Birth of a Labyrinth

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.

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Red Oak Labyrinth Closing

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

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

Field Notes from the Red Oak Labyrinth

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


Summer Solstice Labyrinth

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

The Invisible Work of Preparation

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

Nuit Blanche Enchanted Labyrinth

the next day

As we set up in the rain, in between the puddles, September 21st came to be known by our team of rubber-clad collaborators as  “Pluie Blanche”. The forecast was for rain and rain it did. It is a worrisome affair to invest time and effort in an outdoor event and then to go ahead on a rainy evening to create a huge labyrinth and set out a considerable stack of electronics all the while wondering if anyone would come out.

We had been done in last year by the weather and cancelled our 2012 Nuit Blanche project and resolved to figure out how to create a labyrinth event with surround sound in the rain. It’s interesting to observe how the mind works. Desperation, they say is the mother of invention and that was the experience we had while figuring out how to make a weather proof a candlelight labyrinth.
My local garden centre sells farm supplies and one of the products they carry is chicken grit, a fine white granite gravel. I used it to create the lines of the labyrinth. I found myself creating a huge geometric drawing. As I got comfortable with my new tools I started to play with the elements that I had brought. Who knew that making a gigantic drawing in the rain could be so much fun? The clock was running and the musicians arrived to start their set up. We all beavered away at our tasks with almost no consultation. We had made a plan and each person seemed to know the role they were to play. It is fabulous when things work out as planned or even better.
The first visitor arrived sometime after 7:00 pm and asked if she could walk the labyrinth. I suggested I go first with the candles that would light up the centre. It was the eve of the equinox and I had planned to use a gorgeous orange potted  chrysanthemum my mother had given me for the centre. I wanted something alive and growing for the centre and the mum came to represent the sun. Radiating out from the potted plant I drew three foot long lines, 12 in all, reminiscent of the months of the year. On my last journey to the centre of the labyrinth I gently turned the ends of the lines in a sunward direction. That felt complete at last as the rain continued to fall.
Central star
Bruce Nicol, the creator of the sound setting, was struck by a Joni Mitchell song and it became the organizing theme for his composition. Bruce created a surround soundscape with three distinct physical regions on the perimeter of the labyrinth. As you traveled the path of the labyrinth you would come into the range of a set of speakers and then walked though the sound. In this way the sound came and went in waves, subtle yet discernible.  Antonia Pigot provided a harmonic vocal line or perhaps it was a series of circles or spiral on top and interwoven with  Bruce’s soundscape. I was most impressed by Antonia’s ability to find and create a melodic stream that floated on top of what Bruce had created. This was truly improvisation in the moment.
Offering the labyrinth in a public setting attracts the full gambit of responses. Some people come for a romp in the park as a few children and youth did. Several couples walked and chatted in a social kind of way, perhaps discussing and deciphering the sonic cues. Others walked with great intent remembering lost family members or other deep traumas. It all takes place in deep privacy, yet in the middle of a city park….and for the most part wordlessly. It is an honour as well as a learning opportunity to create and hold the space for the full gamut of human possibility.
Gratitude to Bruce Nicol and Antonia Pigot for being such willing explores and creators, collaborating to enhance the labyrinth experience. Many thanks go to the good folks at the City of Ottawa who helped facilitate our evening in the park. Thanks to all those who contributed to help make the event possible. Thanks also to Tim Stewart, Alex Nicol, Ross Davison, Nick Cochrane, Mathew Larkin and the men’s Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, The Barnfest Singers,  Maeve Weddle and her Women’s Choir, Dan and Danny Sharp and last but not least Joni Mitchell for inspiration.
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8th Annual Candlelight Labyrinth

Setting up the candlelight labyrinth is not novel to me, but there is always some new and this year was no exception. This was the eighth annual McKellar Park Labyrinth. As I looked at the kids who were helping me I noted that some were the younger siblings of my usual helpers. The first few years I hosted the labyrinth I found I was explaining it to many visitors but now, eight years on, there is a certain knowledge and comfort level in the community. One older woman came out to help because she had received an email from a friend and just wanted to see what it was all about.

The Neighbourhood Gang of helpers.

This year I had intended to participate in Ottawa’s first Nuit Blanche on September 22nd but the weather forecast for that day was for certain rain and thunderstorms. So we cancelled and we were so incredibly disappointed, especially when the evening turned out to be perfect after all! Since we were all geared up to put on a labyrinth we decided to go ahead with our usual location in McKellar Park the following week.

One never knows who will show up to help set things up but they always do. The core of my team are my kids, my nieces and nephews and their friends. We had a sunny warm afternoon to work and it was fun to catch up and connect while we filled 700 paper bags with sand and tea lights. As we waited for the sun to go down, we enjoyed an impromptu picnic in the park. I sat, taking in the scene, and wondered why we don’t picnic in our own park more often.

My daughter lends a hand with the paper bags.

For the Nuit Blanche project I had collaborated with composer and musician, Bruce Nicol. We have worked together on labyrinth projects for several years and Bruce had acted as curator for our Labyrinth as Sanctuary Series at the Cathedral. He had an idea to create a soundscape based on our previous recording of music at our labyrinth events and he acquired some new software to allow him to collage and interweave sounds. He was able to create a spontaneous mix from his collection of pre-recorded soundtracks. One of our guiding principals for labyrinth music is that it be responsive and sensitive to the mood of the participants. Bruce was on site and mixed a customized surround-sound.

Bruce Nicol at the controls

My friend and vocalist Antonia Pigot dropped by with to add another layer to the sound collage. At some points she found herself singing along with a recording of herself. I suppose singers do that all the time but she was a bit surprised.

Vocalist Antonia Pigot

I doubt if any of us would have spent the evening outside, had we not been at the labyrinth. It was a mild night with a few clouds making for a dramatic backdrop.The labyrinth was set up on a baseball diamond and as the full moon rose later in the evening it lined up and bisected our set up. Bruce and his electronic sounds were at home base, the center of the labyrinth was on the pitcher’s mound, and the entrance to the labyrinth with glowing electric blue lights and the full moon were all in a line.

All lined up.

In spite of no publicity or advertising the word got out and people came. It was a pleasure to greet old friends and to have shadowy conversations in the dark.

Full Moon at the Labyrinth