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The Long Walk to Our Labyrinth

Author: Diane Fouts, HCI patient and employee

Diane Fouts stands at the podium to read her poem during the labyrinth dedication

Update: Diane Fouts passed away in January 2020. We honor her memory and are grateful for her many contributions to Huntsman Cancer Institute.

My first labyrinth walk was the one next to the Carol Tanner Irish Humanities building on main campus at the U. I remember walking through with the four other members of my Environmental Humanities master’s degree cohort on a cool, bright day. It might have been February—you know the glorious kind of day I mean, when the sun breaks through the winter inversion for an afternoon to remind us there is still warmth and light in the world. I remember getting to the labyrinth’s center and standing still to study the foothills to the east. I bowed to the four directions, above, below, and within before turning back.

I didn’t hear about our labyrinth project at Huntsman Cancer Institute until it was well underway. A lot must have happened before I became involved—during the time when my main focus was being an HCI patient.

My contribution to the labyrinth started a couple of days before Thanksgiving in 2017. My task was to prepare information about using the labyrinth for the plaque that would go up nearby. I had instructions from some other labyrinths to work from. No problem! I’m a writer! It’s what I do.

Yet I struggled with the supposedly simple task for a couple of hours. The list simply did not want to come out as prose. Instead I received* this:

How to Walk This Path

The labyrinth shows a path
To the center, to your center, and back again.
This is no maze of dead ends. You cannot get lost.

Pause at the opening and take a breath
To quiet your mind. And just walk.
Take it slow, there’s no hurry.

You may enter with a prayer, a holy verse, a line of poetry—
But none is required. Just walk.

You may bring a question. Expect no answer.
Be willing to explore the possibilities. Just walk.

Perhaps you have a dream, or perhaps an image
Will come to you on the journey. Follow it. Just walk.

You may honor a loved one or the memory
Of one who has passed away. Just walk.

You may seek a moment of peace. Be silent.
Pay full attention to each breath, each step. Just walk.

Walk to the center and pause.
See what you see. Feel what you feel.
And then retrace your winding path.
Your feet will finish where you started.

May this path refresh your mind, heart, and spirit,
And ready you to walk the world again.

I was honored to read this poem at the labyrinth dedication. That day was similar in many ways to my first labyrinth walk—bright blue sky and golden hills. It was a hot late summer day, not the crisp first hint of spring, but the sense of promise was there.

*I work at writing prose, but the poems—the poems are gifts.

Cancer touches all of us.