Friday, February 01, 2008

Labyrinth at Emmegen

A compulsive maker like myself can't go on holiday and just do nothing constructive. That wouldn't be as relaxing or fun as it was to weave creative expression into my vacation.

I was filling my journal prolifically of course: poetry, observations, sketches, doodles of labyrinths and collages of tourist ephemera. Unfortunately in the mad rush from the final hotel room to the airport yesterday morning I left my journal by the bed and so I'm waiting impatiently for it to arrive in the post with its store of words and images.

I also made a Treasure Hunt book which I left as a gift for Santo, filled with little things I wasn't sure would be allowed back into NZ, including a cuttlefish and a beautiful big smooth disc shaped seed found in a fibrous husk on the beach.

Then there was the pistachio shell poem (one letter on each little creamy shell) which I left in situ on a coffee table (the text is also in my journal so I'll update this when I can).

I particularly liked this spontaneous poem written in ochre on river stone in the Emmegen Creek swimming hole. (All this life- And so much joy).

But my most significant, albeit most temporary, work was made later the same day at Emmegen Beach, Cape Tribulation. Emmegen Beach is a perfect crescent of golden sand lying between the rainforest fringe and the Great Barrier Reef (reef visible as the indigo shadows in the turquoise sea in the photo below, rainforest visible as the dappled shadows of coconut palms falling across the labyrinth).
I'm not exactly sure why labyrinths were such a persistent motif for this holiday. I read a book about labyrinths in the week before I left, and I learned how to draw a 'classic 7 layer labyrinth'. My journal is full of pages of various labyrinths in different coloured gel pens, drawn as meditation and experimentation as I allowed the labyrinth to occupy my imagination, without trying to make sense of it. Drawing little labyrinths and tracing them with my finger is all very well, but eventually I found myself wanting to walk one. So when Santo and I were alone on a brochure-perfect tropical beach I picked a smooth shady area to layout a simple 3 layer labyrinth big enough to walk.

Santo provided the frisbee digging tools and much of the hard labour of scooping sand to establish the basic structure. I crawled round and round from the centre outwards making low walls to walk between. It was a lot of work to do on a hot day, even in the evening shade, so I didn't get too fancy or precious about the finishing of it. When it was done enough, Santo headed off for a stroll down the beach and a close encounter with a stingray (shades of Steve Irwin), and I began to walk my labyrinth.

I found it impossible to walk quickly: as soon as I entered the labyrinth my pace slowed, and I found that even the relative simplicity of my labyrinth provided a satisfyingly long and complex journey. A labyrinth like mine leads you near the centre when you first enter, allowing a good look at the goal and the illusion that it will be easily accessible. Then the path spirals out and you find yourself tracing the perimeter, a long detour circling away and around the outside before you return for another glimpse of the centre and finally the spiralling inwards in lazy loops to arrive at last. The walk out again allows the journey to be experienced in a mirror image, leading you ultimately to the an exit beyond which the sea beckons. Between each circuit of the labyrinth I went down to water's edge and let the warm water lap my feet (despite my paranoia about stranding jellyfish attacks).

I can't tell you (yet) what the labyrinth means exactly, I just know it matters that I made one where no one but us and the crabs would walk it, and where it would be wiped away by the tide by morning.

NB Now that I am home and can post photos here, I have updated my earlier Aussie posts with some pictures. Scroll down and have a look.


Lee Kottner said...

Lovely pics and great labyrinth. You might like to know you're not the only one making them on the beach.

Lea said...

What a beautiful post! I am so happy to find you (Thanks Lee!) and glad to hear from you, Meliors! Such joy in offering these labyrinthine creations and musings... now shared and appreciated by more than the crabs on this beautiful beach!

Carol said...

Beautiful photos of your labyrinth. Last year I heard a programme on ABC radio (in Australia) about walking the labyrinth and I found it fascinating.Lovely to walk it and then have the tide take it.