Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Solstice Spiral

Many blessings to you all as Christmas draws ever nearer. Here is what I hope will be a "wassail  bowl" of blessings for you all from the Fen Court labyrinth - taken on the last day of term of  Sacred Spirals.  My fellow facilitator Joan walked the labyrinth on Friday and describes her experience here.We both wish you much joy as you walk through this holy season.

What better place to celebrate the solstice - and the world not
ending! - and to pray for all my companions on the journey - than the
heart of the Fen Court labyrinth in the heart of the City at noon on
21.12.12 - with a bag of mince pies at my feet all ready to celebrate
the approach of Christmas and the continuation of our beautiful world.
And thank God, they were needed!
The Fen Court labyrinth - its heritage as the Church of St Gabriel
seemed amazingly appropriate this close to the Nativity - felt
extraordinary on this dark midwinter's day, when the sun was so low in
the sky it didn't even get over the top of the lowest office blocks
round the courtyard.
I was reminded of John Betjeman's beautiful Advent image of "dark at
breakfast and dark at teatime" - well this midwinter solstice was
pretty dark at noonday -  but, beautifully, the lights were on in all
the offices, and a Christmas tree was twinkling festively in Fountain
House by the sacred spiral's south-west corner.
And all the flower beds were bare and brown - aside from the large
round bed which echoes the shape of the labyrinth, and was full of
orange and white and yellow winter pansies.
And the world didn't end as some misreading the Mayan calendar had
mistakenly predicted, but blessedly continued on its extraordinary
pre-Christmas way, with the City streets feeling like a midwinter
Walking to the labyrinth, the streets had been full of tourists
stopping to pose for photographs, with small children playing
hopscotch on the pavement cracks (remember the image of the labyrinth
as a hopscotch?), and early gaggles heading into pubs and off for
office parties chatting loudly about cocktails.
All the gift shops seemed to have their stands of blank-eyed grinning
party masks out on the pavements - a real carnival sight - and the
streets were filling with pre-Christmas revellers in gorgeous party
costumes and some of the highest stiletto heels I've ever seen outside
pictures of a catwalk or fashion shoot.
There is, I find, something about walking the labyrinth that heightens
awareness of even the ordinary streets on the way to it: and the
labyrinth of city streets on 21.12.12 definitely had a gloriously
solstice carnival feel to them.
But the Fen Court labyrinth itself, and the courtyard, were almost
weirdly empty.
There was just one man standing with a pile of red-bound reports
balanced on a tomb, making a call on his phone; the obligatory couple
of smokers by the smokers' poles, and just one office worker on a
bench with his lunch by the labyrinth itself, managing to
simultaneously read his newspaper, smoke a cigarette, talk on his
mobile, and eat his sandwich from an orange Sainsbury's bag, eyed by a
single optimistic pigeon beadily watching for crumbs.
So I stood at the centre of the labyrinth at noon - feeling odd to be
walking the labyrinth alone, but so glad to be able to pray and give
thanks for the spiral and grateful for my more usual companions - and
able to give great thanks for the world continuing so beautifully and
being able to stand there in peace. We have so many blessings!
And I was joined by the pigeon. A nice touch that, a nice touch of a
reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit with us I thought - even
if it was only feeling hopeful about my bag of mince pies.