Year Seven: Walking the Labyrinth

Love is eternal.  The ocean will reclaim this writing, but the love will always be there.
Judith, Allie, Cameron, Widow’s Walk Labyrinth, June 19, 2022, Salisbury Beach, MA

“There is no right way to walk a labyrinth.”  So says my good friend, Cameron Sesto,  brilliant artist and labyrinth maker.  For the past several years she,  Allie Davis, also an artist in deed and soul, and myself, have come together weekly on zoom to share inspiration and creative longings arising initially from the COVID crisis and then from our shared experiences in widowhood. We call ourselves The Three Red Fishes, from a drawing Cameron had rediscovered right after we started up our meetings. In our weekly Friday meetings, “Fish on Fridays”, we share poetry, artwork, favorite books and quotes, music and other musings that bubble up.

Harold passed away seven years ago today, on the summer solstice in 2015.  Allie’s loss came just a few months ago and Cameron’s husband left two years back. We each accompanied our partners through the moments of death and the years of care leading up to it. In our time together we began to see the that the walk of loss, grief and resilience is much like a labyrinth, which holds the treasures of wisdom and re-birth at it’s center. The only requirement is saying “yes” to the journey and entering in.

Three Red Fishes, Judith, Allie and Cameron swimming in the cosmos of creative solidarity © Cameron Sesto

Every year Cameron invites others to join her in a labyrinth walk on the beach in Salisbury, MA.  One of them is generally on the summer Solstice.  So on a chilly and cloudy day yesterday (June 19th) we came together with others  to share a “Widow’s Walk” into the labyrinth.  All were invited.

Allie entering the Labyrinth © Judith Thompson, 2022

The labyrinth represents the journey to self discovery; movement toward the center of one’s being; acceptance of the mysteries, challenges and joys of life.  Unlike a maze that can lead to dead ends, back-tracking and “figuring it out”,  labyrinths have one path to the center, though the route has many twists and turns.  Patience, receptivity and trust are key, but the center always holds the treasures created by the walk itself.

In the spirit of Cameron’s “there’s no right way”,  I entered the labyrinth realizing that the walk was not just about my individual journey,  but the relational one.

I was walking inward toward the mysteries of Us,  who WE were as a couple, and who we ARE as a relational reality that continues to be a vital, living , evolving, aspect of my daily life

Cameron spreading flower petals along the labryrinth way. © Judith Thompson

Harold’s  death has not stopped our relationship from growing.  I don’t simply mean that I have memories that keep him alive. Rather, not unlike walking the labyrinth, I am turning corners, not certain what awaits me, but sensing the pull to the center. There I discover in his words and images things hitherto unknown to me. He speaks to me anew. I am always learning from him, which in turn creates a very dynamic on-going relationship.  This is one of the great blessings of  being the guardian of his artistic and teaching legacy. The artist, his teachings,  the man, his soul, his life journey, his wisdom are all of a piece and can’t be separated. Pulling on one thread leads to a deeper understanding of the whole package. And I hadn’t realized how much more there is to know and experience of Harold.

Passimg on the Summer Solstice 2015 always seemed so fitting. The longest day of the year.  The man who swallowed the sun. Missing you and finding you anew every single day. Judith and Harold, 1998. Photo © Beth Black
Joanne Rowley drawing the labyrinth, June 19, 2022 © Judith Thompson

As  I walked the labyrinth yesterday I was also struck, once again, by the circularity of this journey.  As I walked toward the center I passed Allie on her way out. I borrowed some strength from her to continue my journey knowing that when she comes into the center again, I may be walking out and can send it back to her.  And then again,  we,  the three of us and so many others,  grow stronger, deeper and more compassionate walking side by side.  I am deeply grateful for their companionship.

Here’s a poem Allie brought to our weekly Fish on Fridays conversation a while back.  It speaks to me of the totality of this on-going circle of heartbreak and wholeness;  of death and rebirth; of the Great Mystery at the center of it all.

Split Nautilus against the sea at sunset, 1980 © Harold Feinstein

The Unbroken
by Rashani Rea

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole
while learning to sing.