Walking with Grace

A number of years ago I was headed back to San Francisco for the first time after I had discovered labyrinths. Unlike previous visits, in which I usually headed straight for the wharf or the beach, this time I was going to Grace Cathedral to walk its outdoor labyrinth. I had my handy little multi-page map of the city, complete with bus and trolley lines, and was ready for the adventure.

It was a Sunday (Super Bowl Sunday, as it happened), and I approached the Cathedral slowly, stopping in a small park across the street to sit and wait for the last service to let out and the time to be just right. A few minutes later the lower doors flew open and, rather than just a throng of people, a colorful lion emerged, accompanied by the sound of rattles and horns. It seems it was also Chinese New Year, and the lion was an auspicious sign.

I watched and enjoyed the spectacle from afar, waiting for the crowd to dissipate before crossing the street and climbing the steps to the labyrinth inlaid in the concrete. I found the February day balmy enough to remove my shoes before crossing the threshold. When I began my walk, I was completely alone in the labyrinth.

I was aware when a family (mother, daughter, son) entered the area. My awareness took in their wonder even as I remained intent on my walk. I smiled when the little girl, following my example, took off her shoes and began walking, while mom and brother sat on one of the concrete benches to watch.

The girl’s pace was slightly faster than mine, but not as rapid as most children’s, and my head start kept me ahead of her until I reached the center. When the girl reached the center, she did a little dance, then skipped across the eleven circuits back to where her mother and brother awaited her. And I thanked the labyrinth for her companionship.

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