I had the most transcendent experience at the labyrinth this afternoon when I was blessed to witness something I have longed deeply to see - an image I have not been able to let go of since it was described to me a year ago by the gardener. There has been something magical about the conversations I've had with her, and I always walk away feeling blessed. Well, this particular afternoon, she told me she had seen a turtle emerge from the pond, move across the labyrinth to lay its eggs, then return back across the labyrinth to the pond.
I know. It doesn't sound all that exciting. But for some reason, it planted a deep longing in me (and must have meant something to her, too). I love turtles - especially painted turtles - and I love labyrinths. I walked away wishing I could have witnessed it. I thought about it so much over the past year. I wondered if I'd be so fortunate to see the baby turtles cross the labyrinth later in the summer en route to the pond, and even calculated approximately when the babies were likely to emerge. No such luck. But I could not let go of the image of a wise, old turtle in the labyrinth. I visualized it through the winter. I visualized it through the spring. I wondered why this image fueled me with such deep longing. I realized the likelihood of me being there at the right time to see a turtle cross the labyrinth was very slim. I almost wished I had never heard about it because I couldn't stop longing for it! Perhaps I'd need to camp out at the labyrinth all day when the temperature was right, and keep watch. Even just a few days ago, I wished I were more talented at sketching or painting so I could reproduce the image that had made such an impression on my heart and mind.
Unless someone were inside my head and able to read my thoughts and feelings, it's probably impossible to understand how profound and meaningful this image was to me. I can't explain it.
I never did camp out at the labyrinth. I just continued longing and wished I could have been blessed as the gardener had been with such perfect timing. I decided that experience was meant for her, and if it were meant for me, I would experience it, too.
So, this afternoon I went to the labyrinth with no expectations other than to clear my head after a busy day at work. I crossed the labyrinth to look at the flowers, as I always do prior to walking the path to the center and back. And then I noticed a painted turtle off to the side of the labyrinth!
Well, you can imagine my excitement. I took out my camera ever so carefully, hoping to photograph it. Simply achieving a decent, closeup shot of the turtle would be gratifying enough.
But after several minutes, the turtle turned around and maneuvered toward the labyrinth. My excitement turned to astonishment. When the turtle began to plod along the outer circuit of the labyrinth, I whispered softly and repeatedly, "Oh. My. God," as tears dripped down my face.
This was even better than the gardener's description of the turtle crossing the labyrinth, for this turtle was following the labyrinth path!
With nearly breathless reverence, I watched the turtle as it continued to navigate the outer circuit.
Then it turned and exited through the threshold!
Before it slid into the pond, I thanked the turtle for giving me this incredible blessing. Then I walked the labyrinth in the turtle's footsteps, filled with awe and reverence. After that, I took an exercise walk on a nearby trail, and what I had just experienced hit me again. How profound that I was able to experience the sight for which I had longed so deeply! I cried reverent, grateful tears for quite some time as I walked along the trail. It simply was the greatest gift I could have received.
I had to write about it before falling asleep because such experiences need to be remembered and shared. To have such a deep longing fulfilled so unexpectedly is the most incredible feeling in the world. It's grace. I don't understand why the turtle in the labyrinth was such a powerful image and experience for me - only that it was. Before going to bed tonight, my son gave me a hug and, despite not fully understanding my excitement hours earlier, told me that he's glad I got to see what I needed to. That sums it up perfectly.
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