I stood at its opening, in open-toed sandals, vacillating a few moments before taking the requisite leap of faith: At the risk of being devoured yet again (and again) by the implacable army of ants, I laid aside my anxiety, believed them to be gone and stepped barefoot onto the path. Soil and blades of grass gave way gently as I took one step after another. Each step a test of faith. It took only a few moments for me to realize that they’d sought refuge and nourishment elsewhere. As for the other ants, the non-nibblers: live and let live. Ever so tentatively, a smile glided up my face.
Never before have I been so happy to see weeds, so overjoyed to see the earth belching up (still!) small chunks of limestone. If those deficits were the price that had to be paid in order to see this creation shift back into life, then so be it. I could certainly live with them, walk with them, kneel, meditate and pray with them. Knowing also that it was just a matter of time, perhaps only months away, when the last of the limestones would spew forth from the soil, leaving behind only shards of white powder and memories of a struggle in nature. In their place, meanwhile, painted white river stones have begun to be laid.
As I trod on the path, pulling up stones, a slug caught my eye. I kneeled beside it, observed it slide, lightly placed my finger in its path. I watched it poke around with its antennae – grass to human skin back to grass – until it took its own leap of faith, slinking its way, also tentatively, along the full length of my finger. I knew it was just a matter of time, moments really, before it would start seeking greener pastures.
The slug curled under my finger, sensed around for a safe landing and tilted over onto the grass below, leaving on my skin a trail of sticky dew. It followed its own path, that slug, unperturbed by the sudden intrusion (albeit temporary) of my digit in its face, foreign though my finger was to its habitat. At every turn, a lesson from nature.
Blissfully in bare feet again (!), I walked to the center and knelt by the metal stick I’d placed awhile back to mark the center point. Around the stick, I arranged the limestone remnants and weeds that I’d collected along the way. I made a shrine to the pieces of a recent past that had seen me through a fair share of challenges; on the labyrinth and otherwise. And then.. I cried. The tears came easily – for loss, a recent death (in the ashram family) and glorious rebirth; for all the gifts bestowed on me, for which I was so grateful.
In retrospect, the universe, the grass, the ants, rainstorms, wind and sun had in fact all conspired to teach me valuable lessons about nature, and about forgiveness, patience, surrender, the passage of time – and what we can learn from slugs.