In January 2016 the Labyrinth Guild was formed to offer the public access to and support the use of the Labyrinth at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa. However, when considering how to mark the Summer Solstice this year it seemed obvious that we had to find an outdoor location.

I always enjoy making a labyrinth outdoors and the prospect of a Summer Solstice event was a great moment to observe with a labyrinth walk, so why not at the Beach? In Canada we celebrate National Aboriginal Day on the Summer Solstice, so fitting a tribute our First Nations people.

We choose Westboro Beach on the Ottawa River for its wide open expanse of water and sky and its small natural sand beach. We chose this place because it’s not too big, yet it has lots of room for both a labyrinth and the beach crowd.

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Practicing!

They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and that would be what inspired our methodology in creating a labyrinth pattern in the sand. We drew the pattern in the sand but it was not distinct enough to discern the path so we used a watering can and water from the river to retrace and emphasize the pattern. The outer and inner rings of the labyrinth were lined with cedar branches and a large copper pot filled with water was placed at the centre. We surrounded the labyrinth with a ring of poles and paper streamers which caught the slightest breeze and brought an element of aliveness to the whole scene.

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How to draw with a watering can.

Today urban dwellers experience some degree of what has come to be known as “Nature Deficit”. A phrase coined by author Richard Lowe where he points out the degree to which we have fallen out of relationship with Nature, especially for our children. It is in the nature of being human to not care for those things we don’t know and love. Hence the environment is at risk and evermore so when we don’t have personal experience interacting and living in close relationship with Nature. Contemporary urban folks now spend most of their time indoors.

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And so it seems appropriate to connect the practice of a community walking meditation in the labyrinth with our relationship to the Earth and most especially at the Summer Solstice. Without walls to limit and protect, we can better sense our connection our place between the vastness of the heavens and the earth beneath our feet.

The sound track for the evening was simply the ambient sound of a city beach in summer. The Setting was the sound of the place; a small deposit of sand at the edge of a great river surrounded by the city. We added the heartbeat of the drum to bring in the human element and hold us all within the space.

 

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Drumming as the sun sets. Photo by Louise Hayden

 

The evening ended with a glorious sunset that spread across the sky in a most perfect way and brought the day to a close. Gratitude to all who volunteered to help out with the set up and clean up and thanks to all who attended.

Enjoy your summer,

Barbara

 

 

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Stillness at the centre. Photo by Louise Hayden

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We seized the moment to make the transition into the New Year in style and grace with a candlelit walk in the new labyrinth at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa. The reassuring words of John O’Donahue beckoned us into the labyrinth to discover what Peace lives within each heart. At a time when the social and cultural structures of our world are faltering and seeming to give way to chaos, it was very reassuring and also remarkable that a small group chose to gather in a darkened room lit by candles to follow the ancient path that so many have traveled before us.

Stillness in motion was one of the many images or notions that came to me as I threaded the path of the labyrinth. It’s not everyday, or even very often, that I have the opportunity to walk a labyrinth, but this night I really wanted to and I was rewarded with a deep sense of peace, stillness, quietude and finally contentment. Certainly not how I felt when I walked in the door at the beginning of the evening.

As we gathered in the centre of labyrinth to close the evening, I asked participants to offer a one-word summary of their experience of the evening. The words they offered were added to the Poster below.

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The ancient medicine of the labyrinth has proved itself once again! As I begin my 10th year working with the labyrinth, I am renewed and ready to do the work of offering this form of prayer or meditation to the community. Won’t you join us one of these days?

Gratitude to the seven hearty souls who have stepped forward to be a part of the new Labyrinth Guild- the group of volunteers who will open and host this labyrinth for the community of Ottawa.

May Peace truly know a home in your heart in this New Year ahead.

Cello In the Labyrinth

October 2, 2015

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Many thanks to Anne Wright for the invitation to facilitate and host the labyrinth portion of a cello concert and labyrinth walk she had envisioned with and for guest musician Jami Sieber.

Both Anne and Jami were new to the labyrinth and both were keen to shape an experiential evening based on Jami’s electric cello music and improvisational vocals, with a few spoken poems added in to set the tone.

A keen audience of nearly 100 people gathered to fill the tiny church of St. Luke’s in Ottawa. One does wonder why people come out to these occasions and perhaps this evening it was the combination of a known musician, a connected community of spoken word poets and the opportunity for a new experience in the labyrinth.

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Jami Sieber playing her custom made electric cello.

It was something of a challenge to create space for each person to enter the labyrinth and establish themselves before encountering another walker but somehow – we all managed.

I observed new latitudes in patience, as many people waited a considerable time to enter the labyrinth, all the while charmed by Jami’s lyrical musical offering. It was a rich evening of metaphor and warm community gathering. It all felt very supportive and enriching.

Perhaps this is the grease this old world needs for us all to be able to live on the planet together. It certainly can’t hurt!

 

 

Winter Solstice Celebration

December 21, 2014

A Place of Balance: integrating both the darkness and the light

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The making of a labyrinth in inherently a humbling experience….. that’s me on my knees. Like an ant crawling around and around, not always knowing where I am going but purposeful and always with a reverential nod to those ancestors who came this way before me.

Geometry on my knees.

Geometry on my knees.

At the invitation of Pranashanti Yoga Centre, Vanessa Compton and I created a temporary labyrinth as the focal point for a celebration of the Winter Solstice. Things do not always go as planned and this was our experience in setting up the labyrinth for the Solstice. We had intended to make a round seven-circuit labyrinth but we found that with two posts in the middle of the room it would have been a challenging undertaking. So we resorted to geometry and decided to try making an octagonal seven-circuit labyrinth. Another first for us.

We began by making a square around the central pillars and then a second square on top of that on the diagonal. Are you following? With a vague memory of how to make an equal sided octagon we consulted Google. Ah yes, it was becoming clear. In essence we created a room-sized drawing, adding multiple parallel lines to create the paths of the labyrinth, then we swung the angles and went back and wove a labyrinth into the octagon paths.

It is fun when things finally came together, but the beginning is the tricky part. Once a series of decisions have been made, things start to fall into place.

On the evening of the actual winter solstice a nice crowd gathered on cushions around the room. Lea Longo came from Montreal to offer her particular blend of sacred Kirtan chant and her own inspired compositions. It was remarkable to be in the presence of so many people with a peaceful and loving intent expressed through voice and breath, connecting the whole room. In my opening remarks I suggested a parallel between the lines of geometry which underlie the structure of the labyrinth and go beyond the edges of the room and the sound waves of the chant going beyond the boundaries of the room and out into our lives, our communities and beyond.

With this idea in mind I made a drawing to further explore the concept and make it all that more real or visible.

 

An illunstation of hhe complex geometry that underlies the labyrinth.

An illunstation of hhe complex geometry that underlies the labyrinth.

After a while the room was imbued with a profound feeling of good will and well-being. In that moment it was hard to imagine what could possibly to be wrong in the world.

 

Peace and Good will to all.

Birth of a Labyrinth

December 14, 2014

It is quite the undertaking to make a labyrinth, any way you go about it. In the new Hall of the Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa, flooring installer Hugh Voogt created a replicate of the historic Chartres Labyrinth in Forbo linoleum. It was a challenging project to cut by hand the exacting geometry underlying the medieval labyrinth. Without any previous background on the history and geometry of the medieval labyrinth, Hugh did a remarkable job, and in the process, discovered the secrets of the system of the ancient geometers.

The floor was covered in the accent colour. The sacred orange bucket covered al pin which became the centre of a giant compass used to draw the circles of hte labyrinth.

The floor was covered in the accent colour. The sacred orange bucket covered a pin which became the centre of a giant compass used to draw the circles of the labyrinth.

 

The lines of the labyrinth are cut and glued in place.

The lines of the labyrinth are cut and glued in place.

 

 A large compass made to span the 21' radius of the labyrinth.

A large compass made to span the 21′ radius of the labyrinth.

 

Drawing and cutting the lunations around the outside of the labyirnth.

Drawing and cutting the lunations around the outside of the labyirnth.

 

The background material is layed on top of the accent lines and cut to fit exactly.

The background material is layed on top of the accent lines and cut to fit exactly.

 

Humbling work all on done on bended knee!

Humbling work all on done on bended knee!

 

Hugh Voogt and Assistance

Hugh Voogt and Assistance

The end result is a very pleasing and faithful reproduction of the 11th century labyrinth found in the floor of the Cathedral Church of Notre Dame in Chartres, France.

 

The Labyrinth at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa.

The finished Labyrinth at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa.

 

The rose pattern at the centre of the Chartes Labyrinth

A detail of the rose pattern at the centre of the  Labyrinth

Look for announcements of upcoming events and programs that will animate this ancient spiritual tool.

Red Oak Labyrinth Closing

September 28, 2014

With the closing of the exhibition Beyond the Edge:Artist Gardens came the obligation to dismantle and restore the site of the Red Oak Labyrinth. Much more happened under the branches of this grand old oak tree then I ever could have imagined. Many visitors to the site wrote about their experiences in the notebooks left at the centre to capture inspirations and comments. It was important to me to honour all that had taken place in the labyrinth over the summer and while I could have quietly put the project to bed, I wanted the support of the community for whom the place had become meaningful. For me and for many this labyrinth  had gone beyond art project or perhaps it was art at its best, really touching people in profound ways.

We gathered for a last walk in the Red Oak Labyrinth. some folks like to walk in the labyrinth alone but this evening it was all about community. Yes, it is a temporary and changeable thing but this labyrinth drew us together, one and all.

We gathered for a last walk in the Red Oak Labyrinth. Some folks like to walk in the labyrinth alone but this evening it was all about community. Yes, community is temporary and changeable but this labyrinth drew us together, one and all.

Gratitude and Thanks Giving

 Gratitude and Thanks Giving

Gratitude and thanks giving to she who is Red Oak for spreading wide her branches, offering shelter, shade and centering to host our wanderings in the labyrinth.

Gratitude and thanks giving to all those ancient ones whose wisdom, knowledge and spirit informs our time beneath this grand old Red Oak in the meandering path of the labyrinth.

Gratitude and thanks giving to the Candensis Botanical Garden Society and Agriculture Canada for collectively taking a leap of faith in hosting and facilitating Beyond the Edge: Artist Gardens. This is the first installation and intervention on the land that has been designated to become the future home of a National Botanical Garden and I am so very pleased to have been a part of it.

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Collecting the 8 Notebooks filled with “Oak Inspired Thoughts’.

Gratitude to Canadensis for acquiring the Round Tree Bench and ensuring that this spot will continue to be a available as a place of contemplation for all who visit.

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Mary Faught Co-Curator

Gratitude and thanks giving to Mary Faught for her visionary willingness to imagine this exhibition into existence with Co-curator Judith Parker whose gift with words and deep experience helped secure the needed funding to make all this possible.

Judith Parker Co-Curator

Judith Parker Co-Curator

Gratitude and thanks giving to my fellow “Artists of the Field” with whom I shared a deep and meaningful connection, all be it on the fly with shovels in hand. I met my soul siblings in Glynis, Deborah, cj, Judith, Deirdre, Mary, and Karl. Thank you for your companionship in exploring and forging deeper connections between nature and culture.

Gratitude and thanks giving to the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, and the Community Foundation of Ottawa and Canadensis Botanical Garden Society for financial support in this fledgling endeavor.

Gratitude and thanks giving to the hundreds of people, who visited the exhibition, walked the labyrinth and left many, many notes, of thanks, “Oak Inspired Thoughts” and reflective insights in the 8 notebooks, which were filled over the course of the exhibition.

Gratitude and thanks giving to all those many hands and strong backs who responded to the call for help to build this labyrinth.

Dismantalling theLabyrinth

Dismantalling the Labyrinth

Stacking up the logs.

Stacking up the logs.

The logs of the labyirnth become cord-wood once again.

The logs of the labyrinth become cord-wood once again.

Gratitude and thanks giving to all who gathered to help celebrate, honor and restore this fine place to its natural state.

The Red Oak is retored to its natural state once more.

The Red Oak is retored to its natural state once more.

Oak aged libations for all.

Oak aged libations for all.

Reflections of a great tree. Photos of the closing thanks to Stephen Hutchings.

Reflections of a great tree in a glass of oak aged white port.

Photos of the Closing Ceremony and Dismantaling of the Red Oak Labyrinth by Stephen Hutchings, with thanks!

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council,

an Agency of the Government of Ontario

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Deep gratitude to all those many many folks who visited Beyond the Edge:Artists Gardens this summer in Ottawa. A special thanks to those who left ” Oak Inspired Thoughts” in the notebooks. They inspired me and confirmed for me in more ways than I could have imagined, the mysterious ways of the labyrinth.

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All decked out for summer in a cloak of greenery.

All decked out for summer in a cloak of greenery.

 

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View from the centre on a sunny morning.

View from the centre on a sunny morning.

 

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Circles within circles, all welcoming.

Circles within circles, all welcoming.


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Patterns left in the inner bark from the Emeral Ash Borer. Beautiful but devastating at the same time.

Patterns left in the inner bark from the Emeral Ash Borer. Beautiful but devastating at the same time.

 

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Misty morning in late summer.

Misty morning in late summer.

 

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Essentics in the Labyrinth. Thanks Amanda!

Essentics in the Labyrinth. Thanks Amanda!

 

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Red Oak

Red Oak

 

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Arial View of the Red Oak Labyinth. Thanks to Dinesh Amamdavel and his drone photography.

Aerial View of the Red Oak Labyinth. Thanks to Dinesh Amamdavel and his drone photography.

 

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We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council,

an Agency of the Government of Ontario

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG


I don’t know of an actual connection between the labyrinth and the solstice, but in my event planning with colleagues it often comes up as a question. During the construction of the Red Oak Labyrinth I realized the Summer Solstice would occur just before the opening of the project. The labyrinth beneath a grand old oak was ready and it seemed an opportunity not to be missed. So we connected the dots and it felt natural to create a ceremony offering blessings to the tree and to the very earth that supports and sustains us all, as we welcomed summer.

Among my colleagues is a group of very fine music therapists. They formed the core and provided musical leadership for a group of women singers. Together, 12 women all dressed in white circled round the labyrinth before splitting into groups at the cardinal points of the labyrinth. Using the medieval song “Summer Is Icumen In” (medieval English of the mid- 13th century) which translates to “Summer Has Come In” as a base for their musical offering, they improvised and toned around the melody.

Singers dressed in white  processing around the labyirnth.

Singers dressed in white processing around the labyirnth.

People came with small bouquets of flowers to offer and placed them along the central ring of the labyrinth. I would not want to say just what was going on for the folks who came but a few photos, given with permission sum up the profound feeling of the evening.

Flower offering.

An offering of flowers.

Green Lady

Green Lady

There was also a visit by the “Green Lady” who may not be much talked about in the pages of history books but who was very much alive in our presence that evening. She danced her way around the great circle of the labyrinth, playing out the story of the cycle of life; from seed, to sprout, to fruit, and then death and decay only to rise again the following season. I have a particular fondness for the story of the Green Man and look for representations of him on my travels and indeed it inspires my work as a Horticultural Therapist.

May wine was enjoyed as the sun set on a perfect evening.

May wine was enjoyed as the sun set on a perfect evening.

The evening of the first day of summer was perfect, as is hinted at in the photos. As the sun set we raised a glass of  “May Wine” an ancient German recipe that blends Riesling scented with Sweet Woodruff from my garden to welcome in the summer. What a perfectly sweet evening, one that I will long remember. Thank you to my musical friends and the Green Lady and all those who came to grace this place and recognize its specialness.

A meditation in the moment.

Meditation in the moment.

 

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council,

an Agency of the Government of Ontario

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

Notes on Creativity

June 3, 2014

Creativity is an innate human capacity. In our culture, it is seen as the purview of artists but really everyone has the capacity for creativity. Why then don’t we teach all children that they are creative by nature and teach them how to recognize and access creativity?

One thing I have learned over my years of art making is to consciously remain open to new possibilities while realizing some version of my original idea.

Creating an outdoor temporary project of this nature has several phases.

Imagining and envisioning– that is the fun “pie in the sky” part where anything in possible.

Planning– getting serious and figuring out how to realize your big idea.

Resourcing– sourcing materials and technical assistance, and then with this new information going back and re-jigging the plan.

Realizing– time to roll up your sleeves for the “real work”.

Problem solving– When you ask yourself why you got into this in the first place as you go back to the drawing board when things don’t work out exactly as planned. Hopefully these are minor changes but not always.

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This is the most humbling phase but also the most invigorating as well as scary. At this point one is well beyond the realm of all that had been imagined in the beginning and you are in search of very specific solutions to issues and problems that have arisen.

This was where I found myself while building the Red Oak Labyrinth. The cord wood I had planned to use was going to be too expensive because I needed so much of it. I had estimated 3 or 4 cords @$120 per cord. Nope, too much. I appealed to the team of artists and others who were working with us for a suggestion of what might work. The answer came from a visitor who dropped by to view the progress of the project. He suggested using the Ash wood that had come down as a result of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. We contacted the Farm to see what was available and were pointed to an enormous pile of huge hunks of dead Ash. With the solution in hand it became clear what the next steps were. I hired a wood technician to cut the logs into 16″ lengths and rented a gas powered log splitter.

The date was set, volunteers were invited and we began. I had laid out the guidelines with coloured string and then devised a giant compass around the trunk of the tree. A rope extended from the tree to the outer edge of the labyrinth with the path intervals marked out. The plan was to make one tour around the tree and lay out the wood as we went.

Volunteers move wheelbarrows of ash logs into place to form the labyrinth

Building a labyrinth always involves a slow start with little to show for the effort invested. The many volunteers who came to help out had very little to go by to know what it was they were creating. But by the end of the first day we had gotten about halfway around the tree and things were beginning to take shape.

Wheelbarrow full of Ash logs

Wheelbarrow full of split ash wood

Day two went a little better as by then we had an idea of how to do it. We made a last push to cut the remaining wood we required and fresh volunteers showed up. We finished mid-afternoon and I was impressed with the results. It looked better than I had imagined.

Last load of logs

Last load of logs!

Christine Mackie at CBC Ottawa Morning dropped by to find out what the project was all about. Click the link to hear the interview.

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council,

an Agency of the Government of Ontario

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

 

Circular Tree Bench Plan

Circular Tree Bench Plan

Planning, organizing, shopping, and site preparation have me noticing the invisible quality of preparations. Preparing is essential and poor preparations can be ones undoing.

Considerable time has been spent on preparing for the Beyond the Edge Artists Gardens Project and very little of it can be seen. Mary Faught and Judith Parker are co-curating this project and have spent many long months in preparations. Many meetings with the powers that be, negotiating land use, grant writing, coordinating with artists and extensive planning have gone on this winter in preparation to invite 5 artists to engage with the future site of the Botanical Garden in Ottawa.

Now with preparations in hand we begin with shovel in hand…..well not so fast. More meetings and coordination behind the scenes. The artists are arriving on site and preparations begin in earnest. What seemed a good idea last fall may not hold up in the light of spring. Some rethinking, and more planning and rejigging are required as we approach the site and the realities of what our plans look like when laid out on the ground.

It’s an interesting process to review plans that were made in a “pie in the sky moment” six months ago. One of my calculations was missing “pie” in the formula and as a result the cost went up by 1/3rd, Yikes!

This weekend my partner Daniel stepped in as master carpenter. I am the assistance holding the other end of the board. We are making a round bench to encircle the trunk of the “Mighty Red Oak”. Hoping those who thread the path of the Labyrinth will appreciate a place to sit and rest a while.

 

Carpenter Man in the Middle

Carpenter Man in the Middle

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council,

an Agency of the Government of Ontario

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG