Thursday, September 20, 2012

First Steps

5 circuit tape labyrinth with 'escape hatch'  ..and the blur of children
Children in the Labyrinth

     The bulk of my Labyrinth work is done chalking variations of historical labyrinths. The Pennsic War, a Medieval re-creationist event, is where I create the most.

"It is wonderful that you make these for the children. They love them so much."

Hundreds have said this to me. "They are not just for children," I used to cry out. "Adults can use them too." 
Now, I just smile and thank them. 
     The pitter patter of little feet fill my Labyrinths to overflowing. Children will walk and re-walk the same labyrinth more than ten times at one go. Nine small bodies cram themselves into a Five Circuit that spans a few feet across. They race to the center, joyfully screaming that they solved the puzzle. With only circles lightly sketched upon the pavement, children ask if the Maze is done yet. With a few circuits and turns visible, I am trampled by enthusiastic feet seeking whatever path they can find. Games are invented and rules change faster than the children run. The Labyrinth is not just walked, it is toddled, strollered, run, scurried, raced and even crawled. Rarely is it walked.
     Working in Children's Mental Health for over a decade, I have observed many children. Biochemically, Children react differently to certain medications than adults. Drugs that will calm and focus a child are stimulants to an adult. The opposite is true as well. Labyrinths follow the same pattern. What may be a soothing experiance for one, might be an energizing, yet focusing time for the other. It may wind them up, but they come out sharp and aware. 

     "NO, Slow down. Now try it calmly. NO. walk slower. It is supposed to be a CALM thing. Like meditating..NO, SLOW DOWN!" 

     Those who learn of the Labyrinth first as a Meditative or Prayer tool seem to be very uncomfortable if it is used in any other way. I have seen people trying to force a young person to walk it slowly, disrupting her joy. Coercing her to be calm. They seem almost offended. As if the Labyrinth is being profaned. 
     We learn that how we react to others in the Labyrinth reveals to us something about ourselves. This may apply outside the Labyrinth as well. Are they disrespecting the Labyrinth? Or are they taking joy in life? Look within, what does your reaction tell you about yourself? Remember, some of the great Cathedral Labyrinths were torn up because someone thought the joyful racing of children was disruptive and counter to the Divine nature of the place. You don't want to side with those people.. do you?
     Almost 2000 years ago Pliny the Elder described the Labyrinths of Crete and Egypt, but warned that they were not the same as
   "What we see in pavement(mosaic) or open fields for the play of children." 
"ut in pavimentis puerorumve ludicris campestribus videmus"
Play is how children learn and develop. The Labyrinth can be an amazing tool to encourage them. Stimulating right and left brain, Gross motor skills ( and fine motor with finger labyrinths),  Limits, crossing the center line, peer interaction and more. A family who regularly enjoy my Chalk Labyrinths describe their use of my labyrinths as a motivator. The lure of the Labyrinth helps convince the child to leave camp. It has been used as a reward for potty training and compliance. Upon seeing me at work on one of the first labyrinths of the Event, the father cried out, "Thank God you are here, she woke up this morning and said 'LET'S WALK THE MAZES TODAY!'" Luckily, by then, there were Labyrinths to walk. I am honored that their daughter is growing up walking my art. 
     As you walk the path, you do not force the labyrinth to bend and turn at YOUR will. Do not force the path of others. Guide, advise, encourage, but do not force. 

From the feet of children we may see our own path anew.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Standing at the Entrance

What is this before you?

Labyrinth or Maze?
Since the beginning of the Labyrinth Revival people have commented on our cool mazes and received a mini lecture on the difference between Labyrinths and Mazes. I have heard this lecture delivered with kindness, as well as with seeming venom.
    While creating a chalking, my work was defended by a young woman. Verbally clubbing some young men with her superior knowledge, she belittled them for their ignorance with her tone. I gently educated her. "Modernly Labyrinth is the term for a unicursal design like this one, but it has had many names over the millennia. Those cut into the ground in England are still called Turf Mazes. And no... they are not used just for prayer and meditation. They have been Dancing grounds, Game fields, Races, Traps and story telling tools. Some Cathedral labyrinths were used for a celebratory ball game, with singing and dancing. We cannot remove the other definitions of labyrinth, they are just as valid as ours." 
     In the past, I noticed my own mini lecture becoming condescending and full of knowitallishness.  Labyrinth lovers are often seekers of peace and inner knowledge. I hope we all remember that, before we share. Our words shall be humble, friendly and teaching. Listen to yourself lecture.
     My art collects many names each summer as people discover them. People ask if I am building an alien landing pad or making crop circles. They are called Mazes by many, as well as drunk traps. Though many state it innocently, the subtle smile given when I am told my work is "amazing" is on many lips. Whether children dance on my prayer spirals or adults meditate in my funny hopscotch circle, the pattern is still itself.  The path is still open. The journey waiting. 

Come Dance with Me.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Salutations, and welcome to my Labyrinth Blog: 
Re-Treading the Labyrinth. 
Though short, this is the first post. You can stop scrolling backward looking for more. Instead, let us move forward, and I shall lay a path for you to walk, stone by stone. I look forward to sharing my experiences in creating and using labyrinths over the years. We shall discuss both historical and modern Labyrinths. I hope to widen everyone's idea of the Labyrinth, for I have found even the open minded are resistant at times. Together, let us investigate the 'Fingerprint of the Divine."

In service,

(The labyrinth above is a 3 circuit done in pebbles, creek water and moonlight.)