Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The 3rd Circuit, Earth, the Community Circuit

Earth is the 3rd closest planet to the sun after Mercury and Venus.  It is the only planet not named after a Roman or Greek God.  The name Earth is derived for an Anglo Saxon word Erde which has Germanic origins.  It is the densest planet in our solar system and the largest of the 'terrestrial planets'.  Earth was formed about 4 1/2 billion years ago and simple molecular life forms originated in the planet's seas about a billion years later, possibly around thermal vents deep in the oceans.  These organisms proliferated and began forming a biosphere that significantly altered the planet's atmosphere, creating an ozone layer that blocks life inhibiting solar radiation.  This enabled life forms to eventually move from the seas to land masses.  Earth is in just the right place for life to happen.  Its all a matter of circumstance that this little speck in the Universe developed in the way it did.  And the results of this chemical manifestation have been magnificent.  The planet is in constant flux in a symbiotic melange of systems that adapt to every modulation in the environment.  The organisms that thrive here have taken advantage of every circumstance in what was an ever expanding variety of species until our current species came along.  Its believed that a meteorite ended the era of the dinosaurs, who ruled the Earth for 180 million years.  We've been here for about one million years, at first living as part of the ecosystem, until we attained the ability to alter the environment in order to subsist on a more controllable level.

In the last 540 million years, the time span where the fossil records show the existence of large populations of complex hard shelled organisms, the Earth has experienced between 5 and 20 mass extinctions.  Today our impact as a species is causing another one.  Our hominid ancestors developed in to a highly adaptable species, capable of living in diverse climates from the tropics to the Arctic.  After the last ice age ended, Homo sapiens populations grew exponentially.  We currently number about 7.2 billion people.  That number is projected to increase by another billion in the next 10 years!  The impact that this population explosion has had on this planet is far reaching.  It is estimated that 30,000 species will become extinct in the next year, about one every 3 hours.  A report in National Geographic magazine predicts that 1/4th of all species on the planet are threatened with extinction by 2050.

One of four bronze ecosystem panels on the Prayer Wheel in Halls Hill Park
Currently our disconnect from the natural world is at an all time high.  Most American's knowledge of nature comes largely from watching television.  The majority spend far more time texting than communing with the natural world and concerns about the economy rate far higher than environmental concerns in polls.  I am eternally grateful that I was taught to love and respect the Earth even though observing the way that we degrade our natural world can be a very difficult thing to watch.

An incredible array of colorful seaweeds washed up on the shore of Rockaway Beach
Still, I find this planet to be so fabulous that it is my life's goal to explore as much of it as I can I'm able.  One of the great tricks has been to balance the desire to be a vagabond with working and having a home and garden.  Its one of the reasons I choose to work outside.  I take the winters off when the garden is dormant and the weather inclement in Oregon.  I've probably learned more traveling than I have doing everything else combined.

Meteora, Greece
What I have seen out there is nothing short of breath taking.  Earth is covered in gems, many of them man made but the best being natural landscapes.  We tend to completely alter the landscape to suit our needs, leaving no remnant of what was naturally there.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be building this Labyrinth on a site surrounded by nature.  I've returned to Bainbridge Island this time to complete the project.

The Earth circuit is the one I chose to build as "the Community circuit," an idea suggested by my client to make the labyrinth more participatory.  The idea was to have people bring stones and found objects that I would use to build the third circuit from the center.  We made a nice sign explaining what I was looking for and people slowing started to leave stones.  Since I've been back on the site this Spring a few more piles have appeared and the selection looks good.  People have left collections of beach glass, geodes, an amethyst crystal, Ammonite fossils, a Tibetan lock, and oxidized metal spikes and nails from the days when ship building was a lucrative trade on the island.
An assortment of stones and other objects donated for the Community circuit
I loaded the truck with my gear for the two final weeks  of work and filled the gas tank (Saudi oil?  Domestic Fracking?  Tar Sands?) and got on that massive strip of traffic clogged pavement that is Interstate 5 and drove back to Bainbridge Island on April 15th.  My biggest environmental sin is driving a fossil fueled vehicle over long distances, pumping greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere.  Once I'm settled in here though I am staying just a minute from the site which makes for a very low carbon foot print commute.

The night before I left Portland there was a full moon with a lunar eclipse that was dazzlingly visible from my back yard, with Mars shining red above it.  It seems to be an auspicious time to resume work on the Labyrinth.

Full Lunar Eclipse with Mars above and a bright star to the right
I arrived on the island and drove first to Fay Bainbridge Park, which I hadn't been to before.  There is a long wide beach backed by driftwood logs there.  I combed it for small pebbles to use to make flower petals because in the Earth circuit I am celebrating the richness and fertility that is unique to the planet we live on.

The beach at Fay Bainbridge Park
When I arrived at the site I removed the forms from the work I left behind and began clearing the area that I'll be working in.  A yard of crushed rock had been delivered to fill the gaps between the circuits but it doesn't match the nice gravel I was using before, so I am filling the gaps 2/3rds of the way and top dressing it with gravel that I'm scooping off  the parking area up by the road, doubling the amount of work required for this step in the project.  Somebody left a purple tulip on a boulder which I placed between the two white loops near the 'Clouds of Heaven' loops in the northerly direction of the Labyrinth and later buried in gravel.

A purple tulip left at the Labyrinth
This started the cycle of being tired and sore that will progress as I make my way to the end of the project.  The pain in my shoulder had nearly gone away during my break, with the help of massage.  My materials still hadn't been delivered the next day so I spent time setting up forms and sorting rock, and then went to Fort Ward Park to do some discrete beach combing.

Fort Ward Beach
It was a cold damp day so the beach stone was wet, showing off the colors.  I gathered more small pebbles to use as flower petals and some larger stones in colors I am short on for the edges of the path.  There are some interesting bedrock formations exposed along the Fort Ward beach that make circles surrounded by rings of thin layers, with the colorful beach stones filling the depressions.

Soft bedrock formations at Fort Ward Beach
It is arrangements like these that influence the way that I work.  I'm always learning from Nature, who I consider the greatest teacher.

My project manager Gregory picked up 8 bags of mortar for me as the delivery of a fresh pallet didn't happen that day.  I mixed four bags and worked until dark, making time consuming little flowers with bits of green beach glass people had brought.  I have to put them in on edge and they are quite small.  They came out looking like Sea Anemones, which I like.  I left a gap in the mosaic so that I can connect the Mars circuit to Earth circuit later.  The spans between loops are getting shorter than the steel bands that I use for forms so I am having to work around that.  I had new strips cut from a thinner gauge of steel because the bends are getting tighter and I need greater flexibility than the thicker steel strips I've been using will tolerate.  The new strips are so thin that I have to use two of them sandwiched together to give them the rigidity to hold the shape of the curves.

Green beach glass 'Sea AAnemones
The next day I worked my way around to the western cardinal point, where I set a donated Ammonite fossil and made a couple more Sea Anemones using brown beer bottle beach glass.

An Ammonite Fossil, brown beach glass 'Sea Anemones, and alabaster dice in the west of the Community circuit
A woman named Ellen who lives below the park came up and brought me some wonderful pieces of oxidized metal her husband had collected from the beach, including nails with copper in them that have a nice green patina.

The collection of beautiful old metal spikes, nails, and beach glass that Ellen's husband collected
I worked until the rain made it too miserable to continue, so I went home to my place for lunch and was rewarded with a spectacular double rainbow that lasted for over an hour.  I walked back to the site, taking in the vibrant damp greens of Spring and set things up for the next day.  The weather is supposed to be drier tomorrow, so I will make good progress.

Double Rainbow over Puget Sound
In the morning I headed for the site earlier than usual.  The sun was shining and that can be very motivating when you work outside.  It was a beautiful day, with birds chirping, woodpeckers pecking, and me making mosaics.  Some nice people came by and I gave them tours and made flowers for the ones who turned the Prayer Wheel.  In the afternoon I finished the bends in the south from the Mars to the Earth circuit.

Bends connecting the 4th to the 3rd circuit
In the bend to the left I incorporated a Tibetan lock cast with the Bodhisattva Red Tara cast on the front and a lovely mandala that is now set permanently in mortar.  I surrounded it with thin pink and red stones, including some beautiful metamorphic ones in the crown that I collected from a beach while I was in Greece.  When I returned the next day a Madrone leaf had fallen and covered her, and I realized that it could be a great offense to devout Buddhists to have placed her in a position where she could be stepped on.  I left the leaf covering her the rest of the time I worked on the mosaics as protection, and would like people to be mindful of her and to step around her, and to make a vow of loving compassion.  Thanks.

Red Tara
A woman named Lyssa came by and asked if I would do a radio interview with the local access radio station.  I talked to another woman, Catherine about having Monks from the island's monastery come to do a blessing and chant around it when it is finished.  I've envisioned people sitting on each of the 12 boulders and joining in a focused chant.  I would love to see people dance on it as well.  Bring flowers to set in the gravel between the paths, or offerings to place at points you find special to you.  There will eventually be a broom so you can sweep it.  There are thousands of details to be found if you seek them out.  Walking this labyrinth is meant to be a fascinating journey in Time and Space.

I worked from the point I stopped at yesterday, setting the Community circuit from the Western cardinal point to where a pair of bends will occur connecting to the 2nd circuit, the Venus circuit.  In the area with orange stone I placed a copy of the Phaistos Disk, which I bought when I was on the island of Crete in Greece this winter.  The original disk was found in the Minoan palace complex at Phaistos and is twice the size of the copy I bought.  It is considered to be the oldest known example of typography.  Carved seals were stamped into a wet clay tablet in a spiraling line but the text has never been deciphered.  Countless copies in a variety of colors were produced for the souvenir market.  I chose one that mimicked the original.  Surrounding the disk I set bits of red grout from the palace site and pottery shards from the Minoan palace at Knossos.  I added to the mix some alabaster dice making the numbers 7 and 11 along with small orange beach pebbles, creating a quirky flower.

A copy of the Phaistos Disk

From orange area I worked my way in to black stones and then white where the bends to the Venus circuit will be connected later.

There is plenty of rain the forecast, making Spring on Puget Sound lush and vibrantly green.  One of the best parts of this project is when I visit area beaches to collect stones.  I needed to go to town and buy more rebar so I stopped at a beach at low tide on Eagle Harbor where the town of Winslow is located.  The selection here is limited but I can always use small stones, and I want to use material from as many of the island's beaches as possible.

A beach on Eagle Harbor
Connecting Eagle Harbor to Rockaway beach where I collect most of my stone is Creosote Point.  This was once a major facility for treating wood with coal tar as a preservative for making power poles and pilings for docks.  The plant operated for 80 years until environmental concerns forced its closure.  The contaminated site was designated a Superfund site by the government and efforts to contain the contamination continue to this day.  There is a large steel wall enclosing the site and the water here is a murky brown color.  There is a park along the shoreline outside the steel walls, which is covered with barnacles and small mussels at the tide line.

The beach at Creosote Point
I found two beautiful big moon snail shells on the beach that are as large as a small fist.  I later filled one with mortar and placed it in a bend in the Community circuit.  The next day was Easter Sunday and the weather was beautiful (God smiling on egg hunts).  I went down to the Labyrinth and set up the forms looping to the Venus circuit.  A woman named Helen came down and asked if I had found a ceramic heart she had left in a small bag on the boulder where stones were left for the Community circuit.  I told her I had taken it home to figure out a way to install it so that it wouldn't fall out later because it is very thin.  It was a meant as a memorial to her young son who had passed away.  Our conversation was so sweet and tender and one of those moments that makes this project so special.

After that I went to a lovely brunch given by my hosts for their family.  They all came to visit the Labyrinth and then Deborah Cheadle, who I met yesterday came to take me over to the country club to collect stones on the beautiful beaches that surround this exclusive point on the island.  This is an area of stately old homes with marvelous views across a pasture like golf course.  We sat in the sun and picked small colorful stones and visited through the afternoon.  I learned a lot about island history and got to see some fine homes and gardens on this glorious day.  Bainbridge Island is an incredibly beautiful place to live.

Bainbridge Reef by the Country Club
Then I returned and built the loop connecting the Earth circuit to the Venus circuit.  A couple came as it was getting dark, their first visit to the park.  They said they would bring me some stones as their last name is Rockefeller.

The colorful pebbles Deborah and I collected on the beach by the Country Club
I finished the Community circuit when I built the loops in the white northerly direction that connect it to the Venus circuit.  These loops are special in that I incorporated Helen's ceramic heart dedicated to her son.  I set some geodes that belonged to a man who passed away who's name I do not know, and made petals with bits of donated beach glass and ceramic crockery, and stones given to me by a couple who's dog Reilly had just passed away.  I surrounded all of this with special bits of marble I gathered in Greece from the Temples of Dionysos, Demeter, the Delian Apollo, the Temple of Hera on Samos, and the ruins of a Hellenistic house on the island of Paros, and a stone I brought back from Pompeii 4 years ago.  Please tread lightly when you walk on these delicate turns in the path.

Another circuit done, in honor of the incredible planet on which we live.  May we honor it and treat it with love so that it may continue to sustain us.  That is my wish.  Thank you to the people who brought stones and meaningful object used to create it, and thank you for reading my ramblings, Jeffrey


  1. Enjoyable read, Jeffrey. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I just love what you do there! And thank you for all your amazing essays! They awake strong feelings of love and connectedness to mother Earth and always bring tears into my eyes :)

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  4. My iPad is cranky! I have an idea for a collaboration that could benefit both of us. If you're interested in helping to provide an art element to a dog park at Fogarty creek, plz email me @ Thx.

  5. Hi, I'm a busy boy and am not taking on any out of town projects at this time. Fogarty Creek is beautiful. Best of luck with it!

  6. I am forming an idea for a trip to see your Labyrinth on Bainbridge.
    You are a remarkable person. Reading the story was wonderful.

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