Friday, October 25, 2013

The Halls Hill Labyrinth: Pluto and the Four Elements

October 17:  This is the third installment in a series on the making of the Halls Hill Labyrinth.  If you haven't read the first two I recommend scrolling down past this one to see those.

I'm getting ready to leave for Bainbridge Island again, and have been studying the amazing Neolithic monument at Newgrange in Ireland that was brought to my attention this morning by my friend Nancy Heckler, who lives in Indianola across the water from the island.
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This Neolithic tomb has the most extraordinary carved stone at its entrance, which was oriented to the rising sun so that it would penetrate the mound's interior on the Winter Solstice.  The building of this ceremonial space was a significant undertaking predating the Pyramids in Egypt by 500 years.  It is older than the Mycenaean culture Knossos on the island of Crete, which I will be visiting this winter, and the existing form of the more famous monument at Stonehenge.  Its worth reading the online encyclopedia story on this monument at:
The restored entrance to the Newgrange Monument in Ireland   photo by Michael Weck
The spiraling designs on the stone at the entrance reminds me of a wonderful water channel carved in to a terrace in the ruins at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh in India that I visited many years ago.
Spiral water channel at Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, India
I came home again for a few days to rest (didn't happen) and celebrate my 55th birthday with friends.  We traded another incredible massage where I was able to indulge in asking, if they started grinding on a particularly sore spot to do that 20 times.  The dull headache I had for 5 days from stiffness in my neck went away.

The morning of my birthday a very dear friend named Lord Huckleberry passed away.  He was an icon of hard living and truth and was loved by a great many people.  He lived in San Francisco and was the figurehead of the legendary Burning Man Camp Dustfish, which is the family we have been adopted by and camping with for many years now at that festival.  He loved to garden and had a beautiful sanctuary in the city.  His passing made for a very pensive and bittersweet day washed with copious amounts of tears.  I took a bath in the garden and drank champagne, toasted his life, had a couple of extravagant gourmet meals with good friends, and spent hours looking at pictures and reminiscing.

Today I decided to head back to Bainbridge Island via Tahoma, or Mt. Rainier, where there used to be a bridge crossing the Nisqually River as it flows out of the National Park, filled with white granite stones that I will use to make the clouds in the north of the 9th circuit.  These will be the clouds of Heaven built with my friend Lord in mind.  It was a beautiful day minus the brutal clear cuts on the way up through the logging town of Morton.   I passed a terrible auto accident and several speeding paramedic units.  Then a bird hit my windshield.  I was feeling a kind of menace and uncertainty on this journey, and considered turning back.

I hadn't been to the park in 8 years.  The Nisqually River had changed due to a massive flood in 2006, washing away the Sunshine Campground and the bridge downstream where I used to collect rock.  This made my search much more laborious as the banks of the river outside the park have been rip rapped with heavy basalt boulders to protect houses.  Gathering and carrying the buckets up bouldered slopes after a weekend of partying did not go over well with my body.  I filled 8 five gallon buckets of white speckled granite and then drove up to Paradise, which is at timberline on the mountain.  It is one of the great drives of the Pacific Northwest, climbing through thick forests to revealed views of the majestic mountain.  The jagged Tatoosh Range demonstrates the carving of once massive glaciers, now receded to a mere fragment of what was there even 50 years ago.
The Nisqually River below the rapidly disappearing Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier
When I got to the top there was a good 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Lord's hair was as white as snow and it was as if he were the mountain itself, gleaming in the lowering autumn sun.  A nearly full moon rose over the ridge.  I was so glad I had made the journey.
Mt. Rainier from Paradise
I didn't arrive at Bainbridge Island until almost 10:00 PM.  I stopped and unloaded the buckets of stone and walked down to the labyrinth, which was bathed in moonlight and the shadows of trees.  I'll have to prepare some kind of simple ceremony for the Duck's Fly Moon, the Mary Lou Moon that I dedicated to my Mother.  It is also called the 'Hunter's Moon', and will undergo a prenumbral or partial eclipse tomorrow night, although it will probably not be noticeable from the Western United States.  There is a telescope in the house where I am staying so I'll have to take a look as it rises over Seattle across the water.

I dragged myself back to work, setting up the forms for completing the first quarter of the ninth circuit.  I moved the granite from Mt. Rainier down the hill and piled them in in the northern part of the labyrinth, and cut and shaped rebar so I could start setting stone.

I then gathered big leaf maple leaves that had fallen on the site and arranged them around the Ducks Fly Moon in honor of tonight's full moon.  I also acid washed most of the 10th circuit with a mixture of Muriatic acid and water which I just poured on to remove the mortar film that obscures the colors of the stones.
The Ducks Fly Moon on the day of the full moon
Then I mixed up two batches of mortar and continued where I left off when I left for a break, with Peter's flower in the River Styx.  One of my oldest and dearest friends Cheryl arrived at the site on her day off to spend the afternoon visiting while I worked.  We studied Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon together.  We had deep philosophical discussions about relationships and life's journey while catching up as I worked my way from a watery green mosaic in to the more fiery pinks and reds of the southerly cardinal point.
Cheryl and I studied Landscape Architecture together at the University of Oregon over 3 decades ago
A really nice couple named Jean and Dave came by for a pleasant visit and to watch me work.  Jean had a little dog in a shoulder bag, who's name just happened to be 'Little Dog'.  I made them a nice, simple flower when they went to ring the prayer wheel.
Jean and Dave and Little Dog
My friend Nancy Heckler from Indianola came with her dear friend Cristie to visit as we were finishing lunch on a granite boulder in the sun filtering through the trees.  I gave them a tour and explanation of what was evolving and then we walked to the prayer wheel.  It was a wonderful visit on this beautiful day that filled us all with happiness.
Christie and Nancy
I made each of them a wild rose near the turn in the path by the Strong Sun Moon which I finished as the evening faded in to darkness.  I cranked this part out but was so happy having accomplished my goal for the day.  Tomorrow I can reset the forms and begin the next quarter of the 9th circuit.  I used up most of the pink stones that represent this section of the color wheel so I will need to go to the beach and make a determined effort to find enough to move in to the red section of the Ripe Berries Moon.
3 rather funky 5 petaled wild roses hiding amongst a jumble of  pink stones
The full moon was rising magnificently over the Sound with Seattle sparkling across the gloss black water.  Cheryl and I drove in to Winslow for dinner and then she caught the ferry back to Seattle.  Then I drove back to Blakely Harbor where I am staying, stopping at the site to see it in moonlight.  It was beautiful seeing the rays of the full moon passing through the silhouetted Madrones.  I knelt down by the Ducks Fly Moon and said a prayer for my Mother.  The stones were hard and cold against my knees.  Just then I heard a flock of Canadian geese flying over the water, right on cue.
The Full Moon over Seattle
October 19:  I went to the beach during low tide and collected 9 heaping buckets of stones, focusing on pink ones to finish the southern end of the 9th circuit.  Some interesting people came by, a couple from Cape Cod, another from Corpus Christy Texas, and a few people from the island.  I moved the forms and made the second bend in the path at the Strong Sun Moon and mosaiced my way in to the red part of the circuit by the Ripe Berries Moon.  It will be interesting to see if the beach can continue to churn up these colors as I make my way around and around with each circuit.  It was foggy and grey all day.  It gets dark at 6:30 now so I get home and eat dinner earlier.
Two turns in the path from the 10th to the 9th circuit
October 20:  There is a marvelous shelf fungus growing nearby on a dead tree trunk that is thoroughly pecked full of holes by woodpeckers.  The fungus seems to grow more colorful as the weather gets colder and damper.  The rings on it remind me of the colored rings of the labyrinth.
A marvelous shelf fungus growing on a woodpecker tree near the labyrinth
I got up earlier this morning and went down to the site to reset the forms for my work later today.  A lovely couple named Shannon and Art came by and told me they usually stay in on Sundays and read the newspaper but today they decided they should come to the park and turn the Prayer Wheel, calling the four directions.
Art and Shannon
My hosts Len and Stella had prepared a beautiful brunch for an amazing group of illustrious people so I left the site to join them.  The conversations were rich with experience, and I felt like I should be documenting their stories about island history and architecture.

Stella made a labyrinth frittata! 
I got to meet the Tom Jay, the bronze artist who created the prayer wheel.  There is a 300 pound bell inside the wheel.  His description of its fabrication and meaning brought new appreciation for this magnetic work that has been spinning out blessings and intentions for 6 years now.   A strong connection between it and the labyrinth is forming as I add more and more flowers to signify the moments of enlightenment and hope sent outwards with the bell that rings when the wheel has been turned 9 times.  There are four panels on the Prayer wheel, as the labyrinth is divided in to four parts.  Multiply 4 and 9 and you get the diameter of the labyrinth in feet.  There are 9 Mala stones between each moon in bordering circuits.  Both speak to nature in an intimate and symbolic way.
Discussing the Prayer Wheel and Labyrinth over brunch
Len's flower
After I told the general history of what I am doing everybody walked to the site and I gave them a tour.  John Paul Jones, a native architect from the firm Jones and Jones in Seattle and his wife Marjory discussed medicine wheels and architecture.  We visited his firm  on a field trip when I was in studying at the University of Oregon over 36 years ago.  It was a very special gathering and an honor to spend time with and get to know these people.

This project is so rich in meaning and has such good energy that always seems to resonate and touch people in a deep and profound way.  I feel some kind of sincere connection to everyone I talk to while I'm working.

My hosts Len and Stella have been so gracious.  Thank you for everything you've done.

After Brunch, we visited the site
This couple live on the island in a historic home with a turf roof.  I would love to see it sometime.
This is how I hoped the boulders would be used...beautiful
I wanted to make a flower for each of them to commemorate this gathering but I had to go to the beach to collect more red and violet and purple stones to make them with.  These are tough colors to find in reliable shapes.  So after 3 hours at low tide I had gathered another 7-800 pounds of rock. The higher tides of the full moon washed ashore a dazzling mix of different colors of seaweed.  Small flocks of teals have been foraging from the offshore rocks.

A breathtaking array of seaweeds
I was only able to finish 5 flowers before it got dark and have four more to go.  I hope to make great progress tomorrow.  As I was wheelbarrowing the stones down the hill two women, Jeanine and Jane came by.  One of my jobs is to make people want to be a part of this project.  They promised to bring stones for the Community circuit that I will build in the Spring of next year.  If you come by and I'm there I'll show you what I'm looking for to build it with.  If everyone brought me at least one beautiful stone that is the right shape, flat and block like in any size, I would have a nice selection to build the 3rd circuit with.
The 9th circuit from South to West is finished
I went to the beach once again to pick 4 buckets of whatever was handy, focusing on purple flower petal shapes and brown stones for the western direction.  I set stone all afternoon, first finishing the 9 flowers for the people who had come to brunch yesterday.  It is a nice little garden.  4 are slightly wonky Medicine Wheels.
The Brunch Flowers
From there I mainly just filled in the spaces with a variety of shapes of stones in purple shades.  A woman named Susan appeared from the woods as if by magic.  When I looked up she was fairly close, having come from the obscure little path through the bushes people sometimes wind up on.  It always surprises me when they arrive this way.  Susan was dressed in three of the more prominent colors in the labyrinth, blending beautifully with the surrounding landscape.  Yet another lovely encounter.  I made her a brown flower to go with her outfit, which she asked me to dedicate to her sister Kelly.
I tried to make something that would look like craggy mountains before the Ducks Fly Moon, and used striped brown stones to insinuate sky, but I don't think it reads at all.  Neither did the flames I made in the south.  They're there, they just aren't obvious, even to me after making them.
Kelly's flower
I must say again that for me what makes this mosaic work marvelous is the stones themselves, not so much the way I am putting them together.  If I had a table saw I could be trimming the stones and making them fit better, but that would require a generator on the site, making a big noisy mess.  There is a quiet peace that comes with working here with the local beach rock.  It has some lumpiness and contour, but the array of minerals is stunning

Big leaf Maple leaves on a pile of collected stones
I went back to the beach as it got dark and collected a couple of buckets of stones to use tomorrow.  The sea was sort of surreal disappearing in to the horizon.  Most of my rock is coming from this stretch of Rockaway beach.

Rockaway Beach
October 22:  Today I did the usual morning rituals to get my body warmed up for another day of hard labor.  I didn't go to the beach, as I felt I had enough stones to set the areas I am working in to.   I was able to make 18 feet of linear mosaic today, working from brown to orange and in to black.  

In the west, the color for that direction is brown, and I was trying to depict the element of Earth.  For some reason I kept thinking of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile with its magnificent spires of rock, reminding me of the way I was composing the stones in the mosaic.  I hiked there several years ago on a long trip through Patagonia.
Torres del Paine
Otherwise it just looks like a bunch of stones set together in an abstract mosaic.  I made my way in to the orange area of the Freeze Up Moon.  Global warming may eventually force a name change for this moon.  The weather has been very dry and mild this fall.  Its foggy though and I am missing out on an epic Indian Summer down in Portland where they are having warm sunny days...big sigh.
Spires representing the element Earth

From the orange realm, which feels like Halloween, I made my way in to the darkness of black stones.  I was pushing hard to make my way over to the north part of the circuit where the stones are white, and I will be making puffy clouds tomorrow.
Orange stones blending in to black
John and his Mother Julie came by late in the afternoon.  I have been gathering stones from the beach below their houses at the far end of Rockaway Beach.  We had a sweet visit and I explained what it is I am creating, and asked them to bring me some rocks to use in the community circuit.
John and his Mother Julie
I had a beautiful flat black stone speckled with yellow dots that I found near their place that I was about to set.  I made John and his partner and Julie three black flowers after they left to turn the Prayer Wheel.

A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers came while we were visiting and one of them landed on the Woodpecker Tree near the labyrinth and hammered away at the rotting trunk.  They are so beautiful.  I also saw a Bald Eagle today that landed on a tall tree near the Prayer Wheel today.
Pileated Woodpecker on the Woodpecker Tree
October 23: This is the day I'm making pillowy clouds in honor of my friend Lord Huckleberry, who passed away on my birthday last week.  His cremation is happening the day after.  The clouds represent the air element, using the white speckled granite stones I gathered from the Nisqually River up by Mt. Rainier.

Lord's stones
I removed yesterday's forms and reset them so that I could work my way around the north end of the labyrinth.  It was a cool foggy mysterious day.  Sometimes fog drifted through the site in a ghostly way while I worked.  

Jane, who had visited recently with a friend came back with her grand daughter Pearl.  Pearl found me two stones when they went to turn the Prayer Wheel, one of which was the right shape to use in the Community circuit that I will build next year.

I made her a flower with black and white striped stones as I transitioned my way from black to the white area in the north using stones with veins of both colors.
Pearl's Flower
Jorunn, the Norwegian woman who does maintenance in the park on Wednesdays was there and we visited for a while.  I told her that I was making clouds for my friend Lord who had passed away and she told me about her friend Ketil who had also recently died from a heart attack.  When she was finished working pruning around the trails near the labyrinth she went to turn the Prayer Wheel for both Lord and Ketil.  It was a very pensive moment.  I dedicated the clouds to both of them, and to all departed spirits, and made a flower for each of them, and to all of the people who loved them.
Lord and Ketil's flowers amongst the clouds
It was a moody day appropriate to working in the winter reaches of the 9th circuit, although sometimes the sun would try to break through and for a while there were Angel ladders streaming in past the trees.
Divine light
A Marble Angel walking on Clouds in a church in Rome
I went down to the Prayer Wheel twice today.  Working on a circuit dedicated to the Underworld, and making heavenly clouds commemorating loved ones departed is a very heavy task.   The element I am representing with clouds is Air.  I am an Air Sign, and have I think 3 other planets in Libra, so I could be considered a very airy person.

Adding to the heaviness, I have been reading articles and watching videos related to the World's oceans that have been heartbreaking.  The 8th circuit will be ruled by the planet Neptune, and will be dedicated to the sea, in which the stones I'm using in the mosaics are tumbled.  I am very sensitive to the health of the environment.  We have destroyed so much of the natural world in my lifetime that I sometimes have to transcend shock to carry on.  I'm grateful that the water here is clear, although there is a superfund site at the point in this picture where they used to creosote wood for railroad ties and telephone poles.  I've seen a lot of filthy water in my travels and consider it a treasure when it is clean.  Life depends on it.
Houses built right on the beach
I try hard to locate myself in places where I have contact with nurturing surroundings.  Librans need their beauty.  The site where I am working is one of those.  My brain is capable of creating an endless string of preoccupying thoughts not related to the moment I am in, so finding sanctuary helps keep me sane.
The prayer wheel in October
I have a very busy brain, and often don't sleep well because of it.  Thats why I hardly ever get to work before 10:00 or 11:00  But then I usually work until dark.  I suppose you could call it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I manage to be productive enough to to keep it from being a disorder.   Mosaic is a popular art form for people with an unstoppable desire to be create fantasy environments that could probably be linked to certain hormones and chemicals in the brain.  Whatever it is, I have it.

Tom Jay's pickup (the man who created the Prayer Wheel)   Photo by Len
I find myself staring at the labyrinth and not being able to pull myself away.  Every day it grows, like an organism, according to an entropic plan.  I feel that the World needs healing, and I feel it is my duty to bring about consciousness in regards to our environment.  We must become more harmonious with nature immediately or we will soon be living in one of those depressing post apocolyptic Worlds most commonly depicted in films about the future.   We must change the way we live so that we enhance rather than destroy natural systems.  Turn off the lights in empty rooms, reuse bags and containers, walk and ride your bike, nurture wildlife in your gardens.  Don't buy toxic substances.  It all helps.

Back to work I transitioned in to the color silver, around the Rest and Cleansing Moon where I reached the end of the forms I had set up.  Tomorrow I will finish the 9th circuit.  People are bringing friends and relatives by to see the project now.  Its a captivating project, filled with great potential that seems to touch people's hearts.

October 24:  Another foggy morning.   There was a doe and fawn in the garden outside my door when I left for work.  I will always think of the Corn Planting Moon, for which deer are the totem animal whenever I see deer from now on.
A fawn in the garden
A flock of Robins was in the Madrone trees when I arrived, eating the small red fruits that have been festooning the ground around the site.  I reset the forms to reach the end of the 9th circuit where it loops to connect to the 10th circuit.
Lucy walks the Labyrinth with her nose
I was setting blue green stones when I heard a squawk and noticed a Great Blue Heron had landed in a Douglas Fir nearby.  It was timely to arrive as I was working in its color range.  I could hear the heavy equipment nearby again, with that boop hoop boop when a large construction vehicle is backing up.  I had asked Gregory what they were doing and he said, "clearing out the grass, wild plants, nature, and ducks that had colonized a drainage swale.  Our tax dollars at work removing biodiversity so that the land will hold more runoff from impermeable pavement without offering any benefit to clean water or life.  Somebody was using a chain saw down the hill.  Men at work.  Maybe its all hopeless and the Labyrinth is just a pretty distraction from the demise of our World.  I hope otherwise.  I decided to put on my Ipod to drown it out.  Music does help motivate me to keep working, everything from Strauss waltzes to David Bowie.  Back to the search for beauty in the World.

I made a flower for my Mother in blue green stones, her favorite color.  Its like making a giant circular puzzle finding and putting all these stones together, trying to find good fits, making pleasing compositions, and keeping it all flat while honoring everything around me.
A flower for Mom
I looked up and my friend and neighbor from Portland, Vanessa Renwick was standing there with her beautiful white dog.  She had been watching for a while without me noticing.  This is only the second time I have opted for music as I like to hear what is happening in the forest, the sound of birds, the chirp of squirrels, and even the bark of sea lions.  Of course it is good to hear the prayer wheel ring as well.  We went and turned the Prayer Wheel and sat on the swinging bench taking in the beautiful view.
Vanessa Renwick and Fox, her Mountain Goat Dog
A couple from the island, Susan and Thomas came to see what was going on as I was getting back to work.  Thomas was wearing a hoody with a silk screen of the Chartes Cathedral Labyrinth on the back.  I had to get a picture, so I had them stand by the central altar and pretend they were dancing.  It was so sweet.
Susan and Thomas
I was back in the area of the water element and made some flowing lines of different shades of green, transitioning in to yellow by the entrance in the East.  I added the 107th stone to the Mala circuit, the last of those when I did the loop from the 9th to the 10th circuit.  I made a simple yellow flower for my friend Suzinn who's Mother who passed away today.  It is meant to look sort of like one of her favorite Dahlias.
Suzinn's Flower
In the morning I will make the loop from the 9th to the 8th circuit, entering the realm of Neptune and the Realm of Pluto and the Four Elements will be complete.
The completed 9th circuit

Thanks for reading, Jeffrey


  1. I am really enjoying following your progress on this project. As a builder I am very interested in process. Thank you for sharing your talents.

  2. High and low, far and wide, they come to walk listen and look inside. You create the space for spirit to fly.

  3. I love reading this stuff. Simple as that.

  4. This is truly marvelous! Imagining how each stone is set with heart and mind intention. Thank you!
    I'm curious about the metal stripping you're using to form the concrete. It's lovely and I've never seen anything like it before. Would appreciate any info on it you might be moved to share. Thanks, Jan