As applied to natural geographical features, labyrinth adopts the intricate structure of the man-made maze to describe phenomena of cave and canyon, land and sea. In both instances, the structure is built of interconnecting passages through which it is difficult to find one’s way. The point in constructing a labyrinth is to lose or confuse; the result in encountering one is often the same. In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was punished by confinement in a labyrinth designed by Daedalus. Naturally occurring labyrinths—such as the one in Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, one in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and Utah’s Labyrinth Canyon, on the Green River just upstream from its confluence with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park—were formed, and continue to be altered by, time and water rather than man or god. “In these years we are witnessing the gigantic spectacle of innumerable human lives wandering lost in their own labyrinths,” wrote Spanish essayist José Ortega y Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses.

Antonya Nelson