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Desert Companion

Twisted thinking: Get lost and then find yourself

Local labyrinths offer reflective steps in the right direction

I wouldn’t say that I’m a labyrinth junkie, but if there’s a unicursal maze in front of me, I’m going in. I’ve walked the labyrinth outside Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (more than a couple dozen times, even well after midnight), visited the labyrinths here in Southern Nevada and even printed out a labyrinth to tape to my desk.

As with all habit-forming interests, moderation is probably key. But if I had a labyrinth behind my house, I’d be there day and night. Why? The experience of walking the winding, narrow path — spatially limited enough to keep your attention and restrict your pace — is invaluable. Whisked from quadrant to quadrant, you reach the center with your troubles shed, and then you exit by that same circuitous path, unleashed back into the world, lovingly ejected from the meditative reprieve.

There’s a reason why labyrinths — not to be confused with route-blocking mazes — dot the international landscape, from churches to hospital grounds to new age retreats, backyards, spas and even gardens. They offer spiritual recharge, religious resonance or just simple relaxation.

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According to the online Worldwide Labyrinth Locator database (yes, you read right), more than 3,950 labyrinths reside in more than 70 countries. Lectures, websites, pamphlets and books talk of labyrinthine solace and religious practice throughout history, dating back more than 4,000 years to Delphi. They’re accompanied by photos of unique or more famous labyrinths, such as the Chartres Cathedral in

 
France. Whether classical, tribal or Roman mosaic, they vary in materials — constructed from rocks, gravel, concrete, bricks, snow, masking tape, marker or paint on canvas. Or pixels: There are even virtual labyrinths to watch on the Internet.

We’ve got our share. The labyrinth on the hilltop campus of St. Andrew Catholic Community Church in Boulder City, with its nearby line of cypress trees, surrounding benches and, quite poetically, birds, is by far my local favorite. The entrance is through a xeriscaped prayer garden, where placards on stones highlight the history of the universe from its formation 13 billion years ago to the arrival of algae and bacteria, then humans and, finally, the perspective-altering phrase that the church is only five seconds old in relation to the age of the universe. The peaceful walk on the concrete labyrinth, interrupted only by church bells on the hour, is heavenly (for lack of a better word). But then most of them are.

Labyrinth

My next local labyrinth adventure will likely be the seven-circuit labyrinth in Pahrump at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Designed by Master Gardener Alice Rossington and built using the help of other master gardeners, it sits among native plants and trees and is made from stones on the desert floor. (In true casino-culture fashion, it’s open 24 hours.) Also offering a desert experience is a labyrinth made of gravel and stone at The Temple of Goddess Spirituality in Indian Springs. Locally, there’s a monthly vigil on a canvas labyrinth held at Christ Church Episcopal on Maryland Parkway. There’s also a labyrinth-inspired walking path in Huntridge Circle Park, but it shouldn’t be confused with a real labyrinth, in that it has a separate entrance and exit.

But should you need a quick, middle-of-the-night labyrinth stop in town, the 24-hour labyrinth on the St. Rose Dominican San Martin Campus on Warm Springs Road is there for you. Surrounded by trees, hedges, rows of small flowering plants and blooming rose bushes, it offers a sense of quiet in the otherwise busy valley, and engenders solitude and connection, even despite the building’s windows looking down onto the labyrinth and garden. As with the St. Andrew labyrinth in Boulder City, nearby pamphlets explain the history of labyrinths and stages of walking, from the cleansing, shedding and releasing of everyday life to the receiving in its center of illumination and insight. Or just a relaxing end to a long day.

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