Montana Wolf

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Freight Train in the Labyrinth

It was a two hour drive to my next book event, an Indian summer day across the mountains of NW Montana. The peaks of Glacier National Park rose sharp and snow covered in the distance. I had decided to take Heidi up on her invitation to walk her labyrinth before my reading and signing. Her directions were perfect, as I made my way across the back streets of Columbia Falls. “Just look for the labyrinth in the front yard,” she said. How many folks build a labyrinth in their FRONT yard? I was intrigued.  

Her creation was as beautiful as it was inviting. I stood at the edge and took it in… the immense amount of work that went into her effort, the little touches of painted stones, pottery and sculptures; the gifts left behind by those who had walked.  When you enter a labyrinth, you not only walk the paths that lead to the center, you trace the footsteps of those who have walked before.

I removed my shoes and stood at the entrance. I wanted to walk barefoot; to take advantage of the ground and the power of the earth while walking toward the center. It’s called “Earthing.” Science is finally catching up with what ancient cultures, or those of us who spend a good deal of time in direct contact with the earth, have long known: the earth heals. When we directly touch the earth there is a transference of electrons from the planet’s core that enters our bodies and neutralizes free radicals, the major players in disease and inflammation. Dirt, trees, beaches, mud, grass and gardens regenerate tired organs and send well-being to the cells and circuits in our bodies. Going barefoot, sitting or lying down upon the planet or against a tree literally saves our lives.

I was a few steps into the circle of paths when a whistle sounded and a big ole freight train rattled down the track a few blocks away. This was a first as far as labyrinths go. I observed my body. I might easily have tensed and reacted with irritation at the intrusion. I smiled instead, as I found myself on a direct route to my childhood and the thrill of trains passing through my little Iowa town. I remembered how I waved to conductors as their arms raised and a toot burst the air. I recounted how I'd searched for a glimpse of a hobo sitting in a box car, as my imagination hitched a ride with their freedom.

Once the train passed I slipped into walking meditation: one step at a time, fully present, moving ever slowly towards a metaphorical center. Center of my being. Center of the cosmos. Heart center core. One never knows what revelations will fly in, what “out of the blue” will deliver. This day the message arrived with gratitude and serenity. The labyrinth set the tone for a lively reading and discussion at Imagine Health, a meal of luscious Hungarian soup with Jill in her lovely cottage, and a stay with friends on their organic farm. A basket of chocolates were left for me at my reading (thank you, Sally) and Ronny performed an unforgettable foot massage. My cup runneth over. 

Heidi's labyrinth paths were covered in wood chips. I was left with a few little soft splinters in the bottom of my feet that I sat and scraped away. A couple remained the next morning. Twas ever thus. Labyrinths don't let you out without a jolt. I'm still pondering the scope of the voice that flew in with the train: "Stop pretending." 

As in, gas prices will go down? Broncos will win the Super Bowl? Peace will befall the world? The wolf will hold his own in the face of trapping in Montana and Idaho and year-long hunting in Wyoming? 

Heidi, I think I need another go-around.


My latest book, Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey is available at your favorite bookstore,on Amazon or on your favorite e-book platform. (See links in green above.)

Sally's sugarfree chocolates:


  1. I felt like I was walking with you, pausing with the train's the whistle of trains...
    I always felt that walking the labyrinth was like walking thru the convolutions in the brain, you come to the center, get your answer, then walk back out, back and forth across the hemispheres...

  2. "The wolf will hold his own in the face of trapping in Montana and Idaho and year-long hunting in Wyoming?"

    I am sick over this - how can we as humans be so ignorant and self-centered?

    1. The Defenders of Wildlife are in the forefront of Wolf protection. And here's a link for a film on the wolf in the SW:

      Colorado's Ken Salazar was hugely responsible for delisting the wolf's protection. Ranchers are very comfortable w/extinction as it pertains to control of their lands. Manifest destiny on a cellular level. Ranchers here are compensated for any losses, which are minute.

  3. I have now read my autographed copy of Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey in its entirety for myself and felt doubly enriched by having first heard sections of it in your voice at the book signing :-) Thanks for catching our little towns in NW MT.
    [I too love the labyrinth / brain analogy.]

    1. Thank you Sally. So wonderful to see you last Saturday on that glorious full moon. Hope you'll review/comment on Amazon for Drive Me Wild. And keep those chocolates coming!