Walking in the World

Labyrinths

Labyrinths

Unexpected Pilgrimage

I love it when a pilgrimage finds me. Usually the pilgrim goes off in quest of the the pilgrimage, with the destination firmly in mind, but once in a while, just when I need it most, I stumble on to a place or shrine that seems to have called me in.

A 15th century stained glass roundel from the Abbot’s Palace

King Edmund was the king of East Anglia from 855 to 869 when he was martyred by invading Danes because he refused to renounce Christ. The Danes beat him and shot him with arrows, then beheaded him and threw his head into the forest. His head was later found when searchers heard a wolf calling out to them in Latin. A great Abbey bearing Edmund’s name was established, and his shrine attracted pilgrims from around the world for over 500 years.

Bury St. Edmunds is a lovely city about an hour and a half north of us, Its welcome sign proclaims it as the jewel in the crown of Suffolk, and I’m inclined to agree. I had heard the name before, but knew nothing more about it. The old city centers around the grounds and gardens of the ruined Abbey of St Edmund, and would probably still be recognizable to the pilgrims of old.

A medieval pilgrims badge commemorating having arrived at St Edmund’s shrine.

After wandering through the gardens, we spent some time exploring the Cathedral, a beautiful building which began life as a parish church in the 12th century. A series of renovations has brought it to its present size and glory. Even now, there is still scaffolding down the nave as new work is being carried out. We tiptoed in just as Sunday Worship services were ending and the choirboys were processing out; I was touched by the friendly welcome given to two camera-toting tourists. I hadn’t realised how much my soul needed a pilgrimage experience, even just a brief encounter with the spirits of pilgrims past. Finding this unexpected pilgrimage gem so close to home felt like a gift.

And yes, there was a labyrinth, too, with time for a walk…

 

03 Jul 2017

Labyrinth Knitting

Yesterday was Worldwide Knit in Public Day which is usually a chance to meet up with other knitters in some public place to unapologetically pull out our needles and yarn. As our local knitting group meets in the village pub every Wednesday, knitting in public seems pretty normal to me, but I love being extra-obvious and blatant about it every June. We were busy with a labyrinth event up in Cambridgeshire yesterday (which you can read about here and here), and as I was one of the organizers and speakers, I needed to keep my attention fairly focused, but I did manage to slip away for a few minutes of peaceful labyrinth knitting, thus successfully combining my two passions!

11 Jun 2017

Spring Knitting Show

Knitnstitchshow

Labyrinths and wool rolled in to a single day! Part of my birthday celebration this year was a trip to Olympia in London to attend the Spring Knittting and Stitching Show. As we had some shopping and lunching that we wanted to do while in the city, we purchased late entry tickets but headed in on an early train. By the time we saw these colourful posts welcoming us to the show, I was more than ready for anything and everything stitcherly! I had a few little things on my shopping list, but primarily I was looking for people with stories. I am choosing to spend my wool budget with small businesses who are working heartfully to succeed in a competitive field. Unlike Unravel, this show primarily featured larger merchants, but I found a few indies!

Romney Marsh Wools

Kristina and six generations of her family have been raising sheep on the Romney Marshes in Kent, only about an hour from us. Their Romney Marsh Wools are lovely and their focus on sustainable farming is equally admirable. I brought one one skein of wool, a pattern, and a couple of bottles of the lotion they make from the lanolin from the sheared wool. I’ll be ordering more wool soon as I’m already working on some ideas for future projects.

Latvian Mittens

And this is Inese who works in London now, but comes from Latvia where she was involved in a friend’s business of creating Latvian Mitten kits. She says that knitting those mittens are her passion now, and how could I possibly resist attempting a pair myself? I chose my wool, but am feeling a bit awed by the super-tiny needles I’ll need to use to make them. (Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath…)

Latvian Mittens

There was an overall emphasis on creativity and craftivism which I loved seeing, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to spend much time at any of the public knitting booths – that’s for a future visit, I guess. Nevertheless I felt very proud of the craftiness that flows through my veins and connects me to so many people with big hearts, nimble fingers, and good intentions! And I certainly enjoyed some of the creative projects on display!

Knitting Show exhibits

No trip with Jeff would be complete without finding a labyrinth or two. He actually enjoys these kinds of shows more than he lets on, and always manages to make some interesting discovery…. like these Indian labyrinth wood blocks tucked in amongst all the creative offerings at this immense show:

Indian labyrinths

And, of course, London’s Art on the Underground makes finding labyrinths an easy quest these days, and it is always fun to spot them while dashing through the subterranean stations:

Labyrinths on the Underground

(clockwise from top left: Stratford, Tottenham Court Road, Olympia, and West Ham stations)

06 Mar 2017

Behind the Scenes

We were out early Tuesday morning, before any sunlight made its way into the churchyard in Rayleigh. Cold, but appropriately wintry. Despite the chill, it was nice to take a bit of a detour so we could walk through the familiar old churchyard. For the first time this year, I was really aware of the light that morning. By the time I woke up, the sky was already beginning to lighten. The earth is stirring… as am I.

We’ve accomplished a long-time dream this week and launched the Labyrinthos Blog – a site specifically focused on the incredible labyrinth-themed information, photos and archive items that that cross our desks here in Labyrinthos HQ. We’ve been working long hours in our back-to-back desk chairs, clicking on our keyboards, cursing at our frustrations, but generally enjoying the experience of seeing some plans come together. In addition to my work on the Labyrinthos Blog website, Jeff is giving the official Labyrinthos website a complete overhaul, which is, of course, a painstakingly tedious task. It feels vitally important to be bringing our online presence into line with modern technology. We have so many wonderful things in our tiny little office that we want to share!

I have finally gotten some clarity on how my three websites/blogs can work together. Up to now, I have subscribed to a my-blog-my-rules philosophy, and have put authentic expression above clarity for my readers- a writing style that has been incredibly rewarding for me, but perhaps a little confusing to search engines and some readers. In my head, however, I’ve been been playing with new ideas for organizing and presenting my eclectic interests and passions – and I finally have a plan! Walking in the World will continue to showcase daily (quotidien) life, discussing whatever I find as I explore the world around me. Sometimes that will be my local community, the stuff of the Backyard Pilgrim, and other times it will give you an inside look at the amazing places we go as part of our labyrinth work. Eclectic, spontaneous, spiritual in an earthy and grounded sort of way. Footprints, pilgrimages, and hand-knitted socks. I want to show you my ‘Quotiediens’ as well as my ‘Cathedral Moments,’ and introduce you to the amazing people I meet along the way. I’m not even going to try to post every day, but I promise you some good stories, told from the heart and hopefully some good companionship.

My other website, Ariadne’s Thread, has been patiently waiting in the background for the past two years while I’ve focused on Walking in the World, but Ariadne’s stirring restlessly now, and I’m sensing a major change for that blog. I’m not going to give away the surprise, but watch this space in the coming weeks!

All three blogs/sites will have different email notification lists, so please have a good browse and sign up for the posts that you want to receive. Naturally I hope you’ll opt for all three – of course I do! But whatever you choose, thanks for joining me on the Path.

09 Feb 2017

Opus Anglicanum

opus

We were lured into London yesterday by a wonderful exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery. We arrived when the doors opened yesterday, hoping to beat any crowds later in the day. Even though it is a ticketed event, we knew we’d want time to linger and press our noses up against the glass cases for a closer look. Interestingly, most of our fellow visitors were male – I’d expected to be crowded in with an audience of primarily female stitchers.

opus-book

No photography is allowed, presumably to protect the fragile fabrics, but there is an enormous book available in the gift shop – we ordered one to be shipped directly to our doorstep so we wouldn’t have to lug it with us for the rest of the day. (The photos above are from advertisements on the museum website.)

The wonderfully curated collection features exquisitely stitched items from around Europe, some of which have not been seen in Britain since they were produced many centuries ago. Most of the stitchers were professional craftsmen, primarily men, though some women also worked on them. Many of the items were copes and other religious vestments that were commissioned by Europeans seeking the best embroidery available.

The detail was truly remarkable. Not only did we enjoy searching out familiar religious symbols and motifs, but we also marveled at the accuracy with which people and animals were depicted. Jeff could actually identify the species of the stitched birds,still completely recognizable today. And I was delighted to see that the depictions of my pilgrim saint, St. James, were complete with tiny cockleshells and pilgrim attire.

It would be impossible for me to choose a favourite. I loved the many and varied depictions of Mary, each a miniature masterpiece that introduced me to the artist’s vision of the Virgin. But the contents of the last case really took my breath away – a stitched coffin pall loaned by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. Adorned with sea creatures, including double-tailed mermaids, it is a stunning dimensional piece of embroidery, and truly representational of the thriving fish industry in London, then as now.

Then, too, there were the little Green Man faces on a cope that was later re-purposed and made into several smaller objects when religious copes fell out of favour during the Reformation, and actually became quite dangerous to own. Reunited but not resewn, and illustrated with modern digital imaging, the pieces now tell a bigger story of English history.

It truly pains me not to be able to show you photos from the exhibit, but perhaps my words will inspire you to visit them for yourself – and that is always the best way to experience such beauty and craftsmanship. If you’ll be in London before mid-February, don’t miss it! At the very least, go linger on the Opus Anglicanum webpage to admire some close-ups of featured items. If you’re interested in embroidery, you’ll love this video on The Making of Medieval Embroidery.

va

Afterwards, we wandered the V&A’s labyrinth of halls and stairways (which are beautiful in their own right) to navigate our way to a favourite piece of Gothic Revival furniture way up on the 4th level.

va-gallery-122

Fortunately, photography is allowed in that part of the museum, and there was a helpful guard available to shut off the alarm when the camera got too close.

king_renes_cabinet

It just wouldn’t seem right to leave without seeing it one more time!

06 Nov 2016

Layers of Pilgrimage

pilgrimstad

I didn’t mean to be a tease. When I last posted, I was heading off on pilgrimage, full of intentions to blog my journey. Oh when am I going to learn? Pilgrimage inevitably takes on a life of its own that has very little to do with intentions and goals. By Day Two, it was clear that blogging was going to distract me from my path, and the further I traveled, the less inclined I was to connect to technology at the end of the day.

pilgrimsign

Fortunately for me, I dropped more and more deeply into the unfolding layers of my journey. Unfortunately for my readers, I disappeared from cyberspace without warning or explanation. For weeks.

notredame

I’m home now, slowly unpacking my experiences and insights. It was a pilgrimage of pilgrimages as we moved on and across a number of pilgrimage routes in both Sweden and France. Each one felt unique and enticing, each continues to call to me. Along the way, we acquired passports, met fellow pilgrims and kindred spirits, and were inspired by the saints in whose footsteps we followed.

lorudden2

And who can be the same after an experience like that?

sisters

I don’t think I can recreate a day-by-day travelogue for you, and to even attempt it moves away from the immediacy that defines this particular blog. And yet I really want to share some of the magic of my travels with you. So, I’ve decided to indulge in a bit of time-travelling hopscotch. I’m going to stay current by posting some of my daily walks, but I’ll also weave in a few posts about the highlights of our pilgrimage. Watch this space!

26 Sep 2016

Ariadne Returns

Saffron620

Ariadne is back! To follow my labyrinth adventures, please visit me at Ariadne’s Thread where my posts will be primarily labyrinth-related. Walking in the World will continue with its eclectic nature, with labyrinths merely appearing amongst my other daily meanderings, both here in England and farther afield.

I’ve been playing with ideas for my blogs for months, and dividing my posts like this seems to be the best way forward. Each blog has its separate email notifications, so if you’re interested in both, please sign up on both sites. Both sites will evolving as I try out my new ideas. I will try to post several times a week across the two sites – neither will be on a daily basis, but hopefully there will continue to be a fair offering of beautiful photos and interesting stories.

I love having you share my journey. As most bloggers will admit, I find myself carrying my blog and its readers with me wherever I go, and I “talk” to you in my about far more than ever makes it to the page. Your comments and support not only encourage me onwards, but deepen my experience of Life itself.

(My series on the 2016 Saffron Walden Maze Festival will continue over on Ariadnes Thread. Hope to see you there!)

 

24 Aug 2016

A-maze-ing Saffron Walden!

Minotaur2

Every few years, the Minotaur comes to Saffron Walden, home of the wonderful 17th century turf maze.

He came, in many forms, as part of the 2016 Saffron Walden Maze Festival, which was a rousing success. Every three years, the town celebrates its maze-y history, as enthusiasts and creatives gather together to chat, walk, make, and play with labyrinths and mazes of all sorts and descriptions.

If I tried to show you the whole festival in one post, it would grow too long. So I’m going to show you around the festival in a series of mini-posts this week in hopes of giving you a sense of the event. We spent most of the weekend in Saffron Walden, driving up through the lovely rural countryside to this little market town that we consider a home away from home, especially during Maze Festival week when the whole place teems with labyrinth enthusiasm and interest and we get to watch as whole new generations get inspired about history and myth, while having the time of their lives. It’s a hands-on event, with something for everyone. I came away inspired, buzzing with new ideas, fresh conversations, and deepening friendships.

Let me show  you through the weekend….

Maze1

Those of you who know the town will undoubtedly be pleased to know that there is a new permanent maze in town. Jeff Saward officially cut the ribbon and declared it open on Saturday morning, to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd eager to explore the new pathways.

MazeCutting

And the fun began…
Mazeplay2
Mazeplay
Mazehead

To clarify, for those of you who aren’t familiar with British labyrinth terminology, yes, mazes are typically defined as containing pathway choices while labyrinths have a single path leading to the centre, but some of the historic turf labyrinths here have Maze names – and always have. Confusing? A bit, but if you consider it an opportunity for opening your mind, it doesn’t have to be problematic. Saffron Walden has always referred to the 17th century labyrinth on the Common as a maze. so that’s what I’m calling it here, and the festival, therefore, takes its name from history. The town now boasts an impressive collection of permanent mazes, of differing ages, some of which are labyrinths and others are mazes in today’s parlance. Something for everyone!

22 Aug 2016

Casella Labyrinth 

We visited a lovely labyrinth deep in the heart of the forest near Hilversum. Before reaching the labyrinth itself,  we spent a few minutes in the special prayer room whose floor to ceiling windows look out onto the labyrinth,  a perfect place to meditate and pray before and after walking.

The labyrinth is well tended by its Guardian Cat; he clearly came to welcome and accompany us,  but maintained his distance, obviously taking his responsibilities very seriously.

This was a lovely place to open my heart as my feet followed the meandering path. The sense of peace was profound and the gracious welcome deeply appreciated.

Casella is a religious community born from the Sisters of St. Augustine Monica. They provide a place of Silence and Encounter for young people, but happily they welcome even us oldies to walk their beautiful labyrinth. How grateful I am for these few days with Els.  She knows just how to welcome me to her home and her country. These are the places that speak to my heart.

Photo Els van Lierop

As Els says, “we never walk alone.”

13 Aug 2016

Imaginal Perspective

Fabrica1

There is a fantastic little gallery in Brighton with a big vision and an even bigger heart, whose mission is to remove barriers to accessing and engaging with contemporary art. The director of Fabrica invited us to visit and speak as an adjunct to their current exhibition, The Third Paradise: the Labyrinth and the Well, by the renowned Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Fabrica2

Featuring an innovative cardboard labyrinth (maze), the winding pathway guides visitors through the gallery to a central wishing well which holds a mirrored infinity sign with an extra loop at the centre – an image well worth exploring. You can read more about it here.

Fabrica3

While our job wasn’t to expound on Pistoletto’s work, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the symbolic role of the labyrinth in more depth than is normally permitted in an introductory lecture. I feel like I come alive when I can discuss archetypal themes and the ways in which working with our own imagery enlivens and enlightens us.There is a particular line that I wrote as part of my doctoral research many years ago; I loved it then, and it still express my deepest belief about the power of the labyrinth, even though I wasn’t allowed to use it in my dissertation — I’ve been waiting ever since for the right time and place to put it out into the world.

The labyrinth is a container for imaginal experience.

The bare bones structure of the labyrinth may simply invite imagery into the soul of the walker, and that, for me is the essence of labyrinth walking, and holds the seeds for the insights and transformations I experience as I follow the labyrinth’s meandering pathways. When I attend to what crosses my path, literally and metaphorically, I invite my imagination to the party, and that, according to some, is the very best therapy there is. Imagery is rich source of healing!

Imagery is the soul’s native language and therapy is the bringing of imagination into areas that are devoid of it. – Thomas Moore

Picture1

 

09 Aug 2016

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