You Are Here
Misery may love company, but William Frost will not be going to that party. He doesn't own a TV. He is rich, free, and in love with his soul mate, Quiana, who just returned with him from a two-week honeymoon in Greece. He has found peace; a peace that allows him to stand in the middle of his 35 acres in Northfield and say, "They're having a blast" at the sight of five red-tailed hawks dive-bombing a musky late-summer breeze. The air is tinged with the sweet smell of toasted and sugared grain from the nearby Malt-O-Meal factory.
He walks out his back door and talks about seeing an eagle the other day while driving into town. And you, you wonder how this peace feels, how it translates to the everyday--the drive into town, the bedroom, the solitude, the co-parenting of his and his wife's five boys from previous marriages. It'd be easy to hate the guy, but he wants to share what he has found. And so he has invited you here, and he has invited you here--all you have to do is call him or Quiana at 612.940.0257, and you will find yourself, as I did, standing over a brick that says, "You are here."
The brick is buried in the earth at the start of the main labyrinth built by Frost. Labyrinths, he will tell you, are meditative ritual tools that date back 5,000 years to the Island of Crete and have been walked for centuries by Christians looking to find God at the center. More guy than guru, Frost is a 53-year-old New Jersey-born former professional soccer player, restaurant manager, recovering alcoholic, photographer, entrepreneur, organizer, and author.
Frost's main career, um, path has been that of a landscape architect. But after planting too many trees and flowers next to piped-in waterfalls, he started tapping his lifelong studies of creativity. His master's thesis at Brown University focused on the emotional terrain of creativity, and over the years he became interested in its cognitive elements. That led Frost to become a creativity consultant to some of the biggest companies in the world. It was different from those piped-in-waterfalls, but maybe also the same, and so he began to build this labyrinth.
According to Frost, Minnesota is a "hotbed for labyrinths," boasting well over 100 peaceful paths, including those in hospitals, spas, Como Park, and the campus of the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. The one at the center of Frost's meadow is 155 feet across and looks not unlike a compacted crop circle, or a vacant lot cut by a drunken push-mower. Nearby are a few Celtic cairns, which he also built, a Zen garden, and Tibetan peace flags that wave on the hawks' wake.
"If people want some coaching, or have a problem or issue they'd like to solve, we can go into coaching mode," he says of the peace-seeking pilgrims who have been showing up, mostly unbidden, at his door. "Otherwise, it's simply an allowing, saying, 'I don't have an agenda for you. The space is here, the beauty is here, go out and talk to a bumblebee as you walk down the path, and you'll get all the answers you could possibly need.' I think of the labyrinth as a truth machine: If you go in with a powerful question, with a sincere intention to listen and to be receptive to whatever comes, in whatever form it comes, you will get an answer. You may not like it, and you can deny it all you want, but you will get it."
He has built it, and they are coming. No charge. Donations accepted. A senior group shuffled around the path the other day, a cable-access show shot a piece about it last month, a busload of 50 teachers from St. Paul made the trek, along with "70 feng shui people," a women's spirituality group, and more. "People come with awe and appreciation," says Quiana. "It's curious; we're not organizing this, but it's starting to become kind of nonstop."
Ask Frost if he thinks there's a reason people are seeking the labyrinths in these times and he'll snort and say, "What do you think?"
What do I think? Shit, I think I want to move in here, make the world go away, wake up with the hawks and have tea and languish over the artwork of Brian Andreas. It hangs in Frost's front room and professes, in handwritten scrawl, "I've always liked the time before dawn because there's no one around to remind me who I'm supposed to be, so it's easier to remember who I am."
What do I think? I think the Star Tribune could have saved a lot of time and money if they had just built a labyrinth on Portland Avenue, or hired Frost as a creative consultant, instead of turning the newspaper of the Twin Cities into a shopper for retrosexuals.
"We get so top-heavy, especially in the corporate world," Frost says. "We get out of balance, and we discount this whole part of us. Neuroscientists and quantum biologists are all discovering that every cell in your body has the same potential and memory and function as your brain. So you have to allow the brain to create opportunities and exercises that get rid of the noise in the head, the chatter of a thousand monkeys, and let the ego step aside for a moment. Take a walk. Allow for the stillness of the body and mind."
He dabs at his cup of tea, his wife at his elbow. An out-of-tune guitar sits by the fireplace. He picks it up and tries to give it to me as a parting gift, but Quiana intercepts the gesture, rescuing it for one of the kids. Before she does, the creative consultant holds the instrument in his hands like he's never made music, like its function is a mystery.
"I've always had the belief that we all come into this world with incredible potentiality of creative force, and that as we go through our lives pieces of that get chopped off," he says. "Another way of thinking about it is layers of defense and protection around that creative nugget and habit. So the question is, how do you peel away those layers, how do you open someone up and access that which is their birthright as a creative being?"
A good start is the labyrinth (www.williamfrost.net), where one foot goes in front of the other. The soul meanders, quieter and quieter. A cricket jumps into my hand, grasshoppers dart across my shoes, wings flutter overhead. There's an inner tube on the pond, a trampoline by the barn. My breath is easy and the sun is warm on my shoulders. I'm thinking about how much my dog would love this wide-open space and about what Frost believes: That "everything that attracts our attention in our lives is there for us specifically for a reason. Otherwise we wouldn't notice it."
Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or email@example.com
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