Lake Labyrinth
Maia Stack, Environmental Ed. Teaching Fellow

Recently in Student Life, a class that all students take on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, we discussed self-care. As part of this class, we offered activities for the students to participate in such as sledding, yoga, snowshoeing, and relaxing face masks. I decided to provide a walking labyrinth on the frozen Little Donahue Lake, located right outside the Lowenstine Academic Building (LAB). I went out that morning with snowshoes to track a giant labyrinth walking path in preparation for my activity. After an hour, I snowshoed back to the LAB, satisfied with my maze, and sure that everything would go off without a hitch.  

Little did I know...

In a labyrinth, a single path is charted through twists and turns - there are no forks in the road, only one way forward. Eventually, one reaches the center of the creation and can sit in contemplation before returning the way they came. The whole practice is supposed to be meditative and can incorporate walking meditation as well as other contemplative exercises.

My labyrinth activity was off to a great start! Roughly 15 students chose to walk the labyrinth. We were getting out onto the lake in our snow pants and boots when I took my first step onto the frozen lake, and my heart (and the rest of my body) sank - into at least a half-foot of slush! I knew the students were all ready to be in snow but were they prepared to wade through icy slush for 30 minutes?

I decided that maybe it would be better where I had packed down the snow further out on the ice, so we all trudged out to the start of the labyrinth, and I started sending students down the path, one by one.  After roughly five were in, one of them made eye contact with me and mouthed that it was "really slushy," and my heart sank a little more…

Faced with a decision - should I cancel my activity? Should I halt it, and have everyone go back inside to get snowshoes? Or should we carry on, wet feet and all?

It was not very cold, and I knew that it wasn't a safety hazard. After weighing the options, I ultimately decided that, given my time constraints, I should continue. It seemed like the best course of action. When the activity was over, and the silence was broken from our contemplative walk, I felt compelled to apologize profusely. I felt terrible for not thinking about the slush (since I had created the track with snowshoes on), etc. We walked back inside, and the students tugged off boots with puddles inside and peeled off dripping icy socks to hang by the roaring fire. I was feeling like an educator who just had a lesson go very, not according to plan. 

But then, one student told me, "I came to Conserve for an adventure." That positive attitude helped ease my conscience just a little, and reminded me to be humble - one can never really anticipate all of the potential outcomes of an activity that one leads. Even though I was disappointed that my carefully planned activity had not gone as I had imagined it, I was impressed with and inspired by the resilience of the students. We can only do our best, handle situations with grace, and not take ourselves too seriously.

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