Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halls Hill Labyrinth, The Neptune Circuit

The Labyrinth at Lands End, San Francisco
I had decided to dedicate the inner 9 circuits in the Labyrinth to the planets in our solar system when I was finishing the 10th circuit.  Pluto, the ninth planet has since been downgraded to a large 'Plutoid' by definition.  I was fascinated by the descriptions I read of the God of the Underworld and wanted to venture there as I built it.  It is a circuit where we can honor our ancestors and departed loved ones.

The 8th planet from the sun is Neptune, named for the Roman God of the Sea.  It is the 4th largest planet in the solar system.  57 Earths would fit inside its mass.
An image of the planet Neptune from NASA Voyager
Neptune is the Roman incarnation of the Greek God Poseidon.  He rules over both fresh waters and the sea.  His brothers are Jupiter and Pluto.  His consort, Salacia, the Goddess of the sea who bore three children, including the half man, half fish, Triton.  Neptune is traditionally depicted holding a Trident and is frequently associated with horses, as he assisted the Goddess Athena in building the chariot.  Because of this I am dedicating this circuit to the Sea, and all waters, with the intention of caring for them and helping to make them cleaner and healthier.

The Neptune Fountain in Piazza Navona, Rome
October 25:  I set up forms to start the 8th circuit, making a loop from the 9th to the left of the entry path.  This path will loop into the 7th circuit at the southern cardinal point.  I use a dense flexible plastic lawn edging material to make the forms for loops.
Mortar fills the forms in the loop from the 9th to the 8th circuit
Instead of making flowers in this circuit I decided to make Starfish or Sea Stars.  Starfish are Echinoderms, which is the same phylum as Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, and Sand Dollars.  Known fossil records of Starfish date back as far as 450 million years, making them one of the longest reigning living organisms to still inhabit the planet.  This indicates the incredible ability for Starfish to survive every type of planetary change up until now.   We could only hope as a species that we may last a tiny fraction of that.  Different species live in the intertidal shoreline zone down to depths of 20,000 feet beneath the sea.  Most Starfish have 5 legs, but Puget Sound is also home to the Sunflower Sea Star, the largest species in the World.   Capable of growing over 3 feet across here, they do not come in to shallow waters because their bodies wont tolerate exposure to air, so you wont see them in tide pools.  If you'll pardon the corny music, this video has some interesting footage, especially of the scallops and the clam at the end.

Sadly when I did some research on Puget Sound starfish I found out that populations are dying off at an alarming rate only recently.  You can read about this at

Starfish come in a wide range of colors befitting of those in the Medicine Wheel in the Labyrinth.
I'm going to stick with the 5 legged variety as it would be very difficult to make a 24 legged one.

A simple 5 legged sea star in the transition area between green and pink stones
Terry and Terri came by again in the afternoon from Kingston to shoot some more video and share stories.  Its really nice to spend time with them.  We talked about the many types of stones I've found, and tips on traveling in Greece, and the wonders of Nature.  I made them each a Sea Star after they left.
Terri and Terry in forest colors
I worked my way towards the south and then headed for Rockaway beach at low tide to collect four buckets of stones before it got dark.  I need more green and pink stones to make my way to the southern cardinal point.
Surf Scoters have been gathering along Rockaway Beach
The sun was out in the morning when I went to the site.  It was surprisingly quiet for a nice Saturday as I mixed mortar and set stone.  My cousin Libby and her husband Bob and their son who live on the island came by to see how the project was progressing.  I was low on mortar and the next pallet wont arrive until Monday so I drove to Winslow in the afternoon and bought 10-80 pound bags to cover me until then.  I got a flat tire after I loaded it.  Once that was fixed I was driving back to the site, but stopped to photograph a wonderful stone fireplace that stands along the edge of Eagle Harbor.  The house it once warmed is long gone, replaced by a mossy lawn.  Somebody had artfully placed a punch and fold paper model of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow inside the hearth.  It was a wonderful piece of whimsy on a beautiful fall afternoon.
A fireplace is all that remains of an old house on Eagle Harbor
I then returned to the site to set more stone up to the end of the forms, which I will move tomorrow.
A group of four women came by.  They got excited by the idea that I would make them Starfish and wanted to know how many they would get.  I was only able to make 3 with what was available in the pink area I was working in.
Four friends visiting the site
An hour before dark I drove to South Beach, which I haven't visited before.  It is a beautiful area over a hill reached by the humorously named Toe Jam Road.  I was able to gather four buckets of mostly red stone before there wasn't enough light to see anymore.
South Beach
There is beautiful brown striped bedrock here with a colorful array of beach rock strewn across it.  There is a lot of tumbled man made debris mixed in, red bricks and brown tiles.
Veined Bedrock and Beach Rock
People with homes across the road have teetering ledges with row boats and deck chairs and bleached wood stair cases to access the shore.  They are often nicely arranged and decorated with washed up artifacts and brightly painted skiffs.
A blue and red rowboat on South Beach
Sunday was a busy day at Halls Hill Park.  It was drizzling when I got up but by the time I got to the site the sun was trying to come out and it turned in to a beautiful fall day.  Lots of people came by to see the progress and I found myself being something of a tour guide explaining what has been going on over and over.  I had some repeat visitors who came to visit their stone flowers.
Cindy and Pat
I made three starfish for John and Bonnie and their daughter Annie.  John told me they came to the park rather than going to church, as he thought it was the nicest church on the island.
Bonnie,  Annie, and John in front of where I am making their Starfish
Katherine and her Starfish
I met Katherine today, who had that look on her face that people often get when contemplating this project.  The idea for me is that it becomes a vehicle for expanding the mind, becoming more conscious, and practicing compassion for the Earth as a whole, and not just humanity.  The Labyrinth is a record of these moments, points of realization experienced on a planet orbiting around the sun in great ovals, which when looked at from a certain angle become circles.  I was happy to make her the sweetest little starfish.

Later a man named Rick came to visit and told me that the boulder that is on the western side of the Labyrinth was placed there as a memorial to his Mother, Joy when the original labyrinth was installed in a meadow like lawn.  The Stewartia tree, in full fall color behind the boulder was planted in her honor as well.  I had no idea of this previously when I incorporated the boulder in to the cardinal points of the new design.  I told him that I had dedicated the Ducks Fly Moon that is directly in front of the boulder to my Mom when I built it in honor of her 80th birthday.  It feels serendipitous to have the two gifts to our Mothers unintentionally placed next to each other.  Perhaps this stone would be a fitting place for others to honor their Mothers and Grandmothers by placing offerings or flowers.  I would like to see the labyrinth used for a variety of rituals.  I've conjured visions of groups chanting while sitting on the 8 stones at auspicious times of the year.  A Circle Dance would be lovely on the Spring Equinox, or even a May Pole on Beltaine or May Day.  I'd like to maybe do some kind of Summer Solstice event here next year.
Rick sitting on a boulder dedicated to his Mother Joy
Len, who does mowing and blowing in the park came by and we talked about not blowing the labyrinth area anymore, at least not when I am on the site.  While it is a nice easy way to keep the site clean, the noise and exhaust from the blower and the removal of the beautiful leaves that have been falling on the site seems inappropriate to the energy that is evolving here.  He was fine with that.  If it gets buried I'll ask him to come and take care of it.  As the winds picked up it appeared to be snowing Douglas fir needles, golden brown and fine textured.  They mix in with the mortar without being a problem, and fill the spaces between the stones in a beautiful way that conceals the uncleaned mortar joints.  I have a fantasy idea that people would come and sweep the labyrinth as a ritual or hand pick the leaves to care for it in a loving and gentle way that doesn't pollute the air with exhaust and noise.

Noah and the family dog
I made a lot of progress today and talked several people in to going out to search for stones to use in the Community circuit that I will build next year.  I wrote about this in the second installment, about the Mala circuit.  I'm looking for block like stones with a flat top and perpendicular sides that would fit well together, in any size and color.  Ideally people will bring beautiful stones that speak to them rather than just whatever they find.  It is an opportunity to look at stones in a more observant way, studying the shapes and colors and differences between the great variety that can be found on the area beaches.  They do not have to be from the region but do need to be flat on top with 90 degree or more sides and be deep enough to stay put when I set them in mortar, about 2 inches thick or more.

I'll probably leave a container out and a sign explaining what I am looking for over the winter while I'm gone.  There is a large flat topped boulder to the left of the Labyrinth entrance that people can leave stones on until then.

I completed about 12 feet of mosaic today, working through the red and purple areas, which requires a lot of diligence to find enough stones in those colors in order to make my way from the south to the western cardinal points.  Tomorrow I should be able to pass the half way point in the 8th circuit.  There will be two loops into the 7th circuit at the West and Northern axis.

The sun is back out today, but I had insomnia so I am exhausted and hope I don't collapse on the site while I'm working with less than an hours sleep.  I moved the forms and set the stones on either side of the Western cardinal points.  It was a quiet day in the park.  One man came by who lives on Rockaway Beach.  I'm sorry I didn't take his picture because there was something special about the encounter.  I told him I would make a Starfish for him if he rang the prayer wheel, which he did.  I could see him through the trees as he was leaving and we waved at each other in recognition of his deed.
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It was windy and cool when a group of women came by who had gathered together for the weekend.  They brought me some rocks they had collected on the beach and we went through the tote bags to pick the ones that I could use in the mosaic.  A lot of them were of the right shape and depth, and brown, which is the area I was working in at the time, so I was able to incorporate some of them right away.
Labyrinth Stone Gatherers
I used up all of the mortar that I had bought and the next pallet I ordered hadn't been delivered as I had hoped.  That was fine because I had an appointment to get a much needed massage later in the afternoon.   It was marvelous and helped relieve some of the chronic pain that was developing in my right shoulder.  Its important to consider regular massage if you ever decide to undertake this kind of work so as to not permanently damage your body.  Since I was near Winslow I decided to drive over to Manitou Beach, which I had heard has a rocky shoreline.  The view of Seattle from here is beautiful with the Space Needle centered on the horizon.  The light was so dim that I was feeling the surfaces of the stones to determine if they were the right shape.  I have no idea what colors they are, but I gathered more than 200 pounds before it was too dark to see anything.

I don't have a television at home but there is one where I am staying and I finally turned it on for the first time.  I ended up watching Public Broadcasting and saw an interesting story about how local municipalities are working on bio-swale technology to filter storm water from urban areas that otherwise can add significant pollution to Puget Sound.  A underwater photographer came across an Seattle storm drain outflow pipe billowing a continuous column of black water, which when sampled and tested, killed fish fry (baby fish).  When they filtered that water through a swale, enough toxins were removed from the water by sediments and plants that the fish fry lived.  Disconnecting our downspouts and increasing the permeability of the pavements around our homes is one of the best ways to reduce our impact on water quality.  Fix oil leaks on vehicles and don't use pesticides or herbicides or chemical fertilizers, and make sure that excess nutrients in gardens doesn't wash in to surface water.  And don't pour toxic substances down storm drains.  I once saw a maintenance person casting granular fertilizer on a landscaped slope along the Willamette River who was so careless that he was throwing fertilizer in the water.  Maintenance crews and many gardeners could benefit from learning to be better stewards of the land in regards to the impacts they have.

I pick up garbage whenever I am at the beach, and even when I walk to my local store.  I'm always recycling discarded plastic bottles tossed in the gutter, and have picked up literally thousands of cigarette butts to keep them from being washed out to sea.  An Australian environmental organization once made the general estimate that some 4 trillion cigarette butts end up in our oceans every year.

Cigarette butts on a flooded sidewalk
Picking up and properly disposing of garbage you come across as you travel through the world makes for a better planet, instantly.  I've never gotten sick from touching garbage with my bare hands.  Carry a bag and a gloves to make it easier and more sanitary to pick up litter when you come across it.  A line from a favorite children's book is 'This is what would happen if everybody did", with more positive consequences.  Teach your children to be conscientious about litter.  We had Hooty the Owl when I was a kid and the program taught me to care about the planet.  "Give a hoot, don't pollute."

Conserve energy, and it doesn't need to be produced.  The power plant doesn't need to generate electricity for a light that has been turned off.  Leaving the door of the refrigerator open while you do other tasks in the kitchen uses a lot of electricity to cool it down again.  This is the most energy consumptive appliance in most homes.  Electricity is often produced by coal fired power plants that add an enormous amount of carbon to the atmosphere, and causes acid rain.  Increasing acidity in our oceans is one of the biggest threats to sea life.  The mining and transport of coal is also environmentally devastating.  Nuclear power obviously has its issues, and hydroelectric power, one of the main sources of electricity in the Pacific Northwest is responsible for the devastation of what was once the largest salmon run in the world up the Columbia River.  Some dams are being removed in the Pacific Northwest to restore dwindling salmon runs.

Take reusable grocery bags to the store.  Every time you avoid getting another plastic bag is one less bag that might end up in the ocean.  Grow and buy local organic food.  Recycle.  Use biodegradable soaps and cleaning products.  Most importantly, how can we cut back on our driving?  Be proactive and you will have made a change, rather than just talking about making them.  The Sea is suffering because we aren't taking enough care in our personal lives.

If you live on the shoreline, make sure that your landscaping is suitable for maintaining good water quality.  Many homes have a large lawn running right up to the sea walls.  I can only imagine that fertilizing these lawns leaches directly in to the sea water only a couple of yards below.  During really high tides the sea water can actually wash over the tops of the walls.  Appropriate landscaping, which can actually enhance the coastal environment is an environmentally healthier option.

Various types of landscapes front Rockaway Beach homes
In the foreground of this photo is a home with a more naturalistic landscape that allows higher tides to break on the rocks.  Driftwood logs help to anchor the patio.  Further down are more traditional landscapes with bulkhead walls that waves crash in to at high tide, with lawns and gardens that probably require fertilizers and irrigation to maintain them, which can pollute the waters of the Sound.  All of the concrete bulkhead walls have drain pipes in them so that runoff from roofs and driveways and landscaping drains directly on to the beach.

There is an election coming up in November and on Bainbridge Island there is a candidate who is running who vehemently opposes the Shoreline Master Program because it requires limits on development and land use.  The shores of the island are heavily developed with residential homes as the water views are highly desirable.  The impact of building on the shoreline is great as there usually needs to be substantial amounts of fill, with bulkhead walls constructed frequently directly over the shore line itself.  There is very little land left to be developed at this point, usually parcels that are more difficult to modify for building that will have greater impact.  The shoreline plan is required by state mandates.  Voting for a commissioner who opposes the plan usually means that this person is very much pro development without regard for the environment.  Dick Haughan is that candidate from the research I have done on the internet.  He is strongly opposed to the restrictions on the plan restricting the building of more private docks, land filling, and intrusive architecture.  I don't live here, but his opponent Val Tollefson has stated that he would work to make the plan functional.  It is clear in reading the plans guidelines that it is intended to protect the health and visual quality of the island's shorelines.   An article on this issue can be seen at

The seafood you buy also affects the health of our oceans.  There seems to be a sushi restaurant on every corner these days.  This has increased tuna consumption to the highest levels in history.   Giant trawlers have made it possible to harvest greater numbers of fish to meet the demand with terrible consequences.  Many are outfitted with satellite monitors that can locate remaining schools of fish.  Tuna may very well become extinct in our lifetime.  Billions of other fish are killed in the process every year, only to be discarded.  Dolphins and whales are also a casualty of indiscriminate trawling.  Our oceans are being stripped bare.  Large fish now contain high levels of toxins such as mercury and should be eaten sparingly anyway, if at all.  Consider buying smaller more sustainably harvested fish.

Shrimp is a good example of a seafood that can have devastating ecological impact in the methods it is farmed.  Mangrove wetlands in many tropical countries have been destroyed by the development of shrimp farms.  This photo, from the World Wildlife Fund is of a new shrimp farm on Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean, a part of the country of Tanzania's fabled Zanzibar region.  When I looked it up I found that the island is touted as the finest diving in East Africa.  The landscape surrounding the farm looks like it is pristine wilderness.  The inexpensive frozen shrimp you buy at the store may very well come from a facility like this if it is imported.  Read the packaging or ask the person in the fish shop where the seafood is sourced.
A Shrimp farm on Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean obliterates the natural landscape

Why is it important to preserve our oceans?  Read this and you will understand.

A photo of Sharks Fins being prepared for the Taiwanese Market to be made in to soup

October 29:
Now that I have totally bummed you out, consider it an honor to be a Steward of the Oceans.  It truly matters.

Back at the site I reset the forms for today's work.  The pallet of mortar I ordered still had not been delivered so Gregory drove to town and brought me 6 bags of mortar to keep me busy until it
arrived.  A beautiful young buck deer walked around the labyrinth barely perturbed by our presence.  The weather was so nice I had to take advantage of making as much progress as possible.  I worked my way from orange in to black and then in to white in the north.  It was a pretty quiet day with not many visitors until late in the afternoon.

A woman named Lynn came over to see what I was doing.  She came to ring the Prayer Wheel because she said she had been in a bad mood.  I told her I didn't hear it.  She said thats because somebody was using a leaf blower nearby.  They are so loud that they can totally destroy the peace of the park.  If I was king I would ban them.  I love the old fashioned rake and broom.  Lynn loves stones and said that her bad mood had gone away being here.  I made her a sweet little white starfish and she promised me she would bring me some stones for the Community circuit.
Lynn visits the Labyrinth
Lynn's Starfish
A couple who are renting a cottage on Rockaway Beach came by on their bicycles.  I was telling them about the labyrinth and the Neptune circuit and its relationship to the sea, and that I was writing about ocean conservation in this essay.  The told me that they worked as ocean conservationists and that they had seen a pod of Orca Whales from their place on the beach today.  There is a website called Orca Network where you can track the movement of area Orca pods.  While looking at the website at I came upon another article about Orcas in Puget Sound.  This essay stated that Orcas have the highest concentration of toxic chemicals, including PCB's, of any mammal on Earth.  This, and changes in the availability of their food sources has led to population declines that could place Puget Sound's Orcas on the Endangered Species List.   This is the consequence of being the top predator in the ocean's food chain.  This interesting article appeared in a recent issue of the Seattle Times:

Another woman I had met before came by next bearing gifts.  She brought me a bag of assorted colors of beach glass she had collected from a place called Glass Beach near Port Townsend.  The glass came from an old dump located on the shore.  I placed several pieces of clear white glass in the area I had just  finished at the loop on one side of the northern cardinal point of the labyrinth.
A gift of beach glass
She also brought me the most beautiful cookie I have ever seen.  She and a friend stayed up all night baking and decorating cookies for Day of the Dead.  This is a Mexican holiday honoring those who have passed, celebrated from Halloween until November 2nd.  I photographed the cookie on the orange Halloween like stones of the 9th circuit.
A wonderful Dia de los Muertos cookie gifted to me

I had another hour of daylight so I drove to the boat ramp where I can reach the center of Rockaway Beach and collected 5 buckets of rock before it got too dark to see.  A flock of Surf Scoters, Melanitta perspicllata were swimming along the shore line.  Mount Rainier was colored pink by the sunset filtered through a heavy layer of Seattle's air pollution.
Surf Scoters, with Mt. Rainier in the background 
A large dead Fried Egg Jellyfish was turning purple like a big blob of goo on the rocks.
A dead Fried Egg Jellyfish on Rockaway Beach
I went back to the beach in the morning and collected several buckets of stones.  I saw four other dead jellyfish on the beach.   I don't know if this is normal or the cause of water pollution.  I focused on silver and blue green stones to finish the 8th circuit.  Then I moved and reset the forms so I could work my way to the end of the 8th circuit.  I made the second loop at the north cardinal point with the rest of the white granite stones I had collected on Mt. Rainier, and worked until dark trying to get the rest of the circuit done so I can go home for a few days tomorrow, but I didn't quite make it all the way to the end before it got dark.  If it isn't raining in the morning I'll finish it up.
The second loop from the 9th to the 8th circuit at the Northern cardinal point

Two young bucks came by twice today.  They are eating all of the white mushrooms that have been growing in the fresh bark that was spread around the plantings when I first started working here.
A pair of deer visiting the site
October 31st:  Happy Halloween!  This is the time of year when the veils between dimensions becomes particularly thin.  Its an excellent time to honor dead loved ones, and to actualize fantasies of identity.  I've always thought it strange that people always ask when I dress up for Halloween, "what are you supposed to be, a Genie?"  So I am driving home and hopefully will have the energy to dress up in something fabulous and go to a big dance party tonight.

I didn't sleep well at all.  Maybe those thin veils between worlds had something to do with it.  So I had to drag myself down to the site in the morning.  First I picked a bucket of dahlia flowers from the farm across the road, to use to decorate the cloud mosaic and center of the labyrinth.  Then I went and mixed two bags of mortar to finish the 8th circuit and began setting the stones there.  Jorunn, the woman who does gardening in the park came down and said that Ketil's stepson and his wife and their son were coming to see the labyrinth.  They had just returned from Norway where they had attended Ketil's funeral.  I had made clouds in the northerly direction and having finished the second loop there yesterday, the clouds were complete.  I had planned to arrange the flowers around the clouds to honor the recent passing of my friend Lord and had dedicated the Clouds of Heaven to him, and Ketil, a Norwegian man who I never met.  You can read about that in the essay before this one, "Pluto and the Four Elements".

So I finished my work and made starfish for Ketil's stepson and his wife while she and Jorunn arranged the flowers around the loops in the mosaic.  I had planned on just using white there and placing the colored flowers around the center of the labyrinth but they told me that Ketil had always worn bright colors and loved purple, and that people who attended his memorial service in Norway were asked to wear bright colors in remembrance of him.  So they mixed the colors together and shed some tears, and told me sweet stories.  It was such a lovely closure to this phase of my work here, and totally unplanned.   More serendipity.

When I return I plan to build the 7th circuit,  dedicated to Uranus, the Greek God of the Sky.

The 9th circuit, dedicated to the God Neptune and all Waters and the Seas
River God of the Tiber at the Capitolino in Rome
Time for the most dangerous part of this job, the four hour drive home.

Thanks for reading, Jeffrey


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  2. Thanks for sharing your insights, observations and progress on your project.

  3. Most storm drains have a single large exit at the end of its pipeways, usually leading into a canal, river, lake, or reservoir -- untreated, meaning our garbage and chemicals are finding their way into our water supply. And I shudder to think, our fish, before they are even treated, if they are at all. Yes, water is treated before it finds its way back to our plumbing, but what happens to the ones that aren’t? Our actions, however small they may be, create a ripple effect. Driving that leaking car? The fluids that leak out will eventually find its way to the storm drains. That plastic bottle you threw in the gutter? That’s gonna come back to cause floods someday. It’s like what Hooty the Owl said: “Give a hoot. Don’t pollute.”

    Sharon Strock @ StormChambers