First Words — 26 August 2015
Straight out of contemplation at Naples maze

By Mark Gauert

I like to try new things.

“You should try the labyrinth,” the attendant at the Naples Grande Spa says. “People love it.”

The labyrinth? I’d come to this spa on the far side of Alligator Alley to relax. To unwind. To forget the day-to-day labyrinths back on the other side of Alligator Alley.

Why would anyone want to enter a labyrinth – even on a sunny pool deck at the Naples Grande Spa – when there are perfectly good “Zen-inspired chaises’’ here, arranged around a pools burbling with calming waters?

Why would anyone trade bliss for lab-rat bewilderment?

“You said you like to try new things,’’ the spa attendant smiles.

“I did.”

“Here’s where you go in,” she says, pointing down to the labyrinth set into the pool deck and outlined with small black stones.

“How does it work?”

“See the basket of stones in the center? You pick a stone, hold it in your hand, think about any problems in your life and then walk the labyrinth until you find your way out.”

“And then?”

“The stone absorbs the problems as you walk and think about them,” she says. “Once you’ve found your way out, you return the stone to the basket, step out of the labyrinth – and leave your problems behind.’’

“All of them?”

“So they say.’’

“But I’m wearing a robe and slippers,” I say. “Shouldn’t I be more formally dressed to take on problems? At least business casual?”

“It’s a spa,’’ she says.

I step to the center of the labyrinth. I reach down and pick up a stone from the basket. It feels warm – like a biscuit just out of the oven. I start to walk from the center out, the warm stone in hand.

It’s trickier than I thought it would be. Even though I can see all the paths at my feet, some seem to curve toward blind ends. Some to outer rings that possibly lead back to the center. Some, possibly, to Cincinnati, for all I know.

Slowly, though – slipper step by slipper step – I get to where I’m going. All the curving paths and false starts leading eventually to the end.

And, it occurs to me standing there in a spa robe and slippers, the beginning.


I step back to the center of the labyrinth. I reach down and let the stone drop into the basket. I try to think of some problems.

I can’t.

It’s not that I don’t have any. I just can’t think of them now. They are gone.

I like to try new things.

We have an issue full of them here. New cars, new restaurants, new homes, new things to try – including a meet, drink and paint phenomenon. (Smock not included).

And new experiences to share, too – like the one at the Naples Grande Spa. The one that made me forget all my troubles.

Back in the labyrinths, on the other end of Alligator Alley.

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