I find it surprising how many wonderful places can be unintentionally hidden, even from locals, here on the island of St. Croix. The most recent example I discovered is the Labyrinth at Estate Mount Washington on the West End of the island. Many people drive by the unsuspecting turn that leads you to Estate Mount Washington as you head north from Creque Dam Road, but if you watch closely you will see a small yellow sign on the right hand side of the road at the base of a telephone pole which simply states: ‘Estate Mt. Washington, Circa 1750’. I would call this worn dirt road ‘the road less traveled’, but take it anyway!
After what feels like a mile drive along the dirt road, on the left hand side you will see some quaint yellow and white buildings and a sign that says: “Park Here”…easy enough! Estate Mount Washington IS private property; however, the owners kindly allow the public to enjoy the ruins of this centuries-old sugar plantation, the lush foliage covered sitting areas, and the labyrinth they have constructed. While the plantation ruins are worth their own article, I will tell you those another time. The topic at hand today is the labyrinth that Nancy Ayer, the owner and designer, has created. Set amongst the ruins, the labyrinth does not look out of place since it was created from local stones and coral, just like the surrounding ruins. Nancy has even prepared and provided a free brochure about the labyrinth at the entrance for your use.
What is a labyrinth? To put it in the simplest terms, it is a spiral-like walking path for prayer and meditation. The circular path is a metaphor for walking the path of life, as well as representing wholeness and unity. The labyrinth is a non-denominational and cross-cultural experience of self reflection. This particular labyrinth is known as a Chartres Labyrinth and the design is over 4,000 years old. There is only one entrance/exit to and from the labyrinth. As you enter the labyrinth, you follow the path which is carefully lined with stones and weaves you through a single, circuitous path to the center of the labyrinth, and then leads you back out returning you to where you began your journey. But, the most important part of the labyrinth is you and your personal self-reflective journey!
There is so much you can get out of the experience of walking the labyrinth, although some will find it challenging to spend such focused time on self-reflection. To get the most out of your experience, walk the labyrinth at your own speed in silent prayer or meditation. Quiet your mind, slow your breathing, and focus on the present moment, and the beautiful surroundings nature has provided. Let the sounds of the distant wind chimes, the chirping of the birds and the breezes through the palm trees lull you into a state of relaxation. As you walk, take in the sights of the crumbling sugar plantation ruins, the flaming red flamboyant trees and the many flora and fauna that surround you. When you reach the center of the labyrinth, I suggest you take a moment to take some deep breaths, maybe even kneel or sit and pray or meditate if your heart desires. Don’t rush on your way back out of the labyrinth, again use the time to continue your self-reflection and live in the moment…enjoy the beauty and peace this tranquil spot offers.
While I would personally recommend this as a personal journey, Nancy Ayer does offers workshops, as well as additional information, on the labyrinth and can be reached by email at email@example.com if you would like to contact her. Slow down one day and enjoy this unique and tranquil experience that St. Croix has to offer!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor