Between a meadow and the woods, North Valley Friends Church has built a labyrinth. I had an hour to fill on a fine afternoon, so I decided to walk it.


This labyrinth is a medieval design, like the one at Chartres Cathedral, with eleven large circuits, twenty-eight 180-degree reverses, and six 90-degree corners. The idea is that by allowing the twisting path to lead you — eventually — to the heart of the design, you experience the spiritual geometry of moving mysteriously but inexorably to the Center, which is Christ; and then taking what you found back out to the world as an offering. Or maybe the idea is something else, the whole thing being personal, after all, which you discover and describe in your own way. But in my case I never got to find out.


A pair of killdeer had apparently built a nest in the nearby grasses, and as I approached the entrance to the labyrinth, one began to wheel around me in large frantic circles, crying out, “killdeer, killdeer!” Despite the bird’s objections, for a brief time I stuck with my determination to contemplate. So I began methodically tracing the outer circuit on the ground, while my companion set up his clamorous orbit in the air over my head. Suddenly he dove straight into the center of the labyrinth, and began to act out the broken wing routine, as if to say, “Here, take me, and leave my babies alone.”


I was wise to this, having read about killdeer and, if I didn’t have any sort of heart at all, might have persisted in my pilgrimage. But somehow it’s hard to pursue an interior quest when someone in the outside world holds a thing against you, such as trying to kill his children or something. So we came to an understanding, which was that he would stay and I would leave.

—Tom Stave

[Ed note:  printed with author’s permission]