November 11th, 2011
It was not without a note of sadness that we hosted our last “Labyrinth as Sanctuary” at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa. For the past two and a half years we have brought musicians and participants together in the creation of a peace-filled and creative series of encounters with the medieval labyrinth. “Our” labyrinth is situated in the church hall, which will soon be torn down to make room for condominiums. During these special evenings hundreds of people have come to walk the labyrinth and more than 20 musicians have been introduced to the very particular and engaging place to create music.
For our last “Labyrinth as Sanctuary” we invited the resident organist and director of music of Christ Church Cathedral, Matthew Larkin. He is a natural at the labyrinth and brings a wealth of musical repertoire, yet offers something uniquely his own. Playing for the labyrinth is a kind of musical marathon, as the musician plays until the last person has exited. Usually this runs an hour and a half or so.
As it was Remembrance Day, we acknowledged those who had given their lives in the service of our country and also those who had served and returned home, forever changed by the experience of war.
At the entrance to the labyrinth, along with a basket of poppies, there was a word-bowl, seeded with evocative printed words on the theme of remembrance. At the center of the labyrinth we set a cushion to receive the poppies as an act of remembrance. By the end of the evening there was a collection of poppies but also words. My daughter Willow framed some poignant pairings in the photographs below.
It is such a delight to listen to Matthew Larkin play. I spent some time watching as well while taking the video below and I don’t know why I ever turned the camera off. Matthew was really in the moment both in the music and also with the participants. He is a keen observer and picked up on the mood in the room but also was able to influence the tone of the evening as well. There were not many minor notes or somber feeling, rather the accompaniment was energetic even though the participants walked fairly slowly. I did overhear someone say it was a bit like listening to Keith Jarrett. I’d say! It is always a great pleasure to listen to Matthew but especially so while walking the labyrinth, as the experience lends itself to deep listening.
Here is a short video clip of the evening. Not the same as being there, but a nice reminder.
It has certainly been a journey of great adventure to offer the labyrinth to our community. One of our musical collaborators once commented that we had created “a church within a church”. We do have a community of people who gather around the labyrinth. The labyrinth can be seen as a touchstone or a well. It allows one to access a deep sense of peace and wellbeing which once known can be found again and revisited. If we all really knew this and allowed a deep sense of peace to inspire compassion for ourselves and towards others, with growing numbers I know we could create the kind of world we all seek.
One of the aspects of the experience, especially true of the Chartres labyrinth, is the path revealing itself one step at a time. While it is possible to look ahead and see a few turns it is usually not possible to know where you are within the whole pattern.
At this time of the turning of the path in my work with the labyrinth, I trust that the next steps will reveal themselves to me.
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