delinquent paths

So I have a labyrinth in the backyard this year…. Doesn’t everyone? Really just a series of paths I’ve paced out in the snow, all connected, most of which follow the regular paths underneath, but some—and I love these best—run like delinquents straight through the middle of perennial beds, through the tall grasses, behind the spruce, across the veggie garden. Places I normally don’t walk. (There’s something very freeing about traipsing cavalierly over ice-encrusted earth where in just a few short months tender asparagus will present itself for my dinner.)

Cheap thrills, I know.

It wasn’t planned; I made this accidental circuit one night when I didn’t feel like going out for my usual walk through the neighbourhood. I wasn’t in the mood for cars and street lights so I walked in the yard instead under Orion’s Belt, up to my shins in virgin snow.

Only afterwards did it occur to me that I suddenly had my own personal head-clearing, right-outside-the-back-door well trodden walking ‘circuit’. I’ve come to love how I don’t have to plan A Walk, that I can just throw a jacket on over my bathrobe, stick my feet into boots and do a quick ten minutes before breakfast.

At first, of course, I felt like an idiot walking in my backyard. I think that’s what gave it the labyrinth vibe—the way it reminded me of years ago at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, how I’d been a minute into the labyrinth there, wondering when the magical life-transforming meditative qualities I’d read about would kick in, when a group of teenage boys showed up. As I tried to focus on my steps, they got comfortable, leaned against a wall, laughing and pointing. Apparently I was a scream.

I so desperately wanted not to care, to be already transformed, above such piffle. Instead I found myself concocting a plan where I’d make a quick and dignified exit, muttering just loud enough… something about that damned earringwhere could it have gone??

But I’m not a very good actor, so I kept walking. One foot in front of the other. And then the other. Again and again and so on. Finally, finally, finally, as I made the last turn to come out, I realized I wasn’t thinking about the boys anymore, in fact I couldn’t remember when I’d stopped thinking about them—I hadn’t even noticed they’d gone, that the place was quiet. For how long, I had no idea. 

It was the first time I’d tuned out. In a good way.

A testament, I guess, to the power of the labyrinth, essentially the absence of destination that lets the mind relax. Also a repetitive quality helps, a constant looping back and forth. 

Qualities my own faux labyrinth has in spades.

True, it takes time to get past thinking the neighbours might peek through the hedge and call someone, but I love how eventually I forget about them, and most other things, and just walk—just following my own circuitous, well-trodden paths between Echinacea stalks, behind the blackberries, down this way, then that, turning right, left, along the cedar fence, criss-crossing the patio, past the bird feeder, the serviceberry—knowing it’s there but seeing none of it—and back again.

At least until the snow melts. After which, it’ll all disappear into a distraction of well-behaved stone paths that beg to be followed, perennial beds too crowded to walk through, things to cut and trim and pull and plant. Not to mention the big invisible sign over the asparagus that reads: Trespassers Will Go Hungry.

Until then, consider me occasionally and happily tuned out.


2 thoughts on “delinquent paths

  1. It’s the delightful secret of being in a place of your own creation- not dressed for appearance, walking your own pace, your own everything …

    I did this too when I lived on a farm for three years. I felt magical under the sky, unafraid of the dark, walking in the place where I needed to be, a place that made me feel small under the moon, but bigger inside, a willy nilly route from the back door, to the woodpile, to the pond, to the gazebo, to the driveway, to the …

    Thanks for reminding me of that special time.

  2. You’re right, Mary. Such freedom being in your own space, no streets to look both ways before crossing, etc. An absence of thinking, however achieved = meditation. BTW, I love your route and how you felt small under the stars “but bigger inside”. Very pretty picture you paint…

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