When I made reservations and the guy said they had a labyrinth, I imagined some kind of New Age corn maze. But when we walked up from the B&B, there were no walls. Just a ballroom-sized expanse of stones in concentric circles, leading you through one half roundabout to the center, where a post displayed some Chinese or Japanese characters that probably said something significant, then through the other half and out.
The stones were bordered only by low grasses, so there was no suspense about which was the right path or the right turn. There was just one way through, or you could step right across the circle and ignore the path altogether. When I saw it, in the middle of the broad plateau, I thought, What’s the point if there’s no mystery?
But I walked in. My sandaled feet tramped first along the fine gravel of the outer pathways, then more quietly on the smooth stones of the inner pathways. It was curiously satisfying to feel that my feet were filling each part of the circle in an orderly though indirect way. Sometimes I’d feel like I was moving away from the center, yet the design always led, ultimately, closer in. When I got to the center, I looked at the post and wondered what the characters meant, but it was nice not to know.
Dave hadn’t entered when I did. He stood near some benches on the edge of the plateau. As I slowly rounded my way out, I almost shouted over a joke, or something to tell him it was no big deal, he could enter while I was in there, but something stopped me. I didn’t want to speak across the nonexistent labyrinth walls. I proceeded out through an exit which was exactly across from the entrance, and walked over to the benches. They were flanked by two spindly trees, maybe six feet tall, anchored to the ground with wires that I guess were meant to direct their growth. Everywhere in this place there were things built or planted with an eye toward the future. Five or twenty years from now, this will be a shady refuge from the merciless Kansas sun.
I watched Dave enter the labyrinth through the exit and wondered if that was right. Later I learned that it’s all about left and right, so I guess entrance and exit are relative. Madeline, who built the labyrinth with her husband Ken, from a design some MIT professor created, said it’s all about the three R’s — remember release, receive? Something like that. So when you enter, you walk first through the left side of the labyrinth, which somehow corresponds to your left brain, and think about what it is you want to get rid of. Then at the center I think you release it. Then you walk through the right side and maybe receive what you need to receive? But at the time, I hadn’t learned that yet. All I knew was that it felt really good to walk through it, though I didn’t know why, and when it was over I really wanted to walk through again, but it didn’t seem right to while Dave was in there.
And now that we’re home, past the stress of the grandmother visits and the challenging conversations about her offspring and the return flight on the tiny plane, I have one reason to want to go back to Kansas.