Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Traverse City: The gratitude well

A natural spring popped up near the labyrinth entrance.

What a blessing! A natural spring popped up the day we arrived at the site for the labyrinth in the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. We couldn’t have been given a warmer welcome by Mother Nature as we began our first day creating the Chartres-inspired labyrinth, which will be the central feature of the Judith Groleau Healing Garden. With a little digging, Marty turned the spring into a well, and we consecrated it as a sacred well with reverence for the holy waters. We have added a couple of Marty’s hand-carved statuettes, crystals, and some flowers from the surrounding gardens. We keep adding more elements each day, as do the many visitors who stop by to watch us work.

It’s not the first time a spring has popped up at or near the entrance of one of our labyrinths. When we put in the spiral-pattern labyrinth in the driveway at our house, a spring bubbled up in the empty lot across the street and started running over the curb into the storm drain. When we were finishing up an installation in Gallipolis, Ohio, a spring emerged at the entrance of the labyrinth with a flow so strong that we had to put a couple of four-inch PVC pipes 18 inches underground to channel the water. All of these natural springs seem to have some kind of healing properties, yet the spring that appeared here in the Healing Garden seems to be extra special, especially since we consecrated it as a sacred well. 

The natural spring bubbles up from deep underground, 
blessing the site with holy water.

We have had a fascination with sacred wells for many years, probably because we work so closely with Nature and marvel at little miracles like natural springs. Since ancient times, people have made pilgrimages to natural springs and holy wells for healing, where they would drink or sometimes bathe in the water to seek relief for a variety of ailments from rheumatism to scurvy, broken bones to leprosy, impotence to infertility. Scientists have since discovered that the water of some holy wells contains curative properties, mostly because of the presence of certain minerals. However, the healing properties of springs and wells go far beyond their medicinal qualities. ​​

​​Sacred wells were also places of divination, and shrines were built around them dedicated to the miraculous emergence of the numinous water, which was believed by pagans and Christians alike as possessing a spiritual force and the presence of divinity. The holy wells of the British Isles were such popular places of worship in pagan times that the early Roman Catholic Church went to great lengths to wipe them out. Then as Christianity gained power, these pagan temples were transformed into Christian churches. In fact, many of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals were built on the sites of sacred wells, including Chartres Cathedral, home of the Chartres-pattern labyrinth, which is the inspiration for the Chartres-style labyrinth that we are creating here in the Healing Garden at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park.​​

​​Traditionally, pilgrims would bring an offering to the well so that the healing power of the well could act upon it by proxy. This ancient practice continues to this day. Every morning before we begin the workday, we leave a token, such as a stone or a flower blossom, with our prayers and expressions of gratitude. During the day, many tour groups stop by to watch us work. From day one, we have invited visitors to float flowers and place stones or other sacred objects in and around the edge of the sacred well. Like the pilgrims from centuries ago, they offer these sacred objects with their silent prayers to wash away whatever might be ailing them and express gratitude for all of the good in their lives.​​

Visitors add sacred objects, such as stones and flowers, 
to the gratitude well.

One day, we noticed a boy among the crowd who looked pretty heavy-hearted. Turns out that he lost his grandma recently and he was sad as could be and really downtrodden. Debi led the boy over to the spring, where he sat quietly and gazed into the rippling water. After awhile, he came over and thanked us. He looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. We couldn’t believe the transformation in him! Obviously, the sacred well and the energy of the labyrinth were already having a very healing influence. In fact, we have heard that visitors love the sacred well so much that the Botanic Garden administrators are now talking about making it a permanent part of the Healing Garden!​​ ​​

Dr. Munson, the founder of Traverse City State Hospital, believed in Beauty and Nature as powerful medicine for healing. Munson was a firm believer in the "beauty is therapy" philosophy, treating patients through kindness, comfort, pleasure, and the satisfaction of meaningful work. Flowers provided a source of year-round beauty, tended by patients in the asylum's own greenhouses and expansive gardens on the grounds. A hundred years later, his vision is still here, being rebirthed and coming to life in ways that he probably could never have imagined.  We are honored and so very grateful to be on this journey!​​

Debi introduces the gratitude well to one of the many 
visitors who stop by on garden tours.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Traverse City: Spiritual art graces Healing Garden in Historic Barns Park

The containment ring awaits the creation of the labyrinth in the Healing Garden.

Hurray! The concrete ring has been poured for the labyrinth we are creating at The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City, Michigan. We have been putting much love into this labyrinth for months now, and we are so excited to begin the project!

The Chartres-inspired (not an exact replica) labyrinth will feature the traditional 11-circuit pattern minus the lunations. The concrete paths will be 18.5 inches wide and the clay lines will be 6.5 inches wide. This labyrinth will be a little over 61 feet in diameter, providing a long, pleasant walk in this beautiful space surrounded by lush greenery. When all of the work is completed, the labyrinth will be the central feature of the Healing Gardens, which will also include a Medicine Wheel and gardens full of healing herbs.

We have already put a lot of work into this project. Marty calculated that 10,000 hand-sculpted pavers would be required to create just the lines of the pattern, so he set to work in April soon after we completed the labyrinth at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. With his powerful EDCO hardscape diamond-blade saw, Marty began to sculpt the most intricate parts of the design, which will feature red, charcoal gray, and taupe pavers. As many of you are aware, Marty hand sculpts each piece with intention and love for all.

Red and charcoal gray pavers comprise the trefoils of the rosette.

The trefoils Marty has carved for the center of this modified Chartres labyrinth are miniature sculptures within the larger design of this custom-crafted installation for The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park.

The red spires of the Traverse City State Hospital create a distinctive city skyline.

The committee overseeing the labyrinth project loves the idea of having a red accent on the trefoils of the rosette. This design was inspired by the red tips of the old 1880’s spires on the former Traverse City State Hospital, now known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

By the time we lay the last brick, more than 16,000 pavers will be used to create this beautiful work of spiritual art.

This is the second labyrinth we have created in the beautiful state of Michigan, and both feature the same distinctive color combination of red, charcoal gray, and taupe pavers. We are so grateful to committee of The Botanic Garden Historic Barns Park for choosing Labyrinths in Stone to create this installation. We look forward to blessing Traverse City and our Mother Earth with another beautiful labyrinth!

A natural spring popped up near the entrance of the labyrinth--what a blessing!

NOLA: The power of perseverance

Debi blesses the labyrinth space--and clear skies!

At long last, the first pavers are going into the Essence of Chartres labyrinth at the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans’ City Park. The skies have finally cleared, and the flood waters have receded. The sun is shining, and we are enjoying the perfect amount of overcast and a nice breeze. Even the clouds have silver linings! Since we arrived in the Big Easy, though, we have been facing unbelievable challenges. Some projects are like that, requiring extra effort and a lot of perseverance to get the job done. Fortunately, grit is our way of life. That's why our clients trust Labyrinths in Stone to do the highest quality work even in the toughest situations and under the most difficult conditions.

Marty carefully measures the placement of the Essence of Chartres labyrinth design features.

For starters, we had trouble maneuvering our long trailer through the tight city streets. We finally made it to our Airbnb and got settled in, but then someone broke into the driver-side window of our truck and ransacked our belongings for valuables. It had rained all night, so the interior was soaked by an inch and a half of rain. We were on complete hold for hours while we waited for the police to show up to file a report, which delayed our arrival at the job site by almost a full day. Time to redouble our resolve!

This Angel Card is a helpful reminder that it's all about Love!

Once we got to the job site, we had logistical problems: no running water to prepare the base and no electricity to run the saw. We also had no easy access to our tools or supplies because we had to park our truck and trailer so far away from the work zone, resulting in time-consuming and exhausting trips back and forth. Then came the usual difficulties caused by working with a multitude of other contractors who needed access to the same real estate and resources at the same time we did. To top it off, our brick delivery truck was hijacked and the driver was mugged! They both arrived safely, thank goodness, but long after our delivery window, setting us back another full day. Time to redouble our resolve! 

Torrential rain created a lagoon out of the containment ring!

Then came the weather. It didn’t just rain—it poured. It rained so much that the ground water actually drained
up through the center of the containment ring, creating little fountains everywhere stakes had been driven! When it wasn’t raining, the wind was blowing, which blew the carefully leveled base sand away before pavers could be laid. We were lucky that the tornadoes that devastated areas just north of NOLA went around us. We sent blessings to those who were affected and expressed gratitude for our protection. The torrential rain turned the work site into a mud pit, though, which sucked off our boots when we slogged through it. The weather conditions were so bad, a yurt had to be constructed to shelter the construction site. Finally, we could get some work done!
 We were so thankful for the great crew who built us such a solid structure and replaced the roof tarp every time it blew off. Come what may, the power of perseverance kept us focused on the beautiful design of the Essence of Chartres labyrinth that would grace the grounds of Louisiana Children's Museum for generations to come.

The yurt protected us from the elements and created some welcome shade during the installation process.

The labyrinth at LCM in City Park is our third project in New Orleans, so we were prepared for construction delays and severe weather. As usual, we called upon our Divine helpers along with our Labyrinth Angels, who kept us safe, harmonized relationships, and mitigated the weather conditions, which could have been much worse than they were. Fortunately, we could call upon our friends around the world to assist us throughout these ordeals. We are so grateful for all of our friends and family members, prayer partners, and Energy Keepers, who have been sending us light and love. We can feel it, and their support has made all the difference. 

Thanks to all of the Labyrinth Angels who are assisting us with this project!

The art of reinstalling a labyrinth: Galveston, Part III

Unloading labyrinth sections at the new location
When our friend Kay Sandor called to request our assistance with uninstalling, moving, and reinstalling one of our hand-crafted labyrinths in Galveston, we were up to the challenge. Development plans threatened to destroy their beloved community labyrinth, and we were determined to help them save it.

We had never moved one of our artworks from one place to another, but with the help of our friend Dave Keller, Labyrinths in Stone began the laborious process of preparing the labyrinth for the move from The William Temple Episcopal Center to its new home at Moody Methodist Church. What a learning process! Section by section, the pavers were meticulously measured, marked, cataloged, loaded on a flatbed trailer, and transported across town. Fortunately, we were able to reuse or recycle most of the brick pavers, reducing the amount of waste that ended up in the landfill and minimizing the use of additional resources to recreate our work of art. As the labyrinth slowly disappeared at one end of Galveston, it slowly reappeared at the other side of the city.

Handwritten messages in the base material
Before the reinstallation took place, Moody Methodist Church members did a great job of clearing the land for the labyrinth and consecrating it as sacred space. Some members wrote messages on rocks that were to be mixed into the base material of the containment ring. Others wrote handwritten notes on paper to be tucked under the pavers of the center's rosette. By the time Labyrinths in Stone delivered the pavers, every aspect of the labyrinth had been thoroughly blessed so that we could get to work reinstalling the labyrinth.

Handwritten messages tucked under the center pavers
One of the ways we like to demonstrate our gratitude for the host organization is by consecrating the pavers of the rosette with special inscriptions from the people who will walk the labyrinth. While Marty and Dave prepared the containment ring, members of the congregation inscribed the bricks with the names of loved ones, Bible verses, quotations, drawings, and special messages to future generations who will walk the labyrinth in years to come. These bricks were the first to be laid as the labyrinth was built from the center outward.

Kay Sandor helps with the sand blessing.
Once all of the pavers were in place, Marty and Dave swept sand into the joints, completing the process of compaction. To thank her for her efforts to save the labyrinth, Kay Sandor was invited to participate in the sacred sanding process. Sanding the labyrinth involves filling all of the seams with bricklayer's sand, a finer grade of sand with smaller particles for such detailed work. Each and every inch of the labyrinth is blessed as sand is sprinkled into the spaces between the pavers with a prayer asking for peace and healing for all of the pilgrims who will walk the path and expressing love and gratitude for all. 

Once complete, compaction locks the pavers permanently into place, ensuring the durability of the labyrinth for generations to come. The surface is then thoroughly swept and cleaned, revealing the labyrinth’s stunning artistry. 

We were grateful to the spiritual leaders of Moody Methodist Church, who paved the way for a smooth reinstallation process by educating the congregants about the labyrinth and its uses, selecting a suitable site, encouraging members to participate in the process, and creating a quiet setting for the labyrinth on the east side of the church property. The labyrinth was consecrated on April 16, 2014, during Holy Week.

The Moody Methodist Church labyrinth 
When Labyrinths in Stone received the call to help save the Galveston labyrinth, we accepted the challenge because of our commitment to our customers and to our work in the world. Labyrinth reinstallation can be a very tricky and time-consuming process, even if we have done the original installation and removal. However, we believe so strongly in the quality of our craftsmanship and the sacredness of each work of art that we have added this important service to our repertoire of specialized skills. We were so grateful to have the opportunity to shepherd this labyrinth through its many changes, loving it along its own path of twists and turns. Thanks to Dave Keller, Kay Sandor, local labyrinth enthusiasts, and the good people at Moody Methodist Church, the labyrinth has a wonderful new home, where it can continue to serve the needs of the Galveston isle community.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The challenge of uninstalling a labyrinth: Galveston, Part II

The William Temple Episcopal Center labyrinth in Galveston, Texas

In 2013, we received a call from our friend Kay Sandor in Galveston regarding a labyrinth we had installed in 2001 at The William Temple Episcopal Center. The beloved community labyrinth was in jeopardy because it was in the way of a redevelopment plan for the downtown space. Despite vociferous opposition by isle community residents, led by Kay, the labyrinth had to be moved or it would be destroyed. Could we possibly uninstall the labyrinth?

De-installation of the labyrinth involved more than 5,000 hand-sculpted pieces.

Good question. We have installed a lot of labyrinths, but we had never been asked to remove one. De-installing a labyrinth is much more complicated than, say, removing a patio. The main reason is because a labyrinth is a sacred work of art which has been created specially for the installation site. More than 5,000 hand-sculpted pavers went into the making of this labyrinth. Each piece would have to be measured, removed, cleaned, labeled, and meticulously inventoried for storage until a suitable space could be found to re-install the labyrinth. Fortunately, by the time we were ready to take on the challenge, the labyrinth had found a new home at Moody Methodist Church across town, thanks to the fierce advocacy of Kay Sandor and her dedicated group of labyrinth enthusiasts.

Isle community residents, led by Kay Sandor, came together to save their beloved labyrinth.

This particular labyrinth was beloved by so many people in the community. While we were carefully removing each brick paver, many people stopped by to tell us how much the labyrinth meant to them, sharing stories and expressing their gratitude for the labyrinth and its makers. They told us how they had walked it to pray, solve problems, deal with illness, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, heal a relationship--on and on. Most of them expressed sorrow that the labyrinth would no longer exist in the current location, and a few were quite distressed about its removal. Little did they know when they shared their stories that they were talking with the creators of the labyrinth! Listening to their stories was so humbling, and it felt so sacred--almost like confession--that we never revealed our identity to a single soul. Our hearts swelled with gratitude, hearing that our work in the world had helped so many people in so many ways. 

Marty meticulously measures the placement of pavers to prepare for their removal.

With the invaluable assistance of our friend Dave Keller, we carefully measured, removed, cleaned, cataloged, and palletted each paver, transferring sections to a flatbed trailer to transport to the new location. We could feel the emotions that walkers had left in the pavers, and as we cleaned them for reuse, we blessed everyone who had ever walked this sacred path. We felt sad for the people who would miss it in this location, yet we were glad that the labyrinth would have a new life at another church nearby.

A portion of the rosette is ready to transport to the new location.

The whole process would not have been possible, however, without the fierce advocacy of Kay Sandor and the skilled help of Dave Keller. We are also grateful for the proactive work by all of the community advocates and church leaders, who created a plan of succession for the labyrinth, treating it as a valuable resource with the utmost respect for this sacred work of art and the people who use it as a spiritual tool.

The labyrinth's beautiful new home at Moody Methodist Church

The labyrinth now has a beautiful new home at Moody Methodist Church, where it continues to serve congregants, community members, and visitors to the Galveston area. We are so grateful to the people of Galveston for their dedicated efforts to save the labyrinth for the sake of the community and everyone who will benefit from walking this sacred work of art.

Monday, March 4, 2019

On the move in Galveston, Part I

Labyrinths in Stone begins construction on the William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth in 2001.

When development plans threatened the destruction of one of our beautiful artworks in Galveston, Texas, Labyrinths in Stone was called to action. Led by our dear friend Kay Sandor, the isle community’s efforts to save their beloved labyrinth gave us the opportunity to do something we had never done before: move a Chartres-pattern brick-paver labyrinth to a new location.

In March-April 2001, Episcopal Church and UTMC Galveston commissioned Labyrinths in Stone to create the William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth. The beautiful 39-foot Chartres-pattern labyrinth was the centerpiece of the Labyrinth Meditation Garden between the church and the hospital.

The William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth was dedicated to the well-being of the Galveston isle community.

For more than 12 years, the William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth was an integral part of the Galveston isle community. Kay Sandor facilitated monthly Full Moon Walks and Seasonal Sunrise Walks to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. The labyrinth also attracted many different types of visitors: church members, community groups, faculty and staff, students, and tourists— even researchers and their subjects studying the effects of walking labyrinths. One of the most moving stories about using the labyrinth for healing featured a group of nine severely burned Saudi Arabian children who walked the labyrinth more than 30 times over the course of a two-year study.

The William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth hosted many community events during its lifetime. 

Then in 2014, we received word from Kay that the property was going to be sold to pave the way for new development, which meant the labyrinth would be demolished. Those in the labyrinth world were in disbelief because removing a labyrinth is akin to destroying a holy shrine. Members of the local community were in denial that the church would dismantle the popular landmark and sacred site. Yet the development plans moved forward despite vociferous opposition.

Then something magical happened: a bold move by the members of this small isle community.

Embarking on a journey from unknowing to revelation, community members entered liminal space with the labyrinth. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word “limens,” which means “threshold.” According to psychology, liminal space is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing before we cross the threshold of divine disclosure.

Many groups used the William Temple Episcopal Center Labyrinth.

The Galveston isle community did not want to lose their labyrinth. When they chose to enter liminal space, however, they embraced the possible loss with strength and courage. Led by Kay, they boldly stepped into a place of waiting and not knowing while at the same time doing everything they could to save it, which included reaching out to other churches in the area and asking for our assistance. Their efforts were rewarded.

On January 27, 2014, the good news was announced in the local paper: the spiritual landmark would not be destroyed to make way for development after all. Instead, the labyrinth would be moved to Moody Methodist Church across town.

Marty meticulously measures the pavers to move the pathway.

We felt apprehensive when Kay called to request our assistance. We had never moved one of our artworks from one place to another, but we were determined to help the community save their beloved labyrinth. With the help of our friend Dave Keller, Labyrinths in Stone began the laborious process of preparing the labyrinth for the move to Moody's brand-new Meditation Garden. What a learning process! Section by section, the pavers were meticulously marked, cataloged, palleted, loaded on a flatbed trailer, and transported across town. As the labyrinth slowly disappeared at one end of town, it slowly reappeared at the other—like magic!

Marty and Dave unload sections to recreate the labyrinth in its new location at Moody Methodist Church.

One community’s experience of embracing liminal space gave us the opportunity to do something we had never done before. We could not have made the move without the help of Kay Sandor and Dave Keller. The labyrinth was saved, and everyone was the better for it. When we were called to action to do the seemingly impossible, we entered liminal space, too, and emerged with a new skill and level of mastery that we could add to the services we offer. Need to move a labyrinth? Yes, we can do that!

The labyrinth is the centerpiece of the Meditation Garden at Moody Methodist Church.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Labyrinth restoration? Yes, we do that!

A labyrinth ready for restoration

One of the many services we provide is labyrinth restoration. In August 2018, we returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, to refurbish the labyrinth we created in 2001 for St. John's Cathedral. Commissioned by the Wright children, the Mary Clark Wright Memorial Labyrinth has been well cared for, but it definitely needed some tender, loving care after many years of weathering the wet climate of East Tennessee.

We felt so blessed to be back at St. John’s. This labyrinth holds a special place in our hearts because the dedication ceremony was held in September 2001, just a few days before the tragic events unfolded on 9/11. On that fateful day, people lined up around the whole city block to walk the labyrinth, seeking its sure path during that time of profound uncertainty.

Refurbishing a labyrinth involves a laborious three-part process: power washing, sanding, and sealing. Also, it’s usually a good idea to freshen up the contrast between the pavers during a complete restoration, especially if the pavers have faded from weather exposure.

Weather exposure can fade the paver colors over time.

The process begins with removing the accumulated dirt and debris—what we call the “sacred muck”—which can take three days (or more) of meticulous power washing. Special care needs to be taken to avoid damaging the pavers, especially the smallest of hand-carved shims. This Chartres-pattern labyrinth is 39 feet in diameter with a path width of 12.5 inches and a total path length of 750 feet, featuring thousands of hand-sculpted terracotta and light gray paving stones to create the lunations, trefoils, and the petals of the rosette. At the end of every eight-hour day, Marty was soaking wet and covered with sacred muck—a combination of dirt, compost, grime, candle wax, and bird droppings.

The Outlaws performing on Market Square

Amidst all of the hard work, we also had some time to enjoy ourselves. St. John’s Cathedral is located in the heart of Knoxville’s vibrant downtown, and we were fortunate to stay at the lovely new Hyatt Hotel just a couple of blocks away. We especially enjoyed visiting lively Market Square, particularly the Farmers Market, which features locally grown produce, great food, and excellent entertainment. One of our favorite buskers was The Outlaws, a duo playing their own soulful brand of folk and bluegrass music.

Debi and Rose of Sharon blessing the sand.

After the power washing is finished, the next step is usually staining the lines if necessary, but St. John’s preferred the muted contrast of the pavers, so we began the sanding process. Sanding the labyrinth involves filling all of the seams with bricklayer's sand, a finer grade of sand with smaller particles for such detailed work. One of the extra special things we do during the restoration process is to bless the sand before filling in the spaces between the pavers, asking for peace and healing for all of the pilgrims who will walk the path and expressing love and gratitude for all. A gorgeous Rose of Sharon, pictured behind Debi, assisted with the process, reminding all to walk in beauty

The Sand Blessing

We apply the personal touch to every labyrinth restoration process, filling the tiniest spaces by hand before we apply the sealer. Every square inch of paver receives a personal blessing to help the labyrinth do its work in the world. 

Applying the sealer

We finish the restoration by applying 45 gallons of sealer on the labyrinth. At St. John’s we also sealed the courtyard so that everything matched and looked fresh. Fortunately, we had sunny weather to do the work.

Another job well done!

After two full weeks of power washing, sanding, and sealing, the restoration of the Mary Clark Wright Memorial Labyrinth is complete. The labyrinth looks nearly brand new, and it’s ready for many more years of service to the church and the community. We had a wonderful time in Knoxville, which has such a great vibe. Restoring this beautiful labyrinth has reminded us of how much we love the work we do in the world. Even when you end the day covered with sacred muck, it helps to start each morning with a grateful heart!

Traverse City: The gratitude well

A natural spring popped up near the labyrinth entrance. What a blessing! A natural spring popped up the day we arrived at the site for ...