Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The Sun

An incredible solar flare arcs far from the surface of the Sun
The Sun is the star around which the planets in our solar system orbit.  It's made of "hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields" that formed when when a large molecular cloud collapsed more than 4 1/2 billion years ago.  The majority of the matter in that cloud gathered in to the Sun while the rest spread as a giant orbiting disk that would eventually become the planets and asteroid belts we know today.  Its diameter is 109 times that of Earth.  3/4's of its mass is made up of hydrogen, and most of the rest is helium, with less than 2% being heavier elements like oxygen, carbon, and iron.  This fiery ball generates enormous amounts of heat that warm the surface of the orbiting planets on the side that faces it determining planetary day and night cycles.

The Sun flaring
The Sun's name comes from the old Anglo Saxon word Sunne, which was derived from a Germanic word, Sunno.  Sunna was a  Goddess in Germanic mythology.  Sunno came from the older Indo European word sóh₂wl̥,.  For the Egyptians, the God of the Sun was Ra.  The Greeks worshipped Helios, who later became associated with Light to make room for Apollo.  Helios was considered a Titan, while Apollo resided on Olympus, a loftier abode.  It was in Latin myth that Apollo drove the chariot of the Sun while the Greeks always attributed this task to Helios.  In mythology, Apollo was born on the Greek Island of Delos.  Delos is said to have the most sunny days of any other place in the Greek empire.  A city of temples was built on Delos over the years there by the various Greek states wanting to gain the favor of the Gods through displays of devotion.  In Roman mythology, the Sun diety was named Sol Invictus.
All that remains of the Temples to Apollo on the Island of Delos, Greece
The Hindu God of the Sun is Surya, who also drives a horse drawn chariot.  The 13th Century Temple at Konark in the Indian state of Orissa is a monumental chariot like structure with stone wheels that is drawn by majestic horses with Surya at the helm.

A stone wheel on the Temple of Konark, a monumental chariot guided by the Hindu God Surya
The Halls Hill Labyrinth is literally a path leading to the Sun, which you reach by walking in and out of circuits dedicated to the planets in the solar system.  It has been a long haul building the hundreds of feet of path that leads from the eastern entrance of the Labyrinth to the center.  I've gone around and around 11 times and now I am ready to build the center, the star that dominates our very existence.  I started the center by arranging the steel form strips in to a circle merging with the straight path that leads in to it.

The forms set for making the center of the Labyrinth
A lot of people came by on Friday and Saturday, to the point where I was having a hard time getting my work done.  I've been at it for 12 days straight and I probably need a day off.  But that will come after I'm finished.  People are showing up with last minute stones, beach glass, and found objects for me to incorporate last minute in to mortar.  Boxes of heart shaped rocks, barely tumbled broken bottles, and broken dishes have been offered up but much of it can't be properly set in to the mosaic with lasting results.  But the things that will work will find their way in to the center of the Labyrinth.

Judy brought me a bag of beach glass.  She came on her bicycle, bravo!
What I need for the sun mosaic are lots of slender and wedge shape stones, so I went to Pleasant Beach and picked about 50 good thin little pebbles to mix in.  This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

Looking for slender pebbles on Pleasant Beach
I spent much of two days collecting the loose unused stones from the site that have been spread out over the mosaics.  I picked out all the linear, rather hot dog and wedge shaped stones to use in the center disk, where I want to make a bursting design radiating from a hole in the center.  The hole will be the same size as the white stone mosaic moons on the outer 11th ring of the Labyrinth.  This hole will represent Blue Moons, which occur when there are 13 full moons in a year.  It will also represent solar and lunar eclipses when the Earth, Sun and Moon are aligned.  I'm hoping people will come and walk the Labyrinth on full moons when the forest is bathed in moonlight.

Deborah Cheadle, who took me to visit the Country Club area on Easter Sunday came by and then went home and retrieved a stack of nursery pots that I can store unused rock in for future mosaics.  Her father Andrew Price came by later in the evening and gave me a copy of his book about the history of the Port Blakely area where I am working.  I look forward to reading about it.  He told me the first tennis courts in Washington used to be near where the Labyrinth is now, built by the Halls brothers after which the hill and park are named.

I mixed a couple of bags of mortar and set the first third of the Sunburst and think it looks very pretty, like multi colored hot dogs mixed with other linear pieces in rich colors.  So I'm roasting hot dogs on the Sun.  I added a mixture of colored stones in with the twelve seasonal colors that expand out from it to depict the bursting force of the Sun.

Beginning the circle of rays that emanate from the center of the Sun disk
Having the center open makes a kind of turn around leading in and out.  Later as people began to walk it I noticed that people tend to enter to the right, probably conditioned from driving on the right, but for me the energy flows in a sun wise direction.

The first section of the Sun
I had so many visitors yesterday that I was mentally exhausted.  The weather forecast was for rain the day I finished and it was cold out.  And it was Sunday and I really felt like I needed a day off, but I set goals for myself and push to meet them sometimes.   It is a lot of work to build a path that is almost 1,000 feet long out of beach pebbles and stones.  Because the weather was chilly, I didn't get a lot of visitors, but rather just the right amount.  It was a special day and I had good heartfelt connections with most of the people who came by.

Joe and his daughter Kailin (I'm hoping I'm remembering these names properly) came first with some pieces of beach glass for me to slip in to narrow gaps between the linear stones I am using.  They loved the idea of having something in there that is personal to them.

Joe and Kailin
Judy, who came by yesterday just as I was swearing a string of foul curses when I accidentally dumped my lunch salad on the floor of my truck, brought me a bag of healthy treats in a labeled bag and some nice big nursery tubs for storing the left over stones.  Thank you Judy.

Delicious things in a humble paper bag
I mixed the two bags of mortar that I had left and set the south side of the sunburst.  Gregory went to the building supply place and picked up two more bags and delivered those so I would have enough to finish.  A photographer named Joel Sackett came and took stills from the top of a ladder while I worked.  As he was leaving Terry Moyement arrived and he videotaped the last section of work I needed to do to complete the project.  We hugged after I placed the last stone.  I told him I thought the Sun looked like an alien Cyclops from the entrance or  one of those weird water towers you see on the tops of hills.

I had to finish the Labyrinth more than anything else in my life and had worried along the way that something could happen that might prevent me from completing it.  I'm so glad I made it to the end, and I thank my body for tolerating the hard labor necessary to create a project of this scale and intensity of meaning.  I found myself crying from time to time later that day, probably a combination of relief and exhaustion.

The next day I removed the forms and filled the gaps with gravel.  The Eagle Feather has been at the center of the project almost the entire time.  It survived the winter, and I think I will leave it in there.  Please don't step on it.

The Eagle Feather and a memorial stone left for someone named Monty
I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the site and then went for a walk down the slope to Blakely Harbor.  The houses down there range from funky little old places to American dream homes.  The old Victorians have been renovated and their original character is unrecognizable.  Beyond them is Port Blakely park, with rotted pilings and a heavily graffitied old concrete mill building where island kids gather to party.  It hardly seems real that this place was once the largest supplier and shipper of timber in the world.  The pilings covered in seaweed are all that remain of the once bustling port.

Blakely Harbor, once the site of the largest lumber mill in the world
Once all of the loose stones were picked up I cleaned the stonework with muriatic acid to remove the mortar film that dulls the surface.  Then the Labyrinth shows its true colors.  The work was a kind of penance and I did all of the physical labor from start to finish except for the site preparation, which was masterfully installed by Savage Landscapes.  Seeing it glowing there in this magical glade in the forest I have gotten to know so intimately is rather overwhelming.

The completed Labyrinth
And then people began to arrive and walk it.  Helen brought her daughter, who walked it 3 times.  Another woman I had not met before arrived and half way through burst in to tears.  Nancy and Dave came.  I hadn't seen them this year and was so happy that they came.  Dave is blind and Nancy walked him through it.  At the center, they embraced the woman who had been crying, who I learned had suffered the terrible loss of her son.  Then I started to cry.  It just seemed so impossibly beautiful and powerful and full of everything I intended it to be all at once, kind of overwhelming, like the cosmos itself.

I'd like to thank the people who's vision made it possible for this project to happen, and all of the amazingly diverse people I have met during the process of its construction.  Its been an incredible journey.  We may publish a guide to understanding the meaning incorporated in to the circuits so that people can better understand what they are walking on, and work will be done to improve the entrances, so I will be back to this beautiful island in the not too distant future.  When you come to the bend to the 3rd circuit in the pink stone area of the south, and you see the Red Tara, a Bodhisattva surrounded by radiating stones, try not to step on her.  She connects Heaven and Earth and deserves great reverence.  There will be a formal dedication at 4:00 on Sunday, June 29th, 2014.

Red Tara
Thanks for following this winding path from the outside to the center, Jeffrey

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The First Circuit, Mercury

Mercury has a surface similar to our moon

Parian Marble statue of Hermes, 1st Century BC, found in the Antikithira Shipwreck excavation, National Museum of  Archaeology, Athens.  Only the part of the statue buried in the sediment escaped the erosion of time.
The last circuit that I built in the Labyrinth is the first, dedicated to the planet and God Mercury.  Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and also the smallest in our solar system.  It takes 88 Earth days for it to make a full rotation around the sun.  The speed of its rotation may have inspired its being named for the fastest of the Gods.

Mercury is the small dark spot in the lower center.  The others are sun spots.

The Roman God Mercury was the messenger, perhaps best known in modern times as the logo for FTD Florists.  In Greek mythology he was the God Hermes.  He is often depicted with wings on his golden sandals which were made by the God of Craftsmen, Hephastus.  On his head he wore a winged hat called a Petasos.  This was derived from floppy sun hats usually made of felt worn by farmers whose form gave the impression of wings.  These two implements helped to give Mercury the ability to fly at great speeds.

He carries a Caduceus, a staff entwined by two serpents given to him by his half brother, the God Apollo.  It became the symbol of commerce, negotiation, and balanced trade (an irony in today's corporate world).  He is also the patron deity of communication, divination, eloquence and poetry, boundaries, luck, and my favorite- travel.  In Roman mythology he was also the guide of souls to the underworld.  And he deliveres flowers!

A classic Mercury adorns the prow of a gondola in Venice, Italy
I began the work on this circuit by bringing the straight path that runs in line with the entrance in to the curve of this circuit, which runs a short distance around to the west where two loops connect it to the Venus circuit.  I made a feeble and totally abstract attempt to depict a Caduceus.  Only I will ever know where it is.  Then I went back to flowers, tapping in to the FTD Florist connection by coincidence.  Ford made a Mercury, and Hermes makes scarves, and I made a rainbow of colored stones.  The next day I made the second loop connecting the Mercury to the Venus circuit in brown stones.

Rainbow colors in the Mercury circuit
A breathtaking rainbow over Puget Sound a week before I made this mosaic
While I was working on this my friend Sarah King from Portland arrived.  We sat on the bench swing when it rained and then I went to work on the other half of this short circuit.  I will make the loops at the end tomorrow.  I made Sarah a black flower that went perfectly with her outfit.  She had a little black lava pebble in her car from a special outing that she retrieved and I tucked it in to a spot next to the flower.

Sarah King
Next to it I made another flower using a glazed black door knob for the center given to me by a woman who lost her husband last year.  Mercury is an escort for departed souls to the Gates of the Underworld.

Later two women came to visit.  Bonny lives on the island and Naira is from Armenia.  Naira works for Habitat for Humanity and Bonny worked on a project with her in Sri Lanka.  We had the sweetest visit and I made them each a flower after they went to ring the Prayer Wheel.  Doing good work is the best message of all and it was a pleasure to meet these generous souls.

Bonny and Naira
The next morning the sun was sparkling on the water and a frigate boat, the Odyssey was loaded with Sea scouts as it pulled out of Blakely Harbor.  Through the telescope it looked like they were saluting.  The temperature feels like it goes up 10 degrees when the sun is out and what a beautiful day to go sailing.

A Odyssey pulling out of Blakely Harbor
I returned to the site and finished the loops that connect the Mercury circuit to the Venus circuit in the shortest section of the Labyrinth.  It looks kind of like a hot dog so I am now calling it the "Frankfurter".  Once I finished this section I started the daunting task of moving stones off the Labyrinth.  Len brought me several large nursery tubs to store them in until I can use them for other projects in the park.  There must be a ton or more of stones that didn't get used, because having a good selection to chose from is essential for making a well fitted mosaic.

The Mercury circuit finished
I was planning to take the rest of the day off but a series of people arrived as if they were scheduled by appointment, one after another, including my friend Gillian Matthews from Seattle who brought her son.  It was a beautiful afternoon and people were dropping off pebbles and found objects for last minute inclusion in the Labyrinth.

Special delivery of a special little stone that will go in to the sun at the center of the Labyrinth
Chris came by again with his big yellow Labrador Retrievers.  He brought a fascinating book of historic photos of Bainbridge Island showing an entire mill town below the site where I am working.  Small Victorian houses lined a waterfront street edging a bay filled with frigate ships loading up lumber destined for the far reaches of the globe.  Lumber was shipped to California, Chile, England, France, Germany, and Australia.  Stones were brought as ballast and dumped off Rockaway Beach before loading the wood.  These stones make up the majority of the material I used for the mosaics.  Now a Labyrinth sits in the midst of a forest growing on what was once the largest lumber mill in the World, which when viewed from Nature's standpoint was a genocide.  In my mind we have some healing work to do.  Mercury comes bearing flowers to those who give back to the Earth.  May walking this path inspire us to do so.

The last of the circuits is complete
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Halls Hill Labyrinth, The 2nd Circuit, Venus, Love

The Second circuit in the Labyrinth is dedicated to the Planet Venus, and the Goddess of Love, beauty,  pleasure, and procreation.  This is the second shortest circuit in the Labyrinth.  Venus is a terrestrial planet about the same size as earth but has an atmosphere that is 97% Carbon dioxide.  The surface of Venus is 462 degrees centigrade, so there is no water.  The outer layer of the atmosphere is Sulfuric Acid.  Charming. 
An ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite, with a replacement head carved by Canova
Venus is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite.  According to Hesiod's Theogeny, a poem describing the birth and genealogy of the Gods, Aphrodite was said to have been born out of the foaming sea (Aphros) where the genitals of the God Uranus were flung after he was castrated and deposed by his son Cronus (Saturn) at the desperate request of his Mother, Gaia, who was tired of giving birth to bizarre and troublesome children.  While this may cause a smirk of malice among women, and men to cross their legs, I find the analogy of love being born out of the pain of divine castration to have some interesting psychological connotations.  What better way to explain the vagaries of love to scholars and illiterate sheep herders about the irrational chaos inspired by the secretion of hormones and various other chemicals in the brain when one comes in to the proximity of an object of desire.

Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus
When the genitals hit the water, Aphros and Bythos went to work.  Aphros (Sea foam), and his sibling Bythos (Sea Depths) were Ichthyocentaurs, anthropomorphic sea creatures with the body of man to the torso, where a pair of horses legs emerged followed by the tail of fish.  They were fast swimmers and able to breathe underwater.  They bore a scallop shell to the surface near the shore of Pathos on the island of Cyprus where the genitals had splashed, from which the Goddess Aphrodite emerged, so beautifully depicted in Botticelli's painting and this scene from the Terry Gilliam movie, 'The Baron Von Munchausen.  Aphrodite literally means rising from the Sea Foam.

                                             Double click this to make the video full screen

A less macabre birth story is the claim in Homer's Iliad that Aphrodite was the offspring of the Goddess Dione, a consort of Zeus.  Dione is a feminine form of the word Dio, so essentially she was the female aspect of Zeus himself.  

Aphrodite was so beautiful and desirable that Zeus suspected there would be trouble in the kingdom with suitors fighting for her favor, so she was married off to the hideous God Hephaestus (Vulcan), the God of artisans and metal smiths.  He made her fabulous jewelry and a corset that made her even more irresistible, but she was not content with him and took other lovers, including Ares (Mars), the God of war.  Hephaestus learned of the affair from Helios and made a very fine but unbreakable net which he cast over them as they slept naked together.  He dragged them to Mt. Olympus to exact retribution, but the other Gods only found  the situation humorous and made him release them with a minor sentence.  

Aphrodite fending off Pan, with the aid of Eros, Parian Marble, from the island of Delos, Greece
Aphrodite is often depicted in the company of her winged son Eros, the God of Love.  Eros later became the Roman cupid, which is the most pagan of characters to cross over in to the realm of Christianity.  My favorite Eros story was a time when he was kissing Aphrodite and a loose arrow in his quiver grazed her breast.  She pushed him away but then her gaze set sight on the youth Adonis with whom she fell hopelessly in love.  He was a hunter so she followed him on his expeditions, even though she had no interest in hunting.  She was so distracted that she fell behind on her divine duties and had to leave him for a time to tend to her responsibilities as a Goddess.  Before she left she advised Adonis not to hunt animals that showed no fear.  Shortly afterwards he was castrated by a giant boar (believed to be a jealous Ares).  Ouch!  It is said that where Adonis's blood spilled Anemones bloom.  They were my favorite late winter flower when I was in Greece, colonizing specific areas of suitable habitat.  Once again castration leads to beauty.

Anemones on the island of Ios 
I began the Venus circuit on Easter Sunday after a lovely sunny day of pebble collecting on the Country Club peninsula of the island with a woman named Deborah Cheadle, who's family's summer home overlooks a geologic formation created when the sea floor was uplifted during a great earthquake that occurred hundreds of years ago.   Later I built the loop from the Earth circuit and made the first hearts in the second circuit dedicated to love.  

The loop from the Earth circuit to the Venus circuit
These are not the most obvious symbols since they are usually made of two stones pressed together at the center.  Love usually attaches itself to another entity making it a two part equation.  The ultimate love is loving compassion for all sentient beings as prescribed in Tibetan Buddhism as a way of liberating the soul.  This is a good circuit to commit to that ideal while walking the Labyrinth.

A 3 part red heart with a green beach glass Aorta

The next day was gorgeous once again.  The resident woodpeckers to working on trees making a wonderful vibrational sound in the forest.  I set up my forms and worked from green to pink, and red in to purple, ending where the circuit will loop to connect to the first circuit, dedicated to the planet and God Mercury.  

A couple who's dog Riley passed away brought me two white pebbles they had found the beach in Fay Bainbridge Park.  They told me that the speckled white granite one was exactly the same color as Riley was.  I'll make a flower around a geode using the two pebbles for petals when I make the loop in the white northerly direction connecting the Venus circuit to the Earth circuit.
Reilly's Pebbles
Later a man named Chris and his daughter Christine came cycling by.  He said he had been reading my essays and was very interested in the stories about Greek and Roman mythology.  It was one of those engaging conversations that just naturally occur in this space.  It inspires profound thought.  I had just wet the stonework so I could take my daily photograph and the light was perfect.  I was done working for the day but told them I would make them a pair of hearts tomorrow.

Christine and Chris
It rained all night but was dry in the morning and it turned out to be a pretty nice day in spite of the weather forecast for more rain.  A group of four people came to visit and got the tour, and then I set to work moving the forms for the days work.  Every day I have the nicest interactions with a wide variety of people, many of whom come back again with more people to share what is happening here.

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Helen brought her friend Joyce this morning and we had a nice talk about what I am building and how I would incorporate the ceramic heart Helen had left with her note earlier.

Helen and Joyce
They each gave me a silver coin with an angel on it to place in the mortar below the heart for their children.  It was a very sweet gesture.  Angels of Love.

Helen's ceramic heart and two silver Angel coins to be placed underneath the heart

So my goal for the day was to build the Venus circuit from the west to the bend in the north connecting to the Earth circuit.  I transitioned from orange to black to white, and in the bend I set a collection of small stones and shells given to me by a woman named Kayla representing her family and the challenges they've faced and overcome in the last year.  Near those I placed 3 geodes, surrounded by donated ceramic bits and beach glass and the two stones for Reilly the dog.  I added white marble stones I had brought back from sacred places in Greece as well.  One is a disk of white Parian marble that I found on the island of Paros at an excavation site with Hellenistic period mosaic floors.  I had other pieces of marble from the Temple of Hera on Samos, the beach of the Delian Apollo on Naxos, and beaches on Crete.  Another stone came from Pompeii when I was there 5 years ago. 

I placed the two angel coins beneath the ceramic heart and filled the center with bits of beach glass.  This cluster of mixed elements makes for an interesting and rich conglomeration. 

Placing the silver angel coins in mortar beneath where the ceramic heart will go
Then I built the other loop adding 3 more geodes to match the other side.  I placed little ceramic masks made by Jenny Anderson in the gaps in between the two circuits and tucked a tiny starfish that somebody had left for me next to one of them.

A ceramic mask by Jenny Anderson and a tiny starfish left by someone in the loop between the Earth and Venus circuits

From there I worked in to the silver stones that represent the middle of winter and then in to blue green. I places a heart shape rock somebody had left for me that was rather thin, so I pinned it down with green oxidized nails from Blakely Harbor that Chris had given me.  Hopefully they will keep it from popping out of the mortar as the Labyrinth ages.

The end of the Venus circuit will loop in to the Mercury circuit which is the last and shortest one.  The open space in the center of the Labyrinth is getting really small now after about 3 months of hard work. When people walk this circuit I hope that it triggers feelings of love and understanding and caring.  And then you turn to Mercury, the messenger and deliver a love letter to all who come in to contact with you.
The Venus circuit will be complete when I build the loops connecting to the Mercury circuit
Almost done!  Thanks for reading this, Jeffrey