Beautiful labyrinths aren’t always meant to be walked, and even beautiful cathedrals aren’t always meant to be visited. There is a time and a place for everything. This I have learned over time, and I’ve long shied away from being a “tick-list tourist” when visiting new places, and I like the idea of always having a good reason to return to a place, but not assuming that I’ve seen all of the majesties that it has to offer.

The wonderful Chartres labyrinth inside Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, is one recent example where I felt the nudge to “walk on by” this time. This was the very labyrinth where my call to the Labyrinth Around America was confirmed, not to mention where the modern labyrinth movement really took root, and I’ve little doubt that – God willing – I will at some point return again, but not this time.

I have to check my own projection of disappointment here. Grace was one home of labyrinth lovers that I’d approached to see if I might join their occasional morning walks (of course, the labyrinth is always available for walking alone, as is the one outside the cathedral). To date, my phone call and email messages remain unanswered.

There’s probably good reason for this, energetically as well as logistically, and it’s actually been the norm, rather than exception, for my approaches to different venues on this trip to go unanswered. Even the odd labyrinth committee has said “no”, for reasons that may remain unknown to me, while one common response of those who do reply is “we already have a labyrinth.” I nearly always push gently at doors when approaching and don’t keep knocking, but I do confess my disappointment every time I don’t hear back or get what feels for me like a knock-back – my expectations being challenged and a need for my learning and acceptance of possibly very fair “reasons unknown”, I know. And yes, I must be seen by many as being quite a maverick.

Perhaps next time round this one will be. I hope so, in part because of this labyrinth’s vital role in my own discovery of the labyrinth (the individual who brought the labyrinth to my old home city of Brighton&Hove was a regular walker here when he lived in California). Whether or not it is, I won’t give up on coming back to this special place. Just not this time, Grace.


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