|Setting stone in the outer ring of the Labyrinth|
In the fall of 2006 I was approached by a person, who helped spearhead the building of the Islandwood Environmental School on Bainbridge Island in Washington. This is an amazing institution. It is hoped that every child enrolled in school in the Seattle region be able to go to Nature camp for one week at Islandwood, where they will be guided by graduate students in environmental education. For many of the kids it is there first time in the woods. I built a cistern there that collects the water from the Learning Center in 2007. You can read an essay I wrote about it at: http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.com/2011/06/artist-in-residency-at-islandwood.html
|The Cistern at Islandwood|
|The Council Ring at Windcliff|
|The Community Prayer Wheel|
|The original labyrinth|
I've worked on a lot of projects in the last 25 or so years, and it has been very seldom that I have been asked to build something sacred. I even had a client ask me in a sarcastic way when I finished her patio if she would have to meditate out there. Heaven forbid. But I happen to know that when you build intention in to a landscape playing on its connection to the natural world and the cosmic forces that influence it that it actually has a presence that could be considered sacred. Animals are attracted by the energy these places emit. I've had a Cougar, a Rattlesnake, a large banded lizard, a Great Blue Heron, and Bald Eagles visit the places where I've intended them to be magical. As they are used over time for ritual and introspection they become loaded with memory and history that can trigger consciousness on a profound level.
Years ago I was approached by the TKF Foundation (http://naturesacred.org) based in the Washington D.C. area to give a lecture on building sacred spaces. TKF is known for installing Poetry Benches in troubled parts of the region, like Baltimore. They also build labyrinths and gardens, sometimes in prisons. After my presentation the architects in the audience and I focused our discussion on the ethical gathering of materials as a basis for creating sacred landscapes. They were interested in having me build a labyrinth for them but there was no real idea of how laborious it would be to build a pebble mosaic labyrinth. Eventually they asked me if I would do one in recycled asphalt on a roof top in Washington D.C. It would be the first of its kind, for good reason. I declined.
The most popular style of labyrinth within the organization seemed to be an 11 circuit path based on a Medieval walking labyrinth at the Chartes Cathedral in France, which was built in the 13th Century. http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html This has become the most famous and therefore the trendiest model. There is a copy in the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that is the most frequently walked in the world.
I've since walked a rustic 7 circuit labyrinth on a beach on Sauvies Island near Portland several times. The paths are lined with beach stone. The beach is clothing optional so I have always walked it naked. I don't always get in to it on a deep level but its a sweet experience and I can feel a special energy from doing it.
|My design for the labyrinth|
I drove to Tacoma and crossed the Narrows to the Kitsap Peninsula, and stopped at a wide stone beach not far from the highway that is a great place to pick rock. I've seen a few men fishing here over the years but that is all. It is usually deserted and there are a lot of stones to pick through. Because the wave action in Puget Sound isn't big like it is in the Pacific Ocean, the stones tend to keep some of the flat surface where they split, so that the corners are rounded and soft. These can be a great shape to use in rock work. The rectangular raised pond in my garden is built with Puget Sound beach rock. It is some of the loveliest I've encountered in my travels. Glaciers during the last ice age dragged a huge variety of stone in to its moraines and left them to line many of the beaches in the area.
|Rock collecting on the beach in Purdy|
When I arrived it was full tide, and the beach was small, so I rolled up my pants and took off my shoes and waded in, parting the seaweed to see what I was looking for. Little waves soaked my pants and shirt sleeves and made for slow picking. Silvery clouds rolled in making for a gorgeous sky I will remember whenever I think of the days I spent gathering stone for this project. These stones are special.
|Buckets of hand picked beach rock|
It was dark when I got to the island, but I stopped at the site, which has been prepared to my specifications in advance after my first visit. At 36 feet in diameter, this is the largest mosaic I will have ever worked on. 8 granite boulders have been placed at the cardinal points outside of the 36 foot diameter circle, around which they installed a steel ring to keep me in line. This is filled with perfectly compacted gravel. The granite boulders are meant to be places to stand or sit and meditate on the whole of the design. It is like a dream to have something so exactingly prepared for me in advance..
|The beautifully prepared site where I will build the labyrinth|
The following morning I hobbled out to the site and prepared to draw the design for the 11 circuit labyrinth. It is no surprise that my measurements in the design were not accurate and the center circle will be considerably smaller than I originally thought but I love the way it looks. I used a line connected to a spike in the center of the circle to draw the rings, and then laid out the cross lines that align with the cardinal directions where the paths will make their turns. Then I drew in the bends to the path. This was a lot of bending over to draw and my back is letting me know it hurts. I walked the labyrinth in both directions to make sure it works and to see how it felt. It is dauntingly long, and will take a great deal of time and stone to manifest, but it is going to be magnificent.
|Spreading out the stone I collected in Purdy over the design etched in the compacted gravel|
|My project manager Gregory Glynn, the man that makes it all happen!|
|Collecting rock at White Pier Point Park|
|A beautifully colored dead crab amongst the stones on White Pier Point|
|Collecting rock on Rockaway Beach|
A 20 foot and two 10 foot lengths of steel strips 4 inches wide were delivered and I used 12 inch coated steel nails as spikes to support the curve of the strip making a perfect form. Then I made measurements for placing the 12 moons around the perimeter circle. I have to decide if I will make white pebble mosaic disks, or trim white round stones. The full Harvest Moon rose this evening over the water and was quite breathtaking.
|Steel strips make a sturdy form for setting the mosaics|
Flocks of Canadian Geese fly over from time to time. The sound of a Loon on the water is my favorite of all the bird calls. Humans on the other hand mow lawns and weed whack to keep nature at bay. Oh Humans.
I then read the chapter in a book I've owned for many years called 'The Medicine Wheel', written by Sun Bear and Wabun (Prentice Hall Press). This is a book of Native American astrology that I have used to develop my methods for incorporating Medicine Wheel ideas in to may mosaic work, mainly through orientation and the coloration of stones. I was starting in the eastern direction near where the labyrinth will be entered, building the outer ring. I am making 12 small white moon shaped mosaics and each moon represents a seasonal moon throughout the year. The first moon I would be creating would be under the title of the 'Frogs return Moon'. The animal totem for this moon is the Beaver. I brought a few beaver chewed sticks that I gathered the week before from a beach I go to on the Columbia River in Oregon so I inserted one of these outside the circle at the point where the moon mosaic would be created.
|Setting stones in mortar|
|An altar developing in the center of the labyrinth|
The mineral of the 'Frogs return Moon' is Chrysocolla , related to turquoise. This is a bluish stone related to turquoise. I've only found one stone on the beach that may have this mineral in it and placed it in the mosaic near the moon design. The plant totem for this moon is Camas, which has blue flowers and was an important food staple of native peoples. You can read an essay I wrote about Camas at: http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.com/2013_04_01_archive.html
|The first day of setting stone in the outer ring|
|From above, it is clear that I have a very long way to go to complete this project|
|Up close it looks like a substantial amount of work!|
|The Strong Sun Moon|
I focused the next day on finding enough red, purple, and brown to extend the outer ring to the western cardinal direction. The Ripe Berries Moon is surrounded by red stones. The mineral for this moon is Garnet and Iron, and the Sturgeon is it's animal totem. Wild Raspberries are the symbolic plant for this time of year providing sweet sustenance to the peak of summer.
|The Ripe Berries Moon|
|The Harvest Moon|
The following day I made the Freeze Up Moon, which is a point where a gravel path comes down the hill to the labyrinth. The color of the stone around this moon is orange, and the mineral is Copper and Malachite. A snake is the totem animal so I made one in orange stones although it is very subtle. Thistle is this moon's plant.
|The Freeze Up Moon|
|The Long Snows Moon|
|The Earth Renewal Moon resides on the North Cardinal Point of the Labyrinth|
Just as I was adding the last stones to the wet bed of mortar a friendly man named Mike came down the path. While talking he said he had brought his kids to the previous labyrinth for a walking meditation. I told him I would make a flower for him if he rang the bell on the prayer wheel, so he went back and did that, and I made him a sweet little flower that I have named 'Mike's Flower'. He came back and I showed it to him and told him to make a note of where it is so he would remember it when he walks the labyrinth. This made us both very happy.
|Mike stands by a beautiful grouping of stones on the north side of the labyrinth|
|Making Mike's flower|
I packed up my things and went to Rockaway beach to continue collecting stone. Gregory, who has been my liaison on this project met me there and took me to see the Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church's labyrinth across the island. It is made out of red and gray concrete pavers. We walked it at dusk. It was nice not to have to carry buckets of rock.
|The Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church Labyrinth on Bainbridge Island|
|Three quarters of the outer ring are set|
The Labyrinth Project
The layout of this labyrinth is based on the well known early 13th Century Chartes Cathedral Labyrinth near Paris. It has 11 circuits that make turns at two cross axis oriented to the cardinal directions. The diameter is 36 feet and the entrance is from the East, the direction of the rising sun. It is made from hand collected rock from various beaches on Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula, set in to mortar. 8 of the granite boulders around the perimeter are set at the cardinal points.
Counting the central ring, the number of circles is 12, which ties the labyrinth to the seasonal and lunar cycles. 12 is the sum of the Earth (4) times the Divine (3). The seasons are represented here as colors, with 12 Moons set in the outer ring. A 13th ‘Blue Moon’ sits in the sun circle in the center, symbolizing lunar and solar eclipses. This creates a native Medicine Wheel connecting the Earth, Nature, and the Moon.
Each Moon in this labyrinth has a totem color, mineral, animal, plant, and spirit keeper.
The moons, starting at the entrance and going clockwise:
Budding Trees Moon (3/21-4/19) Yellow, Fire Opal, Red Hawk, Dandelion
Frogs Return Moon (4/20-5/20) Blue, Chrysocolla, Beaver, Blue Camas
Corn Planting Moon (5/21-6/20) Green, Moss Agate, Deer, Yarrow
Strong Sun Moon (6/21-7/22) Pink, Carnelian Agate, Flicker, Wild Rose
Ripe Berries Moon (7/23-8/22) Red, Garnet and Iron, Sturgeon, Raspberry
Harvest Moon (8/23-9/22) Purple, Amethyst, Brown Bear, Violet
Ducks Fly Moon (9/23-10/23) Brown, Jasper, Raven, Mullein
Freeze Up Moon (10/24-11/21) Orange, Copper and Malachite, Snake, Thistle
Long Snows Moon (11/22-12/21) Black, Obsidian, Elk, Black Spruce
Earth Renewal Moon (12/22-1/19) White, Quarz, Snow Goose, Birch
Rest and Cleansing Moon (1/20-2/18) Silver, Otter, Quaking Aspen
Big Winds Moon (2/19-3/20) Blue Green, Turquoise, Cougar, Plantain
I try to make a flower each time I hear the bell on the prayer wheel ring. I hope to add 108 stones around the 10th circuit. The 8 rings closest to the center represent the orbit of the known planets from Mercury to Pluto. The permeable lines between the paths will be filled with crushed gravel and over time, moss and seedlings.
In walking this labyrinth, it is my hope that you will feel a change in yourself, to being one more connected with Nature in all its harmonious magnificence. Leave your thoughts behind if you can, being here in the moment, and just feel the progression refilling your opened mind as you follow the circuits. It is all about cycles, ebbing and flowing like the tides around this island being pulled by the moon. Ideally you return via the same route you came in. Step to the side if somebody needs to pass. Doing it barefoot will add the bonus of foot reflexology. Enjoy!
You can read more about this project at jeffreygardens.blogspot.com
I'll be posting additions to this story as they happen. Thanks for reading, Jeffrey
|A Moonbow over Seattle from Bainbridge Island|