Cello In the Labyrinth



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.

Jami Seiber
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!




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.

Oak Labyrinth-72
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.

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

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

Notes on Creativity

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.

Contingency Plan D, E and F
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