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.