By Rich Figel
Folks who jog, bike or walk their dogs on the levee next to Kawainui Marsh (along with scofflaws that ride motorcycles back there) may recall the mysterious gravel and dirt labyrinth pattern that appeared in a turnaround area for maintenance vehicles back in 2001 after 9/11. I live right next to the marsh, so when my wife and I first saw it we were enchanted and wondered who was behind it. I had a vague idea that it was associated with meditation practices, but that's all I knew. Over time, the forces of nature and human interactions caused the pattern to erode, then disappear except for a faint outline of the concentric circles.
It was gone, but not entirely forgotten when I joined Cynthia Yamasaki's monthly leadership walk after meeting her at the Honolulu Small Business Fair. She was one of the featured speakers (click here for the video on that event) and we did a segment on her as well. You can see her profile on the Career Changers TV YouTube Channel by clicking here. I was so impressed with her background and energy, I suggested to my wife that she connect with Cynthia since Isabel was looking to expand her professional network (i.e., thinking of making a career change). When we found out Cynthia's "Leaders Who Walk the Talk" was practically in our backyard on the second Saturday of each month, we decided to tag along. And we're glad we did.
Each time we've met fascinating people with varied backgrounds. These seemingly random introductions often led to discoveries of mutual friends and experiences... such as the origins of the labyrinth, which was the spot where we ended the walk to reflect on the theme we were discussing that day. While we were looking down at the weeds, someone said, "We should fix this up." Except none of us knew what it was supposed to look like -- how many circles, where the turns were supposed to be, etc.
I remembered seeing an article about it years ago in the old Honolulu Advertiser, so I did a quick Google search and found this link. I forwarded it to Cynthia, who put it out to her network of friends. Next thing you know, one of the women on the walk -- Lisa Jacobs of Better Way Divorce (interesting concept!) -- recognized a name: Beth Davidaan. Lisa put Beth in touch with Cynthia, and we all met at the marsh last Saturday to restore the labyrinth.
As we yanked up weeds and raked the stones back into place, Beth and Chandra Peters (program coordinator at Punahou's Luke Center) explained what the significance of the design is and put it into historical context for us. Many people, myself included, mistakenly think of a labyrinth as being the same as a maze. In fact, they're completely different in intent and form. A maze is meant to confuse you with many dead ends and turns that lead nowhere. A labyrinth though, has just one path to the center, allowing you to focus on the steps you take toward your goal. Mazes can be stressful -- did you see the news stories about people getting lost in giant Halloween mazes and calling 911 in a state of panic? But walking the circles of a labyrinth creates a state of calmness. It can also be an emotional experience.
It's funny how life's twists and turns often bring you back to the same starting or end points. That morning it had been raining in Kailua, and being the natural worrywart that I am, emailed Cynthia with a weather report, thinking we'd have to postpone our plans to fix the labyrinth. She replied cheerfully that rain or shine, they were going to proceed as scheduled, and added: "I made brownies too!" That's the difference between men and women. Men would argue about logistics and the weather conditions for doing a project like this. Women make brownies, then hope for the best. As it happened, the rain made it easier to pull weeds and kept the dust down. The sun eventually came out, and when we were finished, I walked around the circles... I thought about the people I've met in the past four years of doing my Career Changers TV show, and how our lives have intersected. We've become friends and business associates. We've shared professional aspirations and personal dreams.
And because one person simply said, "Let's fix this thing," we came together to create something special. Time and events will wear away the labyrinth again. But someone else will come along and be inspired to take up where we left off. It gave me hope. Plus, the brownies were delicious.
Reminder: Despite forecasts of rain, it seems every time Waimea Valley schedules a big weekend event, Mother Nature cooperates and blesses them with good weather on the North Shore. So if you're looking for a fun family event -- cheap too! -- check out their Makahiki Festival on Sat., Nov. 15! Here's a video preview we did for them.