Our Labyrinths

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Building the Labyrinth

The Labyrinth at Shepherd’s Corner has its own history beginning as an idea shared by a visitor in the summer of 1996. The visitor, a friend of Sister Jane Belanger, OP, was a librarian who also sent books about labyrinths after she planted the idea. The idea grew and the research and discovery led Dominican Sisters Jane, Loretta Forquer and Camilla Smith, seriously to consider the possibility. They began to prepare the land.

They shared the idea and the drawings with Sister Pat McCabe, OP, who as a former Math and Science teacher, tackled the geometry of building a labyrinth in the meadow. Sr. Jane bush-hogged the land and then volunteers helped her rototill. Sister Jane wanted the paths to be three feet wide to accommodate the mower and that determined the scale of the labyrinth. It was decided to place log benches in the turnarounds to create spaces for rest and meditation.

Sister Pat recreated the design on paper with different colored yarns and glued on buttons to represent the placement of benches. She bought clothesline and colored markers to duplicate her design in the meadow. As the time came to do the work, she divided twelve volunteers into teams, assigning them to each of the four quadrants, and the foundation of the Shepherd’s Corner Labyrinth, measuring a half mile in and a half mile out, was built one Saturday in the Summer of 1997.


Picture of the original labyrinth as it was just becoming established.

On the following day and for many days after, volunteers came to rake mulch and compost into mounds beside the path. Sister Pat had recently moved from a place where she had a large garden. With the aid of the volunteers from the Columbus Academy, her garden was dug up and transplanted to the earth mounds in the labyrinth. For the next several weeks, volunteers arrived with plantings from their yards and the path was lined with wildflowers and perennials.

The end result was a labyrinth 120 feet in diameter, with a walk of 1/2 mile to reach the center (and to get back out) along 3ft wide paths among the wildflower and grasses. The Labyrinth at Shepherd’s Corner was designed to be a place of transformation, a journey that offers sacred space and an opportunity to rediscover that we are spiritual beings on a human path.


Our larger labyrinth now


Given the nature of an outdoor turf labyrinth ours changes with the seasons. As new plants grow, as flowers bloom the labyrinth begins to be brighter as winter fades to spring, and spring changes to summer. In summer there can be wild blackberries found as well as the footprints of wildlife who call Shepherd’s Corner home. As summer slides to fall the flowers found change and plants begin transitioning to prepare for winter. All the seasons of our labyrinth are inspiring and beautiful. Even in winter when snow and ice grace the path.

Benches at intervals inside the labyrinth provide places for rest and meditation. The path going out leads to a nearby resting place known as the oasis. There under an Osage orange tree one can find shade and a picnic table in an area we call the Oasis.

Interested in trying out walking a labyrinth? See our calendar for monthly scheduled walks.


The Experience

One who walks a labyrinth is on a journey. At the entrance, one engages in a quest that goes through convoluted paths to the center hoping for enlightenment and insight. Some see walking the labyrinth as a metaphor for our walk-through life, with its twists and turns. Sometimes it seems like we’re just walking in circles. Sometimes, it looks like we are almost to a goal, to the center, and then the path takes us way to the outside. Or we’re at the path farthest out and then very quickly in the center. There are sharp turns, some even seem like U-turns. The path does lead to the center. The way we walk may remind us of the way we are walking through life: in a hurry, serious, playful, focused, unfocused. Illumination may be found in the center of the labyrinth. We sit or stand in a place of meditation, listening.


How to walk

People sometimes speak of the labyrinth as a three-step process. The way in is the path of letting go. We release and let go of the details and tensions of our lives, letting go of stress or busyness, or negative emotions, or concerns – whatever it is we carry that preoccupies us and keeps us from being able to hear the voice within. Many walk labyrinths in silence.

Some walk by posing a question they may have been asking themselves or calling to mind an intention that is important in their lives as they cross the entrance. Then, they let go of the question or intention, they don’t work on it, and just see what arises. Some people repeat a word, a mantra, or a phrase as they enter the labyrinth and repeat this as long as they would like.

The most important aspect of walking the labyrinth is just to be open, to let go, and let whatever desires to become known or noticed rise in us.


The History
Our ancient ancestors made labyrinths in earth, stone and architecture, or with objects. Excavations have resulted in uncovering these designs in such varied places as Crete, Eastern Europe, Central America, the British Isles and the American Southwest. In medieval Europe, some ancient cathedrals included labyrinth patterns worked out in stone on the floors. Illuminated with overhead stained glass they were used to represent a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is some evidence that liturgical functions took place in the center. The Meaning of the Labyrinth: The tendency of all people to imitate nature’s designs is universal. Whether one examines a seashell, the human ear, animal systems (circulatory, respiratory, and excretory) as well as a simple thumbprint, the pattern is universal. What is more natural than for the human builder or artist to imitate the work of the Creator? The design is never a simple circle, but a geometric figure created with transverse and curved lines interwoven in an intricate pattern. The labyrinth, however, is not a maze since it leads one into the center and out again in a single smooth path without traps.

Shepherd's Corner