Who: Globe writer Stephanie Ebbert, with her husband, Ted Devlin,
and kids, Anna Devlin, 9, and Nick Devlin, 6.
What: Getting to the center of things in labyrinths
WHERE: Church of our Redeemer in Lexington and the Memorial Labyrinth at Boston College
My son is transfixed by mazes — labyrinths, puzzles, corn mazes, you name it. He doesn’t get this from me, a writer who is pretty much lacking any sense of spatial orientation. I’m the kind who will give up in the middle of a corn maze and beg for help from the kids. But Nick, blessed with his daddy’s brain, has been inspiring the family to try new labyrinthine adventures.
Last weekend, we set out to explore some of the labyrinths in the Boston area. The Labyrinth Guild of New England has a great website (www.labyrinthguild.org) with locations and contact information for the labyrinths that are on private property. It turns out the choices are many and varied — labyrinths indoors, outdoors, paved with stone, or traced onto trails. We visited two outdoor labyrinths, both free and open to the public 24 hours a day.
The first was at the Church of our Redeemer, off the Minuteman Trail and the Battle Green in Lexington. The labyrinth (pictured) is 26 feet in diameter, paved with a lovely pattern of white and gray stones. Walking a labyrinth isn’t as frustrating as a maze. It’s quite the opposite, following a single path in and out. As you submit to the labyrinth’s route, ribboned round and round within itself, you surrender to its inevitability and your mind begins to clear. It can be a calming, contemplative experience, like meditation.
Except with kids.
“I’m gonna win! I’m gonna win!” Nick shouted as he dashed into the first labyrinth we visited.
“I’m gonna smash into you!” Anna warned as she careened her brother’s way.
They say that the journey of the labyrinth can take a long time, or a little, depending on how you navigate it. It took Nick and Anna all of two minutes to get through the Lexington labyrinth. They dashed through it, then went back and finished it again before I dared to join the frenzy.
But afterward, Anna, sensing the potential for contemplation, walked over to the adjacent Memorial Garden alone. Soon, she returned to the labyrinth and started asking Nick some trivia questions. (“Why is a dog a mammal?” “What happens after you lose your tooth?”) Clearly, there was some reflecting going on.
Our second stop was the labyrinth at Boston College. This one is just off Commonwealth Avenue and right outside Burns Library. The Memorial Labyrinth at Boston College is dedicated to members of the BC community who died in 9/11. The labyrinth is 70 feet in diameter and made of beautifully carved bluestone that winds around itself in the grass. It’s modeled after the labyrinth in Chartres cathedral in France that my husband and I saw when we first met.
It was a fond memory for us. And while we found our way to the center and back again, Nick dashed back out to the sign describing the memorial. He began retracing with his finger the small model of the labyrinth he’d just traversed by foot. He just can’t resist.