It is the first morning of vacation in a friend’s condo. I am looking down on the condo’s private beach from my balcony. From way up here, everyone is small, no one too fat, too sexy, too weak, too old, or too young. They are all just specks of human beings swallowed by a vast dance of blurry sandbars beneath an undulating surf. I arrived last night in the dark and went to sleep. This morning, I try to unkink from regular life stresses. I keep telling myself it’s okay if my thoughts walk away from these relentless concerns. The ocean, meanwhile, forgets with ease, content with humming a tune of waves that massage the air like an oscillating fan, a white noise sound machine rising and falling, over and over, an unending breath-like soundtrack.
A labyrinth is not like a maze, whose purpose is to thwart the walker’s cunning, lose her in a splatter of dead ends, spin him back to the beginning before earning a finish. A labyrinth is a disappointment for a person hoping for such a puzzle. No challenge, no tense thrill. Just one foot in front of the other like any other day. One path takes you to the labyrinth’s center and the same path takes you back out again, exiting exactly where you entered. No matter the paths we walk left to our own devices, for the next six hours there would be no doubt about the way our footsteps were to be set.
Perhaps like these women and the little girl, and maybe like others who feed people as part of a parenting vocation or faith community, I see the garden through the lens of my own faith and call to mothering and being mothered, the garden as a connection to nourishment and solace.
And to redemption. A safe haven where I might receive life and pass it on, or get it back from the edge of death.
Hospitality is serving people and helping people who are in our home. We listen. If they stay in our home, I fix meals and prepare a bed and so forth for them. I read something about—I think it is Benedict's Rule of Hospitality—that there's a difference between serving and being a servant. When I'm serving, I'm in charge. If I'm a servant, you're part of it. If you want to do something to help me, I'll let you do it because that's allowing you in. You're not being in charge. I'm not being in charge.
Someday, I’ll sit under a tent next to my mother’s casket, which will be adorned with yellow roses. Tears and laughter will mingle as I think of that chicken brooding over her, a symbol left behind for her loved ones of her humor and care. I will remember how I was shepherded in childhood, surrounded with death in life and life in death. And I’ll go on.