Creating the Path You Walk

The path is made by walking.    — African Proverb

Friends Kathleen and Johanna, helping me primp the labyrinth for a community labyrinth tour this spring. I met Johanna nearly 15 years ago, when she first taught me how to make a labyrinth.

Whenever I weed and re-set the rocks in our backyard labyrinths, each small task seems to open a door to a memory. And each memory connects to further encounters and mileposts, reaching out into all the pathways of life.

Our first backyard labyrinth started out as a flour drawing on the bare dirt. When the flour got eaten by crows and dissolved in rain, David and I drew the labyrinth again, this time in sand, adjusting the size and orientation to more nearly fit the space.

Our nephews Kern and Rory helped cover the lines of sand with stones. They were just kids then, back during one of the weeks they stayed with us while attending Marine Science Center day camp.

Kern after moving many big rocks.

Years later, Kern spent a few days of his college summer vacation moving the big rocks for the outer wall of the second labyrinth. Thank God for strong young backs!

And a few years after that, Kern returned to the peninsula to marry Lauren, his heart’s desire, with a proud and loving aunt as officiant.

The wedding celebration was held at Marrowstone Vineyards, which is owned and hosted by my friend Judith Glass Collins, and her spouse Ken. I met Judith, a playwright, when she joined my writer’s group.

Most of my backyard labyrinth photos through the years show nephews-in-the-labyrinths, running around, making up games, being kids.

David and nephew Trey playing a game with a ball in the labyrinth.

But I also have memories of friends walking these paths, or just sitting with beauty, and talking about whatever friends talk about. And many, many memories of being with David on or about our labyrinth paths.

“It’s a very different experience to walk a labyrinth that you make yourself,” commented Barbara, a participant in a retreat last year at the Priory Spirituality Center. We had spent the day making a temporary labyrinth, decorating it with mementos from our lives, and walking it together, before gathering up all the elements and returning to our homes.

Yes, it is. I love labyrinths and will happily walk any one that crosses my path. But as the years pass, my favorite labyrinths have become the ones I make myself, joined by a few companions who then walk the paths with me. Whether the labyrinths themselves last for years or just a day, the process never fails to lift my heart for the journey ahead.

Laying paths for the Courtyard of All Souls. That’s me on the far left, setting the next paver.
Photo by Keith Fleming, (c) 2004 by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend, Washington.

Every once in a while, I can fall into a delusion-state of isolation. Times when I feel myself to be all alone, without the kind of closeness to friends and family that I imagine—and envy—in others. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy, in our ever-more-digitally-connected world, to tumble into that pit of despair.

When I do, it always helps to tend the labyrinth.

Now, labyrinths might not be your thing. But if you ever fall into the isolation pit yourself, my suggestion would be to make something new—something real and beautiful, something that you can see, touch, taste, or hear, and that makes you smile.

It doesn’t have to be big or handmade. It could be as small as a pot of flowers. But once you’ve made it—once you’ve chosen the pot and planted the flowers—then offer your new creation to the world. Put it in a window, or hang it on your porch.

And for an extra lift, get yourself a partner or a team, and make something together. The memories you create in the process will link you to every part of life.

With blessings for the paths that we create ourselves, each time we take the next step forward,


About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Brad Offutt says:

    Margaret, travels and other life’s stuff have kept me away from the Courtyard, and now I’m back. As always, this Bench too touches many memories of my past and thoughts in my present. Many years ago, when our daughter Freddie was small and we were living in Greece, she and I went to a greengrocer’s shop to buy a pumpkin for Hallowe’en. Greeks understand the concept and meaning of All Saints’ Day but Hallowe’en is not a common celebration in Greece. We selected a big, even majestic, pumpkin and took it to be weighed and purchased. The proprietor, an honest fellow, said we shouldn’t buy it because it would not cook up well. I explained that we would hollow it, carve it, insert a candle, and put it in our window for the eve of All Saints’ Day. He was incredulous. I explained where we lived and suggested he drive by to see the results. I’ll bet he retailed our account to his friends at the local coffee shop for many weeks. Creating that Jack-o-lantern in a new land for us, making it our own creation, and displaying it to all and sundry for many nights, was a very satisfying experience and helped show me a clear path in the very real, every-day labyrinth of a new job in a very different culture. And when you, Margaret, feel alone and need that labyrinth, always remember that others who care are there with you.

    • Brad, it’s great to hear from you. And your story is perfect — yes, that’s exactly it! I’m sitting at my desk right now, smiling at the pictures in my mind of you and little Freddie, and the greengrocer’s astonishment, and finally the Jack-o-lantern in the window, saying “Here we are!” Thanks for the smiles — Margaret