Why do I still have this scarf?

I’m reading these books: “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter” and “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Mostly I follow their advice, tossing what doesn’t spark joy, donating what my kids won’t want.

How odd to clutter up with books about de-cluttering. Authors say to neaten by category. I start in the scarf pile. I own a few; never wear any. I’ve already lobbed some into the Goodwill basket. Now I spot the teal one with the labyrinth motif. More than 10 years ago, I convinced myself that I must have this after walking my first labyrinth, a circular path designed to help quiet the mind, find balance and encourage insight. I’ve worn it twice.

This too-huge scarf wraps three times around my too-short neck. I don’t know how to tie it, enfold it, drape it like a shawl or do whatever scarf-wearers do. It doesn’t spark joy. If I tried to give it to my children, they would once again accuse me of reverse hoarding. Maybe I keep it because it reminds me of a time when I could walk, skip or run as some do, through labyrinths, without a limp, gimp, and without my 70-year-old “bum knee,” as my grandfather called his.

I remember that first tangled walk. “Go in with a question,” our labyrinth guide suggested.

I had plenty. “Why? Why them? Why now?”

With my first foot fall into a labyrinth, my two good friends, Alex and Jean appeared in my head, both dead at age 53, both obituaries in the newspaper the same day, both funerals just the week before. As I tiptoed into the labyrinth, life made no sense. So I did as guided, stepped lightly, felt my breath and wound my way to the center.

Once there, I sneaked a peek at the purple instruction pamphlet which said, “At the center, stay as long as you like. Allow yourself to receive guidance, to open your heart where human essence resides, and to see order in the chaotic world. It seems a jumble but invites relaxation, reflection and renewal.”

My mind churned, heart grieved, muscles tensed, face flushed. I missed Jane and Alex. No fair. They died too young.

Our guide said, “Get curious. Ask questions in the center. Listen for answers as you exit.”

Thoughts bubbled, “I don’t understand why Alex and Jean left this earth so early. I don’t understand death. And what is the meaning of life?”

An inner whisper spoke, “Life is a gift. We are meant to enjoy it.”

“What? WHAT?” I shook my head, “that’s not what I asked.”

Then the Rolling Stones’ song echoed in me as I meandered out of the center. ”You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

I longed for more. But the labyrinth, like life, offers what it offers, adventure, mystery, and has its own logic. So I let out a long slow exhale and then inhaled, “Life is a gift.”

Labyrinths mirror our days, our years. Life, too, is zigzag, a single circuitous exploratory path: from start to end, linear yet non-linear. Maybe we aren’t meant to grasp the mystery of this labyrinthine life as it twists and turns. And maybe we need reminders of how life and death make sense and then they don’t.

I’ll keep my teal scarf.

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