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Coastal Voices: Park labyrinth proposed

I believe that creating a labyrinth in Front Street (Beachfront) Park would be a wonderful community project, resulting in a peaceful, healing and inspiring area in which others can gather for special (or everyday) events.

Several labyrinths exist in our extended area (see labyrinthlocator.com as a means to search) and serve their communities and clientele (some have been created in gardens at hospitals because of their healing properties), but wouldn’t a labyrinth in Front Street Park, perhaps with some sheltering bushes and benches encircling it, be a wonderful and natural addition to our beautiful community?

As a relatively new member of our town, I have been wondering this for a while now, and in talking to others have discovered that they, too, think a public labyrinth would be an asset to our community.

Walking a labyrinth is one of those experiences that reminds us of what we have in common with each other and with nature. As you probably know, a labyrinth is not a maze (in which one can become confused and even lost); a labyrinth has one path in to its center and one path out.

The first time I walked a small labyrinth at Buckhorn Springs in Oregon, I realized that I could give up thinking for the time being and simply allow one foot to follow the other. The walk became a moving meditation in which I could be entirely present to my natural surroundings without the gnawing fear of getting lost or not knowing what to do next.

In our too-busy lives, such easy silence and certainty can be an immense gift. Like the Montessori teachers’ use of a simple ellipsis painted on the floor for children who are restless and unable to focus to walk on and calm down, the labyrinth has a similar effect, though it can do much more than evoke calmness.

According to Lauren Artress in her book “Walking a Sacred Path,” a labyrinth attracts people because “it is a tool to guide healing, deepen self-knowledge, and empower creativity; (it) clears the mind, urges action, ... (and) gives solace and peace.”

However, that’s not to say that walking a labyrinth is necessarily a somber experience. When I was inside Chartres Cathedral in France this past summer and had the opportunity to walk that famous 11th century labyrinth, I felt an exhilaration that reminded me of my childhood sense of wonder and joy, and I found myself skipping along the path, humming quietly, feeling more and more happy.

Upon relating my experience to someone later, I was told that early pilgrims to Chartres used walking the labyrinth as a celebratory ritual and would often sing and dance on it. On the exterior gravel labyrinth that is cut into grass outside the immense cathedral in Chartres, children do run and play, laughing loudly, while others picnic nearby.

These are some of my personal experiences with labyrinths. I’m not sure how one might even begin such a project. I understand that public land would need to be dedicated, and then funding would need to be procured (perhaps through grants, which I’ve researched a little) to create the labyrinth.

Chris Parmentier is a Crescent City resident.

 

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