My Perfect Labyrinth

Have you ever had a time when you just felt in sync with where and what you should be doing? Last weekend was wonderful that way. Don’t get me wrong, it was also exhausting. But, sometimes, the two things can coexist.

We had a board meeting on Saturday for Quaker House. I had worked hard and had two extra reports that represented significant effort and had, likewise, required quite a bit of attention to detail. I stayed up late the night before to make the house more accommodating to the dog sitter spending some time here and left early in the morning for the two-hour drive. The board meeting went well. I am always amazed by the dedication of our board members.

I got to my hotel room, let my daughter know I was out of the board meeting and to text me when I could come over, and them promptly crashed, full out, in the bed, under the covers. When my daughter texted, I went over to her place to spend a few hours catching up with her and my son-in-law. I love spending time with them. Amazing, crazy, motivated kids who keep me on my toes intellectually with their insights into their world and their open hearts.

Sunday, I got to go to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business and to Worship with Spring Friends. I have not worshiped with them since August and I have missed them! During the business meeting, a local cat was wandering around in the snow and was welcomed in to share our breakfast, warmth, and discussions.

Cat acting as assistant recording clerk.

Finally, before beginning the two-hour drive back to Fayettteville, I had seen the pleasant forecast and brought a change of clothes so that I could visit the Shallow Ford Trail again. I have not found my perfect trail in Fayetteville, and I was really missing Shallow Ford. Two people warned me, “It’ll be muddy and wet.” “It’s okay. I brought my muddy and wet shoes.” The second I stepped onto the foot bridge over a tiny creek that begins the trail and heard the gurgling of the water over bits of ice and rocks, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Shallow Ford, like many trails through wooded areas, winds back and forth and round and about. It goes uphill and downhill. Sometimes, there are trees that have come down and have not been cleared away, yet.

We have mindfulness classes at Quaker House and, the first Thursday of the month, Holy Trinity opens their beautiful labyrinth to the public. That labyrinth is peaceful and serene. It makes up the floor of the sanctuary, is lit by votive candles artistically placed around it, and you can hear the trickling water of the baptismal font. It leaves nothing to be desired in beauty and in inviting a clear mind.

I have also walked an outdoor labyrinth at Stony Point Center in New York. It is simpler, but makes up for that simpleness by being outside.

I have been trying to love labyrinths, to confine my feet to their intricate patterns. But, now I finally realize, my perfect labyrinth is laid out in the winding trails through wooded areas along rivers and tributaries, up hills and down slopes, over rocks and around occasionally fallen trees. My perfect labyrinth is of the more wild variety.



Always on the Route to Quaker House

I was always on this road, this road to Quaker House. I just did not know it. 

I was raised in a military family — birth to mid-high school.

One of my original majors in college was International Relations, but it was eventually switched out for English and a minor in biology, partly due to scheduling issues and time constraints, of all things.

When I applied to law school, both times (I transferred from Seattle University to the University of North Carolina), I specifically wrote in my essays that I wanted to practice law assisting nonprofit organizations. And, as a member of the first 1L class to get to choose an elective seminar at Seattle, I chose Introduction to International Law with Professor Chinen — because I wanted to know how to help nations and peoples live in harmony.

After I took the bar and felt like it was finally the right time for me to invest in regular volunteer work, I chose the Red Cross. I had no idea, at that time, that the Red Cross would show up several times in my reading of A service of love in war time: American Friends relief work in Europe, 1917 – 1919 as vital facilitators of the Quaker efforts during World War I. And, I think my high school friends would get a kick out of the fact that one of the key Quaker organizers of this humanitarian work was Rufus Jones. He was from Maine.

But, wait. How did the Religious Society of Friends suddenly start factoring into my story?

Turning right and going 2.5 miles brings you to Spring Friends. Continuing straight, off towards the horizon, another 72 miles brings you to Quaker House.

Well, one Sunday, I visited a Quaker meeting, partly because I wanted to learn more about their Peace Testimony. Many religions espouse peace, but I wanted to see what a longstanding core theological principle of intentionally promoting peace among nations, in addition to in our personal behaviors, looked like. I was fortunate in that I already had a strong religious faith upon which to build.

That Quaker Meeting was Spring Friends and, to get there, my best path included a 10-mile stretch of Route 87 South. That stretch of road became a regular journey for me. Little did I know, it would also become a section of my path to Quaker House, both figuratively and literally.

I got the call at about 9:00 Saturday night that I had been selected to be the next director of Quaker House, to follow in the footsteps of amazing directors before me and to work alongside wonderful experienced staff and a dedicated board of directors. They have a smooth transition planned. I will be learning from their expertise and experience all summer long, and Lynn and Steve Newsom, the current directors, will not be leaving their work at Quaker House until September.

Some of the Quaker House services:

  • Answering calls and providing assistance as a significant component of the GI Rights Hotline.
  • Educating about moral injury and its treatment.
  • Providing free and confidential in-person counseling for members of the military community, including for issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury.
  • And, of course, advocating for a more peaceful world.

Quaker House assists our military members and families and works to promote world peace. It was established and is supported by a community of faith. My path brought me here. On one hand, it is not surprising.

On the other hand, it is humbling.

A = Burlington, B = Spring Friends Meeting, and C = Quaker House.