5th Annual McKellar Park Candlelight Labyrinth

5th Annual
McKellar Park Candlelight Labyrinth

Sponsored by the Dovercourt Recreation Association

Coffee and Tea generously donated by Bridgehead Coffeehouse
September 26, 2009

This year we had a perfect day for the 5th Annual McKellar Park Candlelight Labyrinth. My now 16 year old son Danny helped to ferry all of the gear across the park, to begin to transform the baseball diamond. Danny knows the routine and was quick to establish the centre, so that I could draw the circles. I love drawing circles and it’s especially nice to define large concentric circles. It’s a way of establishing a place and creating the container for what will become the labyrinth. Then we go back into the circles and create the pattern of the labyrinth by opening spaces in the circles to connect the seven rings to form a single path.

Set up Crew
Set up Crew

Usually I have organized with a group to help build the labyrinth, but this year the group I was going to work with was not quite up and running in time to participate. As I had done the first year of the labyrinth at McKellar, I worked with the neighborhood kids in the park. It helped that five of them were my nieces and nephews and two of them my won children. Other kids came to help and small groups of kids drifted in and out as they got bored with the volume of repetitive work. We had 800 bags to fill with sand and 800 candles to set out. A few stalwart neighborhood friends came by and induced order into the work. Children don’t self organize the way adults can. The children worked as individuals, whereas the adults choose a task and specialized and the work went faster.

kids setting up -2
No sooner was the labyrinth finished than the kids where running in the paths. I didn’t feel my usual level of frustration and irritation, as I asked them many times to please walk. Children are energized by the labyrinth and love to run the paths and jump over the walls with gay abandon, turning the unicursal labyrinth into a kind of maze.

We were finished in record time, about 2 hours and then it was finally my turn to walk the path. It is very distracting to be the keeper of the labyrinth. I found myself rounding out the turns and adjusting things as I walked. Hummm….this is no different from my usual distracted life of mother, wife, worker, chauffeur and calendar keeper for the family. So the question becomes how to maintain a sense of balance and priority in mid-stream? I am always delighted to find that the now familiar circular lines of paper bags do form a beautiful series of radiating lines that hold and support moments of peaceful calm.

Barbara Roblin arrived with some of her dancers and their newly created lanterns from the afternoon lantern making workshop which Barb hosted. By 7:00 there were half a dozen adults present, barely enough to light the 800 candles. I did wonder how it was all going to happen but, many more people arrived on the dot of 7:00 as the candle lighting began.

candle lighting

As the candles were lit, a crowd gathered around the labyrinth and watched quietly. I stood back as others took over and the labyrinth was magically transformed from brown paper bags into a grand glowing circle of orange light.

For the first time I was able to clear the labyrinth using my ting shaws (small hand cymbals) and made a short speech of welcome, thanks and introduction. The young dancers with their lanterns were invited to lead the community into the labyrinth. I enjoy the metaphor of being lead by young children. What would the world look like if the children were leading.

I stood at the entrance and held off the crowd, then slowly invited participants to enter the labyrinth, one at a time or in small family groups. The pop up tent at the entrance served as a place to address people in smaller groups while they waited.

Many more people came, mostly young families from the neighborhood and it was a great unplugged gathering of community. I was so busy with everything that I forgot to hand out the 300 brochures we had printed to announce the next series of labyrinth events to be held at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa. Vanessa Compton and I have formed a partnership to present labyrinth workshops and events promoting well being and personal transformation using the labyrinth as tool and site.

Photo by Danny Sharp
Photo by Danny Sharp

Towards the end of the evening as the crowd thinned it was finally my turn to walk the labyrinth. When I got to the centre, I encountered a man deep in thought. He was trying to figure out how to get a labyrinth established at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. We talked for quiet a while and I offered my assistance with his project. Serendipity introduced us and we shall see where that connection leads. I do hope he follows up as I would love to see a labyrinth at the ROH and have an opportunity of offer my assistance for the benefit of the patients as well as the staff and family members.

My mother came by on her way home from a dinner party and the 80 year old mother of a friend of mine came all the way from Toronto. I was honored by the presents of both of them and only hope that I will be game for such things when I am 80.

As the last person finished her walk in the labyrinth, the few remaining people gathered at the centre and as I did not have a plan, it was an invitation to go with the flow. I removed the circular necklaces of glow sticks I was wearing and placed them in the bowl of water over the candles at the centre of the labyrinth. They formed a soft glow that reflected in the water and on the sides bowl. We joined hands and I gave thanks to all those who hung around to help clean up and for a magical evening we had shared right in our very own neighborhood park. It’s all closer than we think!

Photo by Danny Sharp
Photo by Danny Sharp

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