I can't quite remember what year Ben found labyrinths. He had been writing a large & scholarly book on sacred geometry wrapped around the geometry of the pavement in Michelangelo's Laurentian library, and in his thorough and polymathic way, Ben looked into every kind of geometry and sacred practice he could find until he walked into the idea of labyrinths. What was meant to be a chapter wound its way around into a lifelong journey. Ben began drawing and analyzing every imaginable kind of labyrinth, devising methods of generating them and writing extensively about the meanings inherent in the path one chooses to walk. Each labyrinth of necessity offers a different approach to the center; one might take you spirally ever closer to the center while another might flirt back & forth, into the middle and back out, quadrant by quadrant, before delivering you home to the center. All of it has been a profound practice of finding one's way, metaphorically and literally. I have watched Ben literally travel this path over the years, becoming a leader of other walkers, a kind of mesmerizing shaman. Labyrinths have become the central practice to his teaching: his favorite thing is to take a studio full of architects to the beach and draw labyrinths in the sand. People come to our cabin to pace their paths in a simple dirt circle in the back, following Ben on his shuffle labyrinth. It has been lovely to watch, but a practice I have remained on the outside of.
(from Ben Nicholson's series of hundreds of labyrinth study drawings, colored pencil on vellum)
Meanwhile my own path has remained that of the shuttle: back and forth, back & forth, looping at the selvedge, traveling a known path towards the unknown of the art I was making on the loom, the path itself simple, slow, clear, but the journey equally mystical. I understand this journey, it keeps me calm and open and is such a perfect meditation that I have needed no other. Because of this weaving process I can completely empathize with the journey that labyrinth people speak about, but I am not on that particular journey. This has proven to be a separating stance. I feel slow, simple, grounded while Ben has been a gloriously whirling dervish. Now he is whirling away.
"Beset", 2010, wool with rayon, silk, metallic & cotton
Some couples do everything together. Some couples, when they are both architects, practice together: they are together all day and together at night. I don't know how they do this, although it is remarkable and some of our friends have lives like this. I don't want to indicate that something as large as the end of a marriage can be reduced to a simple story like I tell here. It certainly is only tangentially to do with labyrinths. I simply say this, we have discovered we are on separate paths, and I needed to write about it in the open.