McKellar Park Labyrinth #6

September 25 2010

I did ask myself in the dark, in the middle of the anonymous crowd…why do I do this anyway?

The answer came slowly, in both direct and indirect comments and hugs from friends and neighbors and from comments I overheard in the dark.

-it’s a wonderful gathering of community

-it’s beautiful

-the kids love it

-it’s a great way to involve the kids and teens in a community event

-it brings people together

Am I trying to convince myself to do it again? You bet!

Incidentally, September 24-26 this was the first “Culture Days” in Ottawa, and I am very pleased that it coincided with the McKellar Park Labyrinth. The labyrinth is considered to be a very ancient form of public art. This contemporary application is grounded in a long history that has many forms. When working with the labyrinth there are often synchronistic moments and this would be an example of just that.

My colleague and collaborator Barbara Roblin of Dragonfly Dance offered a lantern making workshop in the new McKellar Park field-house. She had a good turnout and we can see how the idea will continue to grow as it catches on.

This was the 6th year for the labyrinth in the park, made possible through the with the sponsorship of Dovercourt Recreation Association. The first year it was created with the help of my neighborhood “stay at home mother” friends. Six years on, most of them have gone back to work and I’d be hard pressed to find 5 or 6 volunteers to help out on a week day afternoon. For several years I’ve had the help of my nieces and nephews and their neighborhood friends. Now that some of them are in high school they have become aware that their volunteer hours count. It’s a very congenial time for all to visit and chat and eventually the labyrinth starts to take shape. The whole crew knows what to do after all these years and things flow easily. We were keeping a close eye on the weather and I got a few tips from my teenaged son on how to read the radar and satellite weather maps online.

The tingshaws rang seven times to correspond with the 7 circuits of the labyrinth and helped to clear the labyrinth once all the candles were lit. After a few words of welcome and thanks to all who helped to create the event, two young girls lead us into the labyrinth with their brand new glowing lanterns. Gingerly they started carrying their paper lanterns each with a single candle inside. There was a great crowd of young families gathered  who followed and soon the labyrinth was alive with over a hundred people.

The evening was rounded out by the generous donation of coffee and tea from our local Bridgehead Coffeehouse and freshly baked potluck cookies provided by neighbors and friends.

People are attracted to the centre of the labyrinth and tend to hang out there. I noticed one fellow stood chatting with others for over an hour. I often think of the centre as the still point. During this kind of community use of the labyrinth, with the numbers of people who walk at once, the experience of standing still in the centre is further reinforcement when you find yourself surrounded by the many people who are encircling you. It’s a pretty powerful experience. I was also enchanted and intrigued to see the kids choose the centre of the labyrinth as the place to have their snack when we finished making the labyrinth. Someone asked; do they get it? Oh yeah, maybe not intellectually but they do know what feels right.

Even the clean up at the end of the evening provided a moment of learning. It was raining and the paper bags and sand were very wet. My daughter and her teen friends came to help with the clean up. As I bent over in the rain next to my husband I wondered what could be worse than to be working in the dark and rainy evening with a group of laughing screaming teens who were joking around and throwing sand in their bare feet. Well… I could be cleaning up this mess alone…that would be worse!

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