Barbara Chester and Robin Bradley Hansel stand on the Grand Bahama Labyrinth.
hoped that one day I might get the opportunity to meet Barbara Chester
since only a small bit of ocean separates our two homes. Her passionate
work had inspired me when I interviewed her for my article “The Grand
Bahama Labyrinth” (The Spirit of Veriditas, Voices From the Labyrinth
- Winter 2009, page 6).
no one could have been more amazed by the Providence surrounding our
meeting than me. Not until I noticed the small brown sign from my taxi’s
window pointing toward “The Garden of the Groves” did I realize
that our last minute family vacation had brought me full circle to a
moment of Grace.
We had just two days before we needed to be back on the boat headed
home to Florida. Barbara and I had only communicated a couple of times
via email months before. I wondered what she might think if I called
her so unexpectedly. By the next afternoon, my family had grown weary
of listening to me fret. They encouraged me to borrow the hotel’s
desk phone and try to find her. Soon, I was listening to Barbara’s
lovely British laughter on the other end of the line. She immediately
rearranged her entire day and arrived to pick me a few hours later.
Robin Bradley Hansel
stepped out of her little blue car, “Bonny Gatsby” and greeted me
with a warm embrace. She surprised me with a gift bag filled with bath
soap and lotion made with rosemary grown in the labyrinth’s own Healing
Garden. A pink Grand Bahama Labyrinth bookmark adorned with an orange
butterfly and a quote by Thomas Moore reading, “I but know that I
Love thee, whatever thou art” completed her thoughtful present. I
knew I had connected with a special new friend.
we drove to the labyrinth, Barbara shared some interesting history regarding
the island that had been her permanent home since arriving in 1992 with
her husband. Together, Jack and Barbara built the popular International
Marina at Port Lucaya which I had noticed just across the street from
our hotel. She told me how Wallace and Georgette Groves, the founders
of Freeport Lucaya, had exported some of the long, straight native Casuarinas
trees back home to England to be used as “pit props” for the coal
mines. The Garden of the Groves was dedicated to their memory in 1973.
Thanks to the tireless work of countless volunteers since then, it has
become a twelve acre botanical paradise.
soaked in each interesting detail she shared. I loved hearing how the
chapel overlooking the labyrinth is a scaled replica of the Bahamian
church that once served the logging town known then as Pine Ridge.
When we actually arrived at the tiny stone chapel on the hill, I was
captivated by its four abstract, towering wooden sculptures honoring
the native Bahamian people. I loved touching the Autograph Tree beside
the chapel’s door and learning that its smooth leaves were once used
Barbara Chester stands at the entrance to the Grand Bahama Labyrinth. Robin Bradley Hansel
I slowly turned around from the chapel and faced the brilliant blue
Eleven Circuit Chartres labyrinth spread out across its lush, green
valley. Encircled by pink-blossomed Poor Man’s Orchids, lovely Bottle
Brush Trees and thick Crepe Myrtle, it felt like The Grand Bahama Labyrinth
was waiting there just for me….
followed Barbara past a small gazebo housing a statue of St. Francis
of Assisi, the patron saint of the garden and all its inhabitants. We
then walked across a green wooden bridge to arrive at a white trellis-arched
entrance with bright blue lettering spelling “Labyrinth.” Next,
we wound along a stone-covered pathway past an old Banyan Tree whose
branches had grown naturally into the shape of a large cross. A lovely
statue of Mary overlooking a lily-covered reflecting pond stood in the
western part of the Healing Garden. Dragonflies, hummingbirds and butterflies
traveled the herb-bordered path to the labyrinth where I was delighted
to see a small boy with his family. I learned that bright-eyed little
Daniel was three and that this was his first labyrinth walk. It was
overwhelming to watch him run and skip exuberantly across the lines
and then eventually settle into a quiet, contemplative rhythm of his
own. Afterward, Daniel danced for my video camera, shouting “Cheers!”
to me as he beamed his gorgeous smile. I marveled with joy at his t-shirt
depicting the planet earth surrounded by bold lettering that read “THE
FUTURE OF THE WORLD”.
Barbara Chester stands in the newly built Labyrinth Library and Logowear shop near the Labyrinth. Robin Bradley Hansel
I removed my shoes and finally began my own walk. I reflected on the
roughness of the labyrinth’s unique texture against my bare feet,
remembering that Barbara had told me how the island’s own natural
limestone had been mined and ground down to make its concrete base.
Daniel followed me into the labyrinth and hand-in-hand, we walked the
path. A statue of Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva associated with compassion
and mercy, whose name translates “observing the cries of the world”
kept watch over the two of us from the eastern end of the labyrinth.
we all stood under the big Tamarind Tree and listened as Barbara and
Daniel’s grandmother exchanged Bahamian recipes. Barbara shared with
me that the Circle of Life fundraiser for the Grand Bahama Humane
Society had been very well attended on a full moon night in January.
Valentine’s Day had created the perfect backdrop for another unique
event celebrating love for the planet. In March, a performance celebrating
music and dance had welcomed over two hundred people.
good friend, Robbin Whachell, editor of The Bahamas Weekly, arrived
to take some pictures of the LABYRINTH LIBRARY LOGOWEAR store. Barbara
unlocked the brand-new yellow clapboard shop. She raised its charming
plantation shutters allowing the warm sunshine to highlight the exquisite
garden murals painted throughout its interior. Shelves holding numerous
books, bags, hats and clothing all sporting the Grand Bahama Labyrinth
logo with its signature butterflies lined the walls. Together, we two
“robins” helped her roll another sea-green display shelf filled
with books and a glass cabinet containing Neem tea and more Labyrinth
Healing Garden products out onto the cozy covered porch.
the photos for the newspaper were taken, I had the honor of being the
shop’s very first customer. I chose a beautiful blue logo canvas book
bag and a box of unique labyrinth stationary painted by a local artist.
Barbara proudly presented me with a handwritten receipt and we all enjoyed
the karma of the moment.
our visit drew to a close, we shared cold glasses of Chardonnay and
iced tropical tea at the bright pink and blue Garden Café built under
the canopy of one of the garden’s giant fig trees. Several more of
Barbara’s friends stopped by our table to greet her with warm hugs.
It was no surprise to me that my new friend, “The Labyrinth Lady”,
was deeply loved by so many of her island neighbors. Resting there,
I caught my breath with the awareness that Grace had spiraled and spilled
back into my life once again thanks to the mysterious connecting power
of the labyrinth.
To read the full publication this article was featured in CLICK HERE
for the Veriditas' Journal Summer 2009 issue.
Experience the Wisdom of the Labyrinth!
For more information on the Grand Bahama Labyrinth visit: www.GrandBahamaLabyrinth.com
Robin Bradley Hansel is a Certified Veriditas Labyrinth
Facilitator living in South Florida. Her company, Labyrinth Wellness,
LLC unites her professional training as a licensed physical therapist
and a Pilates instructor with her creative spiritual pathway as a writer.