slow, deep

Sarah Cunningham's picture

Rain. Much colder, getting colder. I came to campus to swim, but the open swim is closed (that's what I'm told, in those words!) so that volley ball players can use all the locker rooms. (Thanks a bunch, Claire and Zoe!) So, to the labyrinth, with the intention of going deeper. Slower, deeper. Stepping into deep dreaming space, circling towards union. Greet the beech tree first: the "three ladies" are hugely bigger than I remember them: my photographs, which I've been looking at all week, have no reference for scale, and make them look small, graceful, like normal size tree trunks. In fact they are huge and graceful. The trunk of this tree is enormous, much thicker than one would expect from the overall profile of the tree. In my paper I compared these three trunks to my grandmother, my mother, and me. Does their surprising size tell me something about us, our deceptive, unobvious size and power? I sneak a wilderness pee under the shelter of the tree's hanging branches. No one around, no one watching, but I feel illicit, get away with it.

Going deeper already, I sense/imagine down into the earth, the curve of the hill, picturing/feeling grass over earth over rock.

Ready to step into the labyrinth. I do not feel cold though I came unprepared for outdoor time. Perhaps partly because of almost swimming, partly because of thinking of going deeper, I stand at the threshold and imagine diving in, as if the labyrinth path is a lane of the pool. I recall the image from Fun Home, of Alison's father, as a toddler, wandering off and getting his feet stuck in the earth of a plowed field, such an apt and beautiful metaphor for rootedness. And I'm reminded again of my friend Clair's dream: Clair is a Jew from Alabama who has lived in Ireland for over thirty years, married to an Irishman and bringing up her four daughters in a remote rural area; when her marriage came apart for a time she thought of moving back to Alabama, but dreamt she had sunk up to her ankles in the mud of West Cork, literally taking root there: impossible to leave. So now I imagine walking this labyrinth not on the surface of the dirt, but allowing my feet to sink in; my energy body extending down several feet below the soles of my physical feet. Taking slow, slow steps, feeling deep into the earth, grounding through the left foot, then the right, taking 10, 15 seconds for each step, letting my whole body align to the foot as each foot sinks into the gravity of the soil, softening the focus of my eyes so as to be aware of all the rings of the labyrinth around me at once, hearing the clock strike twelve and knowing I won't be able to do the whole journey this slowly as I am expected home for lunch, I've spent twenty minutes already on just one circuit, of seven circles in and seven out again... Reflecting, even as I try to quiet my mind, on this counting, counting, like counting laps in the pool, like my mother counting her steps from her bed to the bathroom, compulsive measuring, quantifying, across the unmeasurable stretches of time/eternity, somehow part of the meditation.

Sounds of rain. At first loudest sound of drops on the hood of my jacket, but as the rain falls a bit heavier the sound on the leaves of the nearest beech tree gets louder still. Beautiful gray slates on the roof of Rhoads. The grass between the labyrinth paths starts to appear as if the fur of a furry animal. The weeds growing in the path become individuals, clover, wood sorrel, crab grass, couch grass, dandelions, several I can't name. The rain is bringing out the life of everything. Lacrosse players playing on in the rain. Little groups with umbrellas. I am moving a little faster, maybe one or two steps per second: still a slow walk. Stretching arms in organic rhythm with the walk. Ground, ground: what does the word for earth have to do with the past tense of the verb to grind? Want to look up "ground". But meanwhile I am deeper, I have been sinking deeper into the ground of the labyrinth, into the earth of Bryn Mawr, into the soil of my family history, all with the same steps, the small curves that my body makes, the little shakes of loosening hands and shoulders, the interior of my body as much as the beech tree and the soil is the nature I am observing, observing from the inside, smelling a faint whiff of decay with one breath, followed by a faint whiff of sweetness the next, treasuring the curve of the labyrinthine circles on the curve of the earth, the soil still dry where the beech tree overhangs, on the way out a small rough white fungus or mushroom, barely 1/4 inch across. Squirrels. Lush tails. Lively, active, inquisitive beasts, and I am connecting to Elizabeth through her issues with the squirrels, to Hannah through her memories of rain in Ireland, and remembering a walk I took in the boggy rough pastureland high on the mountain behind my house in West Cork, and coming across a rock, part of a rough dry stone wall, which was completely encrusted, all over, with quartz crystals the size of a little finger. Tempting to carry it home, but I left it there, a touch stone, a point of orientation, an energy beacon to tune back in to and orient to from wherever in the world, as I am doing now from labyrinth, doing now from my desk.

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