a ride anywhere? I apologize for my fierce look and thank him, tell him I do not need a ride, exchange holiday greetings and walk on. I must walk alone.
Next: I meet a giant archetype. The woman who lived next door to me when I was six and my mother just re-married and pregnant and when my new sister was a baby. The woman who took me into her days and showed great patience and love to me when my house was filling up with relationships that had to lessen time for me, at a time of great transitions for me. She gave me a kitten (she had a lot of cats) that I kept until my daughter was born, after which the cat died, her work complete, at an elderly 17. Now the woman is 75 and she looks great and talks to me for a long time. She tells me dire stories of what became of all our neighbors. I feel lucky but sad for everyone else.
Then: Walking past that house I lived in at six, my former landlady's daughter lets me pass her dog, a danger avoided.
Next: I walk past a friend's house. The lights are on and the door is open. I do not want to disturb. I wonder if they will see me pass or not. They do not, although I find an old man dozing in a car parked in front of their house. I ask him twice if he is okay and he finally waves me on vacantly.
Then: A bald man glares at me like a cyclops but lets me pass to the block of my destination.
I call my husband to come meet me on my way back with the car because my long conversation lengthened the journey and I will not be able to walk home before dark. Maybe I do not have to walk alone?
The house: I find it - blue shutters - walk up to the door, see the place mat that says "Joy" every year and leave my offering, then turn back for home.
My husband finds me on the road and makes me go to Dollar Tree with him - a penalty for not walking alone but also a lesson about sharing.
I will study the messages....
(Also, I'm pretty hopped up on allergy medicine.)