My personal labyrinth journey began in 1992 when I read “A Twisting Walk to Inner Peace on a Painted Purple Canvas” in The New York Times. The article included a photo of the first canvas labyrinth installed in the nave of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I walked that labyrinth on St. Patrick’s Day, 1995, became a certified labyrinth facilitator the following year, and in 1997 was instrumental in creating and leading The Labyrinth Project at The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in north Dallas. I have a small canvas labyrinth in my office at Southside on Lamar, and have walked labyrinth all over the US and in several foreign countries, including France, Italy, England, Ireland, and Australia.
So, it seemed an obvious choice to add a labyrinth to our garden!
The design of the labyrinth is actually a universal archetype, found all over the world from as long ago as 5,000 BCE. It takes many forms – the classical 7-circuit spiral labyrinth, the “man in the maze” from the native O'odham people, and the medieval 11-circuit church labyrinth are perhaps the most familiar.
Labyrinths and mazes are often confused but are actually very different. Mazes are like puzzles to be solved; walking them can lead to confusion and even “getting lost” as maze walkers are confronted with cul-de-sacs and frequent choices between turning right or left. The goal of a maze is to discover the “correct” path to the center. In contrast, labyrinths only have one path, one course from the entrance to the center. Labyrinth walkers very quickly find they can suspend worry about following the path, slow down, find their own pace, and settle into a calm, meditative state as they walk. The labyrinth journey has three movements – the path from the entrance to the center, time in the center to meditate or pray, and finally, following the same path from the center out to the entrance. Walking the labyrinth has become an important spiritual practice, one I often couple with journaling, sitting meditation or prayer.
The construction of our labyrinth began with a 22’ garden template – in the St. Paul design – from The Labyrinth Company in Kensington, Connecticut. The St. Paul design has 7 circuits and is based on the 11-circuit design from Chartres Cathedral in France. We oriented the labyrinth in our yard so that when standing at the entrance, one faces due east and has a lovely view of our front garden and the green space across from our home. Jamie and her crew first positioned the garden template on the lawn and then painted a circle around its circumference. The template was then shifted and all the sod removed from the area where the labyrinth was to be built. Once the sod was gone, the template was secured to the ground and construction began! It was so exciting to watch as chopped stone began to mark off the outer circle of the labyrinth, Dwarf Mondo grass was planted in between the labyrinth paths, and finally, as decomposed granite was laid and compacted in the paths. A large bounder was positioned near the entrance; the boulder has proven to be a pleasant place for reflection either before or after each labyrinth walk.
We enjoy walking the labyrinth at various times in the day – first thing in the morning, when our neighborhood is quiet and the air is cool, mid-afternoon after a day of working in the house or garden, or in the evening after a long day at the office. It is always there, beckoning to us, reminding us to slow down, breathe, and be at peace. The labyrinth is just a design, a tool, a space. But with use, that space begins to take on atmosphere, purpose and meaning. Jamie, Sandra, and the crew not only set the physical imprint for our labyrinth, they contributed the first energy. Their gentleness and respect – for us, our garden, and home, as well as for one another – set the tone for our garden labyrinth. We are grateful for the gift of their attitude, professionalism, and expertise. We could not ask for better partners for our garden!Mary Anne Reed and Jennifer Pravin