Manifesting a Labyrinth

Ursula lay in the crook of Charley’s arm, her body in a quiet simmer as he slipped into sleep. Last night had taken her into sleep, but after this morning’s session she was feeling pretty lively.

Visions of labia-rynths kept running through her head. That doorway into the sacred feminine so worshipped by the ancient goddess cultures. The pubic triangle, the spiral. The inward journey the sperm takes to find the egg can be imitated by humans to find their source. It was exhilarating to have felt it so strongly in the last several hours. Not the egg part, of course, Ursula’s post-menopausal eggs long since having been absorbed back into her body.

The ceremonial quality of their joining had made the obvious another degree apparent to her. Fiery feminine Shakti energy. Not solely female. The male had always had a part but perhaps men had been undervalued in the matriarchal structure. Was that why the energy had shifted millennia ago to male dominance? Had the generally larger half of the human race with those funny looking appendages dangling in front felt left out? Thus began the take over process that left that women trampled and defiled, the hard work of their crucial part in creation belittled – despised even.

It was clear to her – and to the women of her circle – that the challenge of this new age was not for women to be in ascendance again. “Power Over” was a male game. In recent decades women had proven well capable of taking on and succeeding at the fierce competitiveness of their male counterparts, hence the female executive’s “power suits” with shoulder pads. They’d often discussed how buying into that game and playing it out would only send things seesawing back again to a different sort of domination.

No, the challenge this time was to even things up and integrate. To value the feminine and the masculine in each person – such that the softness and sensitivity of nurturance in men and women balanced the physical strength and direct thinking in both as well. That much seemed obvious but how did that relate to sexual passion at home and how did that in turn reach out into the community?

It would be fun to play with symbols anyway. The obelisk to honor men – or some other snaky, pointy object? Lingams were worshipped by both men and women in India. A labyrinth to depict the feminine? There were ruins of temples in the Mediterranean shaped like a woman’s body that one walked into…. And Oshun’s sacred grove in Oshogbo, Nigeria where initiates could actually walk into a sacred vagina….

From here her thoughts began drifting – not into sleepiness but rather into ideas. For a long time she’d harbored a dream of having a permanent labyrinth in town which people could meander any time. Tourists would be drawn to it like the giant chessboards occasionally seen in town squares. Only in this you wouldn’t have to round up any pieces to play with. The locals could use it when a need for reflection and calming seized them. A rather public reflection spot, but still…. And on special occasions she could trot out her boxes of votive candles. There was nothing quite like threading a labyrinth flickering with flame. She’d set that up once in the main street during an Art Walk and a couple of times on the bay beach for Equinox.

But where could it go in town? She’d talked in the past to shop owners who had a bit of extra land but so far no takers. Her next thought was a logical one, born out of her emotions, a perfect blending of the male and female (if she did say so herself). And it was too good an image to keep to herself.

Poke, poke. Charley opened one eye questioningly, not wanting to respond though he knew from the urgency of her finger that something was up.

“I think my second chakra is running on all cylinders now. You – I guess we – have gotten the creative aspect humming as well as the sexual,” she giggled.

“You mean like ‘The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot’ as you witches say?”

“Kinda – only I know full well that we’ve got the Green Man operating here as well.”

“Do tell.”

Labyrinth. Lingam. Shakti. Shiva. Ursula laid out her vision, ending with, “What if we could do it in the lot next door to the Community Center that we’re always saying one of the Trusts should be buying?”

Admittedly he’d heard parts of it before, but her conclusion was a new one that got his own honed creative wheels turning. “Hmmm. I have been hearing some renewed interest in acquiring that lot,” Charley admitted. “In fact I can think of someone I might approach to kick off a matching funds challenge.”

“Could we do a labyrinth there and still have enough parking for the center and the stores nearby?”

“I don’t see why not. I’ll ask Crystal to do a layout for us. Careful planning might create even more parking than what happens all higgledy-piggledy now.”

“Ooh, it would be so cool. Almost like the final cap on our ideas for town. Like all else would flow from the magic of that. There could be a little instruction that said something about going in with an intention. I think I’ll plant a few goddess seeds there.”

“Goddess seeds?”

“You know, those flat little terra cotta figures.”

“Oh, those coin-sized clay ones of Venus of Willendorf and the Cretan goddess that we planted at ReBound and at the Center to help things get going. Maybe we could make some male ones too.”

“That’s a good idea. The union. Maybe a river tooth or a tree trunk would work in the park area for the male aspect.”

“So mote it be,” said the listening Spirits.

Proposal Work

“So, Charley, what have we got going here? What are we manifesting with this thing?“

Molly and Charley were sitting next to each other on the couch in the Neadatagi House living room with papers spread out before them on the coffee table. They were about to merge various drafts and project ideas into some coherent form for a funding proposal to the Fed’s “Greening Rural Economies” program. The deadline for proposals was looming so they had the whole day blocked out for concentrated work.

For once it was quiet in the house. No PSU interns organizing their Fall Sustainability Festival. No Michael getting things set up for next term. Even Fe-Lion was curled up quietly a comfy chair.

“Let’s start with an easy one to add in – the Bagless Town. Ursula came up with this idea from a place a customer told her about in England. All the stores got on board and stopped giving out paper or plastic shopping bags and instead had canvas bags to sell or give. I figure we could use a sum to get a bunch printed up that say something to the effect that ‘Mahonia-Nekelew is a Bagless Community.’ Stores can use them as is or have their own name printed on a supply.”

“Or decorate theirs distinctively somehow.”

“They can either give them away as advertising or sell them to make back their investment.”

“So we’re not giving each business the bags?”

“What about going halvsies with them? It will look good on the proposal to have the matching buy in.”

“Good point. ReBound could also save the any bags (the printed ones or others) that come in for redistribution so we’d be demonstrating reuse as well.” Molly was adding these points on her laptop while she talked. “But don’t we also need some funds to pay someone to organize this? To talk it up among the shops, get people committed?”

“Yes and also funds for advertising both in local papers and beyond. The word needs to get out. Ads could have a line on them that says ‘Your community could do this too – ask the Neadatagi Center how.’”

“Good self promotion,” Molly laughed. “Are you imagining that some of Michael’s crew would do this or are we hiring someone else?”

“Either will work and I think we should fund it either way. Michael says he is going to need to bring in some money for his program and this kind of thing might help so I think we should have staffing as a line item. We can always shift it later if it gets done by a volunteer – either one of Michael’s interns or someone else in town. But the more funds we bring in to hire people the more we’re helping the people and jobs side of the equation.”

“Okay, I’ve got it on the list and we can do the budget numbers this afternoon. What else?”

“Parking in the lot next to the community center. Clearly it’s an economic development need for local businesses especially in the summer. Some group of us should have bought that lot years ago but I think there’s renewed interest now and the price has come way down for a variety of reasons. I have a private donor willing to do a challenge match for individual donations. The City is willing to chip in for a down payment as soon as we have the rest of the package together. I think if we add some through this proposal we’ll be well on our way.”

“I would still rather stop the traffic and make everyone park at the top of the hill where the highway comes past so we can be a carless town as well. But perhaps that needs to wait a little longer.”

“Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got critical mass on that one yet. We’ll get there. Step by step.”

“Let’s at least include a couple of RCar slots anyway. Or one of them could be from Portland’s company.

“I do think we can slip a little magic into it too. Ursula came up with an idea the other night for a doing labyrinth along with the parking. Ta da!” He whipped a drawing out of a folder. I got Crystal to rough it out. We can get as many cars in there with this plan as go in there helter skelter now and we’ll still have room for a pavement labyrinth.”

“Way cool. Do you think folks will go for it? It’s not too woo woo?”

“I’m trusting that this sort of thing is accepted enough now that it won’t raise too many eyebrows. They have one at the Episcopal Church, for heaven’s sake. I’d like to include it under the 2% for Art and Heart so we can pay Crystal for her design and have someone really craft it with beautiful tiles.”

“How ’bout including tiles done by local school kids. I’m sure Ariel could get into helping with that.”

“Even better. Community involvement with kids always sells. It’s high time we got that bit of manifesting underway.” There was a pause while they sipped their tea and eyed their notes.

“Here’s one on my list,” offered Molly.

“Go for it.”

”Putting a glass foundry on the land next to ReBound that we acquired with the last grant. You know I’ve been dreaming of this ever since the beginning of the Center. We’ve got all that bottle glass. We pay way too much to ship it to Portland for the little bit we get for it. There’s no reason we can’t create a way to melt it down here. We can even include window glass as long as it’s in separate batches. I’ve checked on the state of the art equipment from St Vincent dePaul’s in Eugene where they’ve been making sun-catchers and things for years. I keep waiting for someone to come along who wants to take charge of organizing our own version that might include architectural blocks and dishware. But I think we need to get the funds – realistically for the true cost – and advertise for someone even if it means hiring from outside the community.”

“Maybe someone will come along.” They grinned at each other knowing how often that was happening these days when the time was ripe.

“What else do you need over there on that land? Johan’s metal works is going well.”

“He’s booming as is the community food composting area supplemented by decentralized stations around the towns. I’m so glad we put money in last time to hire a coordinator advocate to work with restaurant owners and neighborhoods, but we need to re-up those funds. I don’t know that it will ever pay for itself.”

“Not ‘til composting is just a matter of course everywhere. Some things need to be subsidized. Most large cities subsidize garbage collection, why is this any different?”

“Then there’s Raven’s dream of a full time gallery out there. He’s frustrated at always having to move his stuff around or waiting til the once a year show at our Gala. I think we can make a good case for it.”

“Speaking of which is the Trash Art mini-golf course still on the wish list?”

“You bet! Here are Crystal’s drawings for it. Raven and others are hot to design and build holes so it will fund both the artists and ReBound. I am convinced it can be a moneymaker and an additional eco-tourist draw. Does RCar need refunding?”

“No, it is now paying for itself, just as we predicted and use continues to go up. I hear the equipment rental set up is paying for itself as well. We can include references to those successes in the proposal.”

“Ok, I’m feeling like it’s time for us each to settle in separately for a bit now to write up our pet projects to add to those already in the narrative section. Then after lunch we can add it to the background materials & success stories we’ve already gotten down.”

“Then to conjuring the final budget. We’re probably getting up there but I think we can squeak it all into the maximum allowable request. Michael said he’d be happy to look over our numbers tomorrow. He has a great eye for that side of things.”

“Good job, by the way, on getting the support letters already. We’ve got some weighty ones that speak well to our community’s progress.”

“Yup, the October 31 deadline is getting close but we’re in good shape.”

Fall Equinox

The sun is low on the horizon due West, its golden-orange light streaming across the Pacific to fill the hollow in the dunes where a labyrinth is etched in the sand, a tall pole at its center. Nothing in the sand is ever permanent. The labyrinth is there for this one evening in the magic hour.

A tall slender woman, her long hair tucked under a close fitting hat, faces South immersed in a private devotion as she plays an Andean flute. Three people cluster on the opposite side, their shadows stretching impossibly long in the evening glow. A fourth stands in the East on the highest dune photographing the scene.

A spider watches from a tenuous web amongst the dune grass as the photographer puts her camera in her pocket and treks down to the entrance of the labyrinth.

More people, including two children, trickle in over the dune from the North. Others finish their communing with the sun at its Equinox point of balance and come in off the beach to the West.

When they reach critical mass, the thirteen humans join hands and grinning at each other, begin their customary rite. For the sake of the newcomers, a bearded man in a dark hoody, describes the Equinox as a balance of the days with the nights as well as a balance of the seasons. He asks that each look inside to find a place of equilibrium in their hearts. What can be eaten, giving enjoyment in the moment, and what will be left to seed? What can be planted now for winter crops and what must wait until balance is achieved again in the Spring? He suggests they think of balance, not as the Western notion of a seesaw, either up or down, but as a yin yang symbol, the dark curving into the light, a spark of each in the other. A few minutes of contemplative silence ensue before each speaks in turn around the circle about their intentions for the coming harvest season. Some have questions rather than a clear direction forward. It is suggested that they all seek answers in the labyrinth.

A woman in a long green skirt and poncho begins a heartbeat on the round spirit drum in her hand as another leads the unwinding of the circle into the labyrinth. The drummer and flute player follow last. Some years they hold hands and move to a faster beat. This time there is solemnity in their passage, though a chant is soon started and taken up by the rest. “Mother, I feel you under my feet. Mother, I hear your heart beat.” Over and over they sing the words.

Each is focused inward. Those new to it are surprised at the turnings of the way and how every time it seems they must surely be reaching the center, the path leads around again, sometimes along the outside, sometimes veering tantalizingly close.

The first figure reaches the center with its little bouquet of seaweed, dune grass and beach pea. She kneels to add a small stone from her pocket. Standing she sees the sun just setting and gives a great shout. Then scooting past the tall gangly young man behind her in line she begins the journey back, while he kneels whispering question or prayer. As does the next and the next. A latecomer comes running over the dune and dashes into the entranceway.

At some point the drumbeat changes and all begin to dance, reaching out to touch those they pass coming in the opposite direction. Some exchange quick hugs or at least a wink. Upon reaching the doorway they join in a line beyond clapping rhythmically. Soon everyone but the latecomer out, they take up a silly, merry shouting.

The last appears laughing from the sacred journey and they clasp each other in a circle, their voices soaring in wordless tones. Harmonies, disharmonies, overtones fill the air and rise powerfully skywards until suddenly it breaks off for no apparent reason other than it is time. Silence holds for several heartbeats. Chatting at first in clusters, they begin to wander off much as they had appeared. Heading home for dinner.

Grandmother Spider is well pleased. Things are coming along. These hardy few are keeping the ceremonies of the seasons. She would have loved to see more people, but was glad to see any. Each year it’s a bit of a question. “Patience,” she counsels herself. Webs are slow to weave and often broken to be rewoven. She wonders if anyone found memories of who they are in the center of the labyrinth – the labia-rinth, that journey into the womb of creation, the perpetual round of life, death and rebirth.