"It gives me goose bumps," she says of the experience that spurred her labyrinth fascination seven years ago. "And it's never happened again."
Horn, a sprightly labyrinth enthusiast who walks these winding and twisting paths as a way to meditate, is part of a modern resurgence of people spellbound by the 5,000-year-old practice. Not only are labyrinths now springing up on front lawns, the designs are the subject of a global celebration (the first Saturday in May is World Labyrinth Day). You can even become a trained labyrinth facilitator through Veriditas, a California-based organization that promotes them.
Here in Philadelphia, the Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse Square held its first labyrinth workshop in October with a hearty mix of enthusiasts, including Horn, and first-timers.
"It was a really encouraging beginning," said Diana Carroll, 28, rector of the church. "It seemed that everyone got something out of the workshop."
Unlike a maze, which includes dead ends and tall walls that are meant to confuse, a labyrinth traces a single path that leads inexorably to the center. It has ancient roots in pagan pre-Christian beliefs, Celtic traditions, and even Wicca, and many consider it a spiritual journey to walk one.
At churches and cathedrals, labyrinths were used by monks to practice a physical kind of prayer, said James F. Caccamo, an associate professor of theology at St. Joseph's University. It may be our current lifestyles' lack of activity, he said, that draws us to labyrinths now.
"We read books, watch television, surf the Web. It doesn't always engage the body," said Caccamo, 42. Walking a labyrinth is "a response to the way our culture has been moving away from the physical to the more virtual."
The idea for Holy Trinity's labyrinth first started in spring, when the church presented a lecture series on forms of prayer. A labyrinth design was outlined in tape on the basement floor, and when the church community liked it, the tape stayed. In July, a permanent seven-circuit pattern, the oldest and most prevalent of labyrinth designs, was painted deep green, and 30 people attended its official blessing in September.
Many of them returned to walk the labyrinth alone, without the crowds, Carroll said.
"Walking it on your own gives you total freedom to take it at your own pace," explained Carroll, who became interested in labyrinths about 15 years ago. "You're not concerned if you're going to bump into somebody, or taking too long at the center."
Carroll thinks of the labyrinth in three stages: the journey in, considered a form of purging and cleansing; the experience in the center, where one feels unity and wholeness, or connects with God; and the journey back out, which is like "reentering" the world.
"In some ways, a labyrinth gives shape to a walking meditation," she said. "Sometimes people have been known to skip, or dance, or leap around the labyrinth, but it tends to be more of the slower practice."
Horn, of Center City, originally thought labyrinths would act as a Magic 8-Ball that would answer her problems.
"Ask it a question, shake it, and get an answer," she said, chuckling. "Then, I realized that's not going to happen."
It turned out that labyrinths calmed her down - more of a "brain decluttering" prospect than a religious one - saving her from the hectic hustle and bustle of today's e-mail-checking world.
"We're going to save the world with labyrinths," she said. "It's the anti-Twitter."
Horn credits walking the labyrinth to achieving clarity after selling her business, Jill's Vorspeise, located in the Reading Terminal Market. She had always defined herself as a business owner, and meditation gave her an opportunity to explore a new identity. Horn keeps a journal of each walk; entries document her feelings of alertness and being refreshed.
Margaret Westermaier, 68, who met Horn in college, created her own labyrinth in 2005 on her Haddonfield front lawn after her ailing mother felt uncomfortable with her straying too far from the house.
But the placement of the 28-foot-wide path has also raised questions from neighbors.
"From down there," she says, pointing to the sidewalk at the bottom of the driveway, "it looks like I let the grass get too long." (Westermaier does maintain the paths with a small lawn mower and weedwacker.)
A child once asked her mother, "Why would anybody put circles in the middle of their lawn?"
Before Westermaier enters the labyrinth, she rings a small sand-cast bell hung at the entrance, and describes the act of walking the path as a metaphor for life.
"You don't go directly to your goal," she said. "And life is often recursive."
That philosophy isn't too far removed from one of the labyrinth's early goals, which was to become closer to God. Walking a labyrinth also was considered a substitute for a Jerusalem pilgrimage for those who could not afford the journey.
"Some [labyrinths] may have even had images or maps of Jerusalem at the center," said Carroll.
Carroll's goal is to make Holy Trinity's labyrinth, currently open only by appointment, more accessible through workshops.
"People are looking and they want answers," said Horn. "And they will go great lengths."
The Church of the Holy Trinity is at 1904 Walnut St.; 215-567-1267, www.htrit.org.
Contact staff writer Rachel Gouk at 215-854-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.