Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The 6th Circuit, The rings of Saturn

This is the last of 6 essays about the work I have been doing on the Halls Hill Labyrinth on Bainbridge Island.  Its a good idea to read the others first.

"Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with will make you lose your way."
Francis Bacon Sr."
A natural color photograph of Saturn taking by the spacecraft Cassini in 2004
The 6th circuit of the Labyrinth is dedicated to the 6th Planet in the Solar System, Saturn.  This is the second largest of the planets, after Jupiter.  Known best for its rings which are made up mostly of ice crystals, this gaseous planet is 95 times larger than Earth.  The pale yellow color of the surface is caused by a layer of ammonia crystals.  Saturn has 62 known moons orbiting it, the largest of which is greater in size than the planet Mercury.    It was the most distant of the 5 known planets besides Earth in ancient times, and takes about 29 1/2 years to orbit the sun.

Astrologically, the Saturn return is a significant event that occurs when the planet returns to the point in its orbit where it was located at the moment of one's birth.  This period signifies the crossing of a major threshold in life's development.  The first return at the age of 28 signifies the passage from youth to adulthood.  The second is passage in to maturity.  That is coming up for me.  I will finally be mature!  The third return represents the passage in to old age and hopefully wisdom, and is usually the last to occur in one's lifespan.

Saturn was named after the Roman God Saturnus, the God of Agriculture, who was derived from the Greek God Cronos.  The day Saturday is named after this deity as well.  It is the planet of Capricorns.  Saturn is an ancient deity with connections to the early Vedic Gods of the Indus region of Pakistan and India.  He is the God of generation (Brahma), dissolution (Shiva) and plenty (Lakshmi), wealth, agriculture (the main source of wealth at the time), and periodic renewal and liberation.  He also represents Time.  He is often depicted as a mature man with a flowing beard and a scythe, used for reaping grain.  This became the prototype for Father Time.
Cronus, or Saturn
Saturn devouring his children
In Greek mythology, Cronus, or Kronos, castrated his father at the request of his Mother, Gaia, Goddess of the Earth to put an end to her having to sire more terrible children.  It was prophesied that he too would be deposed by one of his own children and therefore ate them all at birth.  Being a God is not all lounging around on clouds...  This was famously depicted in one of the 'Black Paintings' by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, believed to be an allegory for the strife that was occurring in Spain at that time.  The painting, which hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, is disturbing and impressionable.

Saturn's wife, Os, or Rhea eventually deceived him by handing him a stone swaddled in cloth, thus sparing the life of Zeus, who's Roman incarnation is Jupiter after which the 5th Planet is named.  As the prophesy implied, Zeus overthrew his Father to become the King of Gods.

As a God of Plenty, Saturn's rule was depicted as a Golden Age of prosperity.  The Roman treasury in the Forum in Rome was located in the prominently placed Temple of Saturn.  Tall columns mark a remnant of its former glory.  Saturnalia was the most important of Roman holidays and was celebrated for a week around the Winter Solstice in December with wild, decadent abandon.  In the 4th century, in order to entice people to convert to Christianity, the birth of Jesus was celebrated on December 25 to supplant Saturnalia.
The Temple of Saturn in the Foro Romano
Saturn was later considered the God of Time as well.  For some reason that stuck in my mind and I started to research Mayan calendars.  But I couldn't visualize a way to convey the ideas in the mosaic work.  The calendar itself is breathtaking to behold and is worth researching on your own to learn more.  There is a lot of simple math involved, and marvelous cosmology, and with its concentric rings and radiating lines has many aspects of a Labyrinth.

The Mayan Calendar
So I looked at clocks.  They are much more familiar to me and it seems like I could mark the numbers with lance shaped stones.  So that is what I started doing, but that pattern was eventually abandoned as it didn't read well.  I also wanted to incorporate symbols of prosperity and agriculture with the goal that it be compatible with the health of the planet.

So basically I went to work with no idea of what I was about to create.  Before I left that morning I heard that my friends Sia and Kurt became the proud parents of a twins, a boy and a girl.  So the first thing I did was commemorate this beautiful event by making two little interlocking starfish in the section of the yellow stone path that parallels the entry that will connect to the 6th circuit when I reach the other end.

This part of the path is centered on the East-West axis parallel to the entrance path, in line with the Budding Trees Moon and the Ducks Fly Moon.  This is between the points where Spring and Autumnal equinoxes of the yearly calendar cycle occur in the Medicine Wheel of the design.  Joy's memorial stone, that I would like to dedicate to all Mothers lies in the West and the flat granite slab that is the threshold for the entrance lies in the East.  The two little starfish lie intertwined where this yellow stone path crosses the arc of the 8th Neptune circuit, and passes the 7th circuit to turn in to the 6th.  It will loop up to the North, then turn back to the East-West axis and turn West to run to the center of the Labyrinth, the Sun.  I'll build that part next year.  Best to look at the plan in the first essay to figure out what I am talking about.

It was Veterans day with marvelous unseasonal warm autumn weather, so a steady stream of people came by.  Most of them were told they had to come see the project by others who've visited.  They all wanted to talk so I didn't get very much mosaic work done.  I spread some gravel in the gaps between the paths where I am working so I wont have to fall in the holes anymore or have to tell people what is going in there.  I moved the forms and bent 2-20 foot pieces of rebar to shape.  I'm glad nobody was here for that part as it is a ridiculous thing to do by yourself, but I manage to get it to fit in an irregular way.  There are always two strips in the path and I think I've gone through about 600 feet so far.

Niel and Hilaria
It was hard to decide on a way to start the mosaic so I just did it, framing the edges with larger stones and then filling in the interior like I always do.  I marked where 7 o'clock would be if the entrance was 6 o'clock, using a lance shaped stone.  I also made a little compass like flower which I dedicated to a girl named Eassen who came with her Dad and watched me work for some time.
Eassen and her Dad
Eassen's Clock Flower
My cousin Libby came to help me pick stone on South Beach as It will soon be time to do another pink/red/purple arc, Rockaway Beach is pretty picked over now for those colors.  So we drove over Toe Jam Road (ewe, that name) and parked on one of the precarious little lawn strips at the top of tall bulkhead walls above the beach.  I've only been here once before.  Its a beautiful setting and Mt. Rainier was visible across the water.  Libby barked expertly at the three sea lions that swam by as we scoured the rubbly beach for red rocks.  A lot of them are weathered bricks, but I am desperate for material in that color range so I am including brick pieces that have character.  My desire for a good selection led to the heaping of 6 buckets that I had to lug up to the road.  I'm guessing they weighed up to 100 pounds each.
My cousin Libby walks amongst giant pebbles on South Beach
The street is very narrow and some of the older houses are special along this stretch of coastline, and the precarious water front terraces are sometimes nicely appointed with artifacts from the beach.

It was dark by the time we got back to the park.  I unloaded the rock, cleaned up and ate dinner, and went to get a much needed hour and half massage.

It was much quieter at the site the next day, and the weather was nice, so I made good progress on the 6th circuit, building the two loops connecting to the 7th circuit in the direction of the Southern Cardinal Point.  I'm back to making flowers that are in a way like little clocks or compasses.  It will be good to take a break from the project as I am getting weary of going round and round through the color wheel.  Pink and red are hard because they don't come abundantly in great shapes and the mosaics are not as well composed as I would like, although the colors are beautiful to the eye.

Building the loops from the 7th circuit to the 6th at the Southern Cardinal Point
When it got dark I hauled buckets of gravel down the slope in my trusty, squeaky old wheelbarrow, to fill in more of the spaces between the paths.  Having them filled makes it much easier to walk on the Labyrinth without stumbling in to the gaps.  Safety first...eventually.

I'm sleeping better again and made it to the site an hour earlier than normal the next day, so I was able to move the forms and set enough stone to make my way around to the Western Cardinal Point, passing through red and purple and in to the brown area of the color wheel.  Early on I had a number of visitors who were entranced with the project and stayed for a long time.

Morning visitors
I made clock flowers for them all.  The weather continues to be mild and dry, unusual for this time of year.  Global warming is definitely happening.  This must be the warmest and driest Autumn in history for this region.
Three Clock Flowers for three Labyrinth Lovers
Then I drove over to Manitou Beach and collected 4 buckets of stone, mostly black, white and silver colors for those sections.

Manitou Beach
After that I drove to the building materials store and bought enough rebar and mortar to supplement what I have to finish the 6th circuit by the coming weekend.  After that I got another massage.  I made a nice Flower-Clock for Mishabae, the excellent masseuse who has been counteracting the abuse I have been inflicting on my body during this project.  It is in line with the Western axis and the Stone dedicated to Mothers.  She has 3 daughters.

Mishabae's Flower-Clock
It was raining lightly in the morning.  I've been so lucky with the weather but it is mid November so I'll bear with it.  I left the frame for my shelter up so I can clamp a big tarp on it.  I knew if I took it down it would start raining again so I left it in place out of superstition.  Its getting pretty cold out so took a bucket of hot water to the site with me to dip my waterproof gloves in to warm up my hands.  Winter is coming.

The Terry's came to visit again and shoot some more video but light rain shortened our visit.  It gets dark so early so we bade farewell for the year.  I'll be visiting their beloved Crete this winter!  I worked my way in to the white stones of the north where I left a gap for the loops that will happen there to that connect to 5th circuit that I'll build in the Spring.  I made flowers for my good Eric and his Mother Marion, and brother Colin who passed away one year ago today.  The clouds of Heaven are filled with Angels.
Flowers for Colin, Marion, and Eric
A beautiful Baroque marble Angel in a church in Rome
Barb's Flower-Clock

The next day I finished the circuit using up the very last of the mortar with just enough to make the turn in to the path that runs parallel to the entrance.    A visitor stepped in the wet mosaic after I repeatedly said not to walk in that area.  The fresh work looks so solid to the eye and there seems to be something so irresistible about it.  She seemed bewildered by what happened so I made her a flower clock after I fixed the squished section.  I hope she doesn't feel bad!  I'm done setting stone for the year!

In the morning I removed the forms and used a pick to rough up the space between the paths to improve the drainage and filled it with gravel.  Then I separated the loose stones in the center to give a rough idea of what the rest of the labyrinth will look like.  Then I washed the mosaic work in the outer 5 rings with Muriatic Acid to remove the mortar film so that the colors shine through.  Then I walked the path to make sure it works.  Most of the beginning of the walk happens in the inner circuits that I haven't built yet.  Its quite a journey, walking over all the stories and special moments that have come with building this.

Dividing the loose stones to create the form of the path for the inner 5 circuits
I washed the mosaic work in the outer 5 rings with Muriatic Acid to remove the mortar film so that the colors shine through.
View of the Labyrinth from the East at the entrance
I rolled up the hose and loaded all of my tools in to the truck and visited with some people who have become friends who came by to see me before I left the island.  If the Gods are willing I'll be back again next year just before the Spring equinox to finish the project.  Blessed be.  It has been an amazing experience to create this rather daunting project.  My body has held up remarkably well for its age with hopefully no irreparable damage.  The work has been an act of penance and I am deeply moved by it.
6 completed circuits
Before I left a went around and captured images of some of the more memorable parts.  The path is so rich with special moments and implied meaning, a stone painting of time and space.  Now its time to go home.  Thanks for reading, Jeffrey

The Ducks Fly Moon, dedicated to my Mother

Blue Green stones in the Northeastern part of the Neptune circuit

The flower dedicated to Suzinne Weiss's Mother

Circuits transitioning from black to white in the North

The Clouds of Heaven and the Earth Renewal Moon
Orange stones in the direction of the Freeze up Moon in the Northwest

An orange flower sprinkled with Douglas Fir Needles

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The 7th Circuit, Uranus, God of the Sky

"Show not what has been done, but what can be.  How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths."  Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Saint Colomba's Bay, Iona, Scotland
Uranus is the 7th planet in the solar system and I am dedicating the 7th circuit of the Labyrinth to the 3rd largest planet.  While all the other planets are named after Roman Gods, Uranus, is the only one named after a Greek deity, the God of the Sky.  The planet turns on an axis that is perpendicular to the other planets, so that its poles are located where our equator would be.  Photographs from the Voyager Spacecraft show a featureless atmosphere of pale sky blue, perhaps inspiring its name.  It was the first planet to be discovered using a telescope, even though it is visible with the naked eye.  It has 27 moons, and takes 84 Earth years to orbit the sun.

The Planet Uranus, photographed by the Voyager spacecraft
The God of the Sky, or Heaven, Uranus is the Latinized name for the Greek God Ouranos, the father of Cronus (Saturn), who is the father of Zeus (Jupiter).  Uranus is the planet of the sign of Aquarius.  He is considered to be the son and husband of the Earth Goddess Gaia, who begat a number of troublesome offspring in their union.  You can get a sense of the mayhem that ensued by reading this post:

You'll have to read the link to understand what is happening here
It is befitting that the illuminated night sky was so dramatic on my return to the island to begin building this circuit dedicated to the sky and the heavens.

Seattle at night across the water
When I returned to the site I was delighted to see that somebody had made a wreath of fallen fir boughs around the altar in the center of the Labyrinth.  It is gestures and blessings like these that bring sacredness to the space.
A wreath of boughs around the central altar
I started by moving the forms to start the 7th circuit.   The curve from the entry path to this circuit is formed with a piece of flexible lawn edging and lots of spikes inside which I set the yellow stones that correspond to the western direction of the Budding Trees Moon.
The entry path turning in to the 7th circuit
A man and his nephew came to see the project.  I made them a yellow starfish in the section of the path passing the Neptune circuit, the last one in that series.  They know the family who came and placed the dahlias I brought to the site before I left for my last break.  They talked about how moving the experience was for them.
Rainy day visitors
When I made the turn in to the 7th circuit I decided to make flying birds for people who come to visit and ring the Prayer Wheel.  I chose swallows as they have a simple streamlined shape and are the bird cast in bronze on the top of the wheel.

Swallows on the Prayer Wheel
I've always loved watching swallows dip and swerve over still waters, catching insects and sipping water on the wing.  So I look for stones that have a slender shape for the body and tapered ones of the wings.  Two small triangles make up the scissor tail.  Sometimes I add a head if it looks appropriate.  It is not easy to make a readable swallow with the kinds of rock I find on the beach, which usually don't come in slender shapes.

The first Swallow flying around the 7th circuit
I made a run to the beach at low tide and gathered 8 buckets of stones to supplement the green and pink I need to make this arc from Spring to Summer.  It gets dark at 5:00 now because of daylight savings time, which is frustrating as I would like to continue working.

The next morning I moved the forms again and set the stone up to the southern cardinal point, where I left a gap so that I can add the loops to the 6th circuit that will happen here.  Then I returned to the beach again to collect pink and red and purple stones for the Summer to Autumn arc.  Red stones are really getting rare on the beach I usually collect from.  I went all the way down to the end today where the landslide took out the road.  The repair is terrible to look at, and the beach has been compromised by the construction.  This is near the point where a Creosote factory was located, the largest in the region at one time for making treated wood for railroad ties and power poles.  The polluted floor of the harbor is listed as the Wykoff-Eagle Harbor superfund site due to the severity of the contamination the plant left behind.  Cleanup is still in the research and planning phase even though the site was listed in 1987.  Superfund sites are usually impossible to clean.
Slope stabilization to rebuild Rockaway Beach Road after a landslide 
Rising sea levels due to Global Warming will endanger a great many homes and roads around the island in the years to come, causing erosion and more landslides like the one here.  But people on the island seem to prefer to drive large vehicles rather than smaller more fuel efficient ones, so those on the water will eventually have to pay the Piper.

The tide was coming in and the steep stone steps leading down to the beach from the home I am accessing this section of the Rockaway Beach from is partially covered during high tide.  The ferries come in to Eagle Harbor close to the shore here and the wake from the boats caught me against the bulkhead wall and soaked my pants, so I had to go home and change out of my wet clothes and shoes.
Add caption
Then I returned to the site and worked until dark setting the red stones I added to my selection.  The red section of the labyrinth is very rich and beautiful, with lots of Jasper in the mix.

The next morning another pallet of mortar and 200 feet of rebar had been delivered.  My body moaned in anguish, but it gives me the goal to use up this material before I quit for the winter.  There are 50-80 pound bags of mortar on a pallet, weighing in total two tons.  I think this is my 5th pallet so I will have mixed 20,000 pounds of mortar this fall!  No wonder I'm so sore.  Some people brought me a galvanized bucket of stones to use in the Community circuit, which I went through and picked out the ones I could use.
A donation of stones for the Community circuit
The next day it was windy and raining and the power was out, and there was no running water at the house, so I went to work without the benefit of hot tea or being able to wash my face.  I had to set up my modular structure to attach a tarp to and had a fairly miserable day setting the path to the loop on one side of the western axis.  The power was still out so I had to wash my hands in the toilet, and drove to town for dinner as the lights were still on at this part of the island.  I went to bed that night without a shower.  The power came back on just before midnight.

I made the second loop in the west and proceeded on through brown stones in to orange.  Another trip to the beach was needed to gather orange and black stones to carry on.  The lousy weather makes for fewer visitors and I have been listening to music to get me through the drearier times.  Still the weather hasn't been too bad overall compared to what it could be.
Loops in the path between the 8th and 7th circuits in the west
I continued on in to the orange and black areas.  Each circuit is a slightly smaller deja vu of the last one as I go around and around.   A woman walking her dog who lives below the park on the harbor came by and invited me to access the beach there via their garden to collect rock, so I made a trip down to see what was there.
Blakely Harbor
The sky was gorgeous but the stones here are very small and not what I was looking for, so  I ran down to Rockaway beach while the tide was out to collect more black stones, which made it possible for me to continue working.  I need larger flat pieces to form the edges of the path, and always seem to be running out of these.  I made a small flock of black swallows for people who came by the site.
Can you find the Swallows?
October 9th:  I haven't been sleeping the past few nights.  Something is going on out there that is keeping me awake.  So I was thoroughly exhausted when I went to the site this morning.  I picked up a cold from working in the rain which may have something to do with it.  Terry and Terri came to shoot more video today.  They filmed a tour of the park while I ran to gather some larger white stones to work my way in to the northern part of the labyrinth.  We talked about the lives of Greek God's while I worked and it turned out to be an enjoyable day in spite of my fatigue.  My cousins Libby and Bob came by with a couple of friends, making for a social afternoon.
The Terry's, my cousins, and their friends
Even though I was sleep deprived and surrounded by guests, I made great progress, mixing 8 bags of mortar and setting about 18 feet of path.  I hauled gravel down the hill that had been delivered and filled some of the gaps between the paths after it got dark since that happens at 5:00 PM now.  I'm using the same gravel that was spread on the paths so that they match.

The next day was Sunday and I had several visitors.  The first couple, the Piraino's, were particularly fun to meet.  We laughed a lot, which helped lift me from my delirium as I didn't sleep much again last night.  We talked about Sicily and the town which is their namesake, and the famous Capuchin Catacombs where the bodily remains of departed souls lie in a grisly display of our mortal impermanence.  Its an incredible thing to see first hand.  I told them the story of how Ouranos' overly fertile wife Gaia had one of her many offspring castrate her husband after tiring from bearing so many hideous children, one of which was the Cyclops.  When his testicles were flung in to the sea, there was a foaming from which Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was formed.  Such an interesting way to manifest love, out of pain.  We had a good laugh when I commented on how much more fun Greek mythology was than Christianity.  I made them a pair of Swallows after they left.  In fact I ended up making a flock of swallows as more and more people came by.
The Pirainos
Rich, who's mother Joy is memorialized in the boulder and Stewartia tree at the western end of the Labyrinth brought his wife Amy by to see the project and we had a nice visit.  He told me I would surely be going to Heaven for the work I am doing here.  I laughed and said "We'll see..."
Rich and Amy
Next, a very nice woman named Jenny came to the park to turn the prayer wheel for her son Nolan.  We had a lovely talk and I made Nolan a Swallow, with his Mother's wish that he metaphorically learn to fly.  Blessings to you Nolan.  I'm eternally grateful that I was born in a generation that didn't have access to computers and cell phones until I had formed a grander vision of the World.  It seems a great tragedy that the wonders of the universe have been eclipsed by cellular devices.  May this Labyrinth offer a path to reconnect us to the spirit of life.

Shelly points to the Swallow dedicated to her son
A little while later, the happy trio of ladies, Tiffany, Veronique, and Wendy came along and peppered me with questions.  Their energy reminded me of the flocks of giddy robins feasting on the Madrone berries in the trees overhead in the morning, when the forest is alive with happy twittering.  They were delighted to each get a Swallow as I finished the 7th circuit.  Another one down!
Wendy, Veronique, and Tiffany pointing to their Swallows
The days are so short but I need to begin the process of gathering more stones to make my way around yet another circuit before I quit for the winter, so I raced off to the beach and collected four buckets of about 300 pounds of stones before it was too dark to see anything.  I was only going by shape in the end, so I won't really know what I have collected until tomorrow.  At any rate, the center is beginning to fill in and the Labyrinth is really taking shape.

May a flight around the 7th circuit be filled with the brilliance of a heavenly sky, lofty with muscular clouds, or a clear day sparkling on the water, or a star filled night hung with the the porch swing of crescent moon, encompassing all the aspects of the magnificent realm of the God Ouranos.

Next I will begin the 6th circuit, dedicated to the Planet Saturn and its namesake God, who represents the concept of Time.  A woman asked today what would go in the open center where the inner circuits have not yet revealed themselves.  At first I was baffled by the question, but later while standing on the high boulder where I take the panoramic portraits of the Labyrinth each day, I envisioned a giant globe filling the rock strewn center, surrounded by the rings of Saturn.  And that made me smile.

Thanks for reading always, Jeffrey