The Making of Our Labyrinth

April, 2009


The back yard was not shaping up as we wanted.  The flowers were sparse, there were many weeds, and there was too much brush.  Alan suggested we could do anything we wanted with the space, even make a labyrinth.


That was all it took -- the idea and a lot of planning.  And some decisions.  Should the path be stepping stones or bricks or have stone or brick path dividers?  What should the path be made from? How do we keep the weeds from growing up between the stones and/or bricks?  Our friend Karen suggested using black plastic underneath to stop the weeds.  Then the path itself could be mulch, and one wouldn't need to worry about staying on the stepping stones.  We decided on bricks as the path dividers.


For those who don't know, a labyrinth is similar to a maze, but a maze has dead ends and multiple paths.  A labyrinth has only one path to the center, but at each turn, one gets a different view.  Labyrinths are traditionally used for meditating, a place where you can walk, but not get lost, as there is just one path.  The cathedral at Chartres in France has a famous labyrinth, but of a style quite different from our classical labyrinth.


Alan researched labyrinth plans and laid out designs in Excel.  Skip worked on choosing building materials.  After several iterations, we have what you see below.  The path is two feet wide (brick center to brick center) and about 130 feet long.  The overall dimensions are 23 feet wide by 19 feet deep.  The center area is about 7 feet across.  Exactly 360 bricks were used.  As the finishing touch, Skip added decorations to enhance the views while walking.



Here you can see the brick layout on the black plastic.  The excess plastic has already been trimmed.  Some mulch has been laid down over a joint in the plastic so the wind won't pull at it.  Several tree trunk segments from our having removed weedy trees a couple of years ago have been set down to define the approach.  For scale, the two gray cement "bricks" at the extreme right of the picture are each a foot long (with the tops divided into thirds).  Again, the labyrinth itself is 23 feet wide by 19 feet deep.


The path has been filled in with mulch.  Unfortunately, we have two different colors of mulch.  Eventually, we will get it more mixed and uniform.  Notice the yellow forsythia blooming at the top of the picture.  The evergreen on the right is a cedar.  The branches to the left are a maple tree.


Ten days later, the labyrinth is mostly decorated.  Oops, a lantern is down in front.  The pedestal is about 2 feet high and has a conch shell on top.  That's a fountain in the upper left, powered by electrical cable buried in the dirt.  There are also spot lights for night enjoyment.  The pathway to the labyrinth is still evolving.  The redbud in the middle of the picture is starting to flower, the maple tree has light green flowers on it, and the grass has greened up.  At this writing, about 3 weeks later, the labyrinth is almost not visible from the upper window where these pictures were taken because the maple and the redbud both have most of their leaves.


And three weeks later, the labyrinth is complete, but the tree leaves obscure it from the second floor window we used for the above pix.

The following are ground-level details.


The view from the entrance.


The view from the right, looking south.  Our house is to the left.


The view from the back porch of our house.  The downed lantern is upright as it should be.


The central pedistal.


A pentagram with bells.


The fountain viewed from the south looking north across the top of the labyrinth.


Viewing in the same direction as the previous picture, but closer to the hanging decorations.


The bell in the left foreground is the one we bought at Arcosanti last October.  Click here for our pictures of that afternoon.


Another view of the hanging decorations.


More hanging decorations.


In the foreground are planters with some flowers we're growing from seed and a couple of cinder blocks with a little cement temple we won as a door prize at a benefit last fall.  Behind that is the path to the Arcosanti bell, whose diamond-shaped wind-catcher is visible in the upper left.  The meandering stone separator between the "garden" under the maple and the "lawn" has since been replaced by a 5" high red brick divider.


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