Nomaville: Labyrinth

Three lefts make a right.“Labyrinth” – say the word to members of my g-g-generation and a Muppet flick starring David Bowie’s worst haircut ever comes to mind (spell the word and you can have my editor’s job). When classicists mull the labyrinth they recall Theseus venturing heedless through a maze, sword in hand, to slay the Minotaur and spare a few Theban virgins. Sonomans contemplating labyrinths (tell me I’m not alone) need not let their minds wander further than East Spain Street where a circuitous stone-lined pathway twists and turns and twists again under a ring of redwood trees.

Undertaken and overseen by the Trinity Episcopal Church, the labyrinth is a quick sidestep off the sidewalk and available to people of all faiths, including wine-drenched heathens like myself, who have trouble walking the straight and narrow and tend to confuse “cyclical nature of life” with “going in circles.” That said, the Sonoma labyrinth rates well enough to be included in the Labyrinth Society’s online “labyrinth locator” which lists thousands of labyrinths the world over (no, seriously). A question looms –Why would anyone willingly tie a 20-minute knot in one’s daily constitutional?

“The labyrinth is a universal symbol of the pilgrim journey to the center of our being; it has no tricks or dead ends like a maze. One does not get lost- rather, this quiet walk leads inward,” reads a sign near the roadside attraction, which also reminds that the hand-laid stone labyrinth it is “a replica of the 13th century design found on the floor of the Chapter House in the Cathedral of Bayeux, France.” Though environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy needn’t fret about his job security, the stone and earth labyrinth does make for a fine stroll for the soul – rivaled only by the labyrinthine turns of the city of Sonoma itself, which can have the opposite effect on my soul.

For example, how is it the founding fathers named everything in the valley after themselves and their cronies but resorted to using the same numbers for the streets on both the east and west sides of the Plaza? Kindergarteners, whose wee minds amazingly contain letters and numbers, could have done better. One need not understand Cartesian coordinates to know that merely including the alphabet in city planning would save much tedious explaining to visitors.

Another labyrinth-like situation is the rather irritating fact that when driving one can only turn right onto West Napa from First Street West, likewise when approaching the Plaza from the south part of First Street West one can also only turn right onto East Napa. Confused? Me too. There isn’t enough verbiage in all of geometry to adequately explain why this must be.

Moreover, due to never-ending street work at First Street West and West Spain (The Girl and the Fig has all but included “Dust Cloud” on their menu for patio diners) the northern part of First Street West can only be reached through Second Street East according to the ubiquitous crossing guard posted there who rejoices in chiding me every time I unwittingly attempt the turn. Somewhere in ancient Greece a labyrinth is missing its minotaur.

Daedalus Howell claims to have discovered a spot on Third Street West that, if you’re not attentive, will instantly land you on Third Street East due to a feat of physics too elaborate to explain in this column (forgive the paraphrase of Fermat). He explains that the portal does not work in reverse, which is why he was late to return those DVDs to Movie Merchants.