It is about 8 o’clock in the morning, and Celia, my wife, and I sit on top of a stone picnic table up on a grassy knoll at the south end of the Parksville Community Park. In the distance to our right can be seen a vague outline of Lasqueti Island, one of many such isles that dot the Strait of Georgia. It is very quiet, the silence occasionally broken only by the soft, plaintive mewing of a lone gull, far away.

The tide is way out, and several kids and a dog are about, looking for special shells and tiny crabs left dry by the water. Many of the crabs are desperately trying to get back to one of the many rushing rivulets that are beginning to stake their claim in the wide stretch of sand for which this area of Vancouver Island is renowned.

On the asphalt below us, in 2013, the city of Parksville had commissioned the painting of a huge labyrinth.

“A labyrinth,” we were told by an informative display to the side of it, “is an ancient circular winding pathway found in cultures worldwide. It promotes peace, health and wellness. Different from a maze, it has only one path to the centre and the same path out. Walking a labyrinth offers an opportunity for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual growth, healing and connection.”

Born a bit of a sceptic I could not help questioning this notion of “labyrinthian healing.” To put that thinking in doubt, a small group of people with several kids, one with a scooter plus a dog, began “doing” the labyrinth. Moving in a row, from one concentric circle into the next, they walked, rode and traipsed behind each other looking like a family of Pine Processional Caterpillars. Having completed their healing stroll the family left with what I thought was a new bounce in their steps, and even the dog walked away stiff-legged with a peaceful, dreamy look in his eyes, although this may have found its source in the cute Chihuahua a little farther down the parkway.

The long walk

Deciding we should have a go at this too, we carefully clambered down the small embankment and entered the initial circular pathway. Alongside the edges of the circles were painted abstract nouns meant for passersby to reflect upon to promote healing, peace and harmony.

As I walked I noticed the word Friendship, followed by Patience. Friendship is a wonderful thing. I am very thankful indeed for the friends I have, some of them from a long way back. On the other hand, my Patience could benefit from a boost! (I recall a lady in a long-ago Bible study group – this is historical – who in a round prayer prayed, “And, O Lord, give me Patience, and please give it to me now!”). Next I walked by Community. Here it is suggested, I think, to be active in the community where we live, and that is a good thought.

I come closer and closer to the centre and a small seat where a weary traveler is invited to rest, reflect on the concepts with which he just has been confronted, and bask in his newfound feelings of well-being and peace.

Next my attention is drawn to Love and Trust. I am okay with Love, for Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, and Trust in God has been my mainstay in life, filled as it has been with both adversity and joy.

Then there were other thought-provoking words, like Sustenance and Caring, all eliciting a positive response from heart and mind. Then, abruptly and unforeseen, came Forgiveness, and I stopped, shell-shocked. For a long time already I have not been able to forgive this one person for what he has done to my good wife and me. When thinking of him Forgiveness does not come to mind; several other words do.

In the meantime two women began doing the walk. As we were finished we stood on the side and from a little distance watched them. When they were done they gave us a little wave, and Celia approached, asking them which of the concepts they had thought the most challenging. One of them thought for moment, and said, “Well, Forgivenessis a toughie, isn’t it?”

And so it was that at about 8 o’clock in the morning of a beautiful summer day four total strangers discussed together the vicissitudes of life, and this pilgrim ended up realizing once again what he had to do about Forgiveness. But knowing what to do, of course, is one thing. To actually do it, to live out of that knowledge, is quite another – because the distance between the head and the heart is the longest of all distances.

  • Frank DeVries is an author and retired principal living in Abbotsford, B.C. He has contributed articles to a variety of Christian periodicals and composed many hymns and songs in use by various denominations.

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