Charles City and Mason City, Iowa. The first two labyrinths are well sited and planned out. They are professionally constructed of the paving bricks and have a sense of completeness.
Although some people in Charles City who I asked about the location of the labyrinth were unfamiliar with it, they all were friendly and referred me on. The owner of the coffee shop on main street was terrific. Great instructions and friendly manner as he prepared the latte for me. My usual moral dilemma because the latte had a gorgeous design on top! A short drive downstream to the flooding river and another friendly family who showed me the way.
How sweet! The labyrinth is made of permeable paving as a subtle way to instruct people about the convenience, importance and ease of construction.
Included in the overall design of the park, the labyrinth is well-sited and suited to contemplation and demonstration. Sits just above the flooded river in a park. While the area is set aside for the purpose, it also feels included with a winding path, a little stream and is visible from the cul du sac and ball fields. Yet, it is in its own space.
Mason City’s labyrinth at the church is wonderfully sited. Set in the corner of the church property, a tastefully erected “bandshell” of the altar shields the area from an intersection. Tall trees provide a light canopy overhead. Again, visible from the road and building, so there is a comfort level, yet the labyrinth has a sense of privacy.
The day was a lovely one for walks.
The other two labyrinths – Clear Lake and Lakeshore Center at Okoboji (formerly the Presbyterian Church Camp) – were less satisfying. Clear Lake’s was set down away from the building, but visible. Although well sited, the construction was of grasses that had grown tall and the thought of walking through grasses that would rub against the legs was undesirable. I hope grounds’ crew will be able to tend to the grasses and trim them back so pilgrims can enjoy walking the labyrinth.
While I admire the intent of the people who developed the labyrinths I also believe, based on experience and training that careful long term thought is critical. The idea of having a labyrinth is a “cool” one. One that takes commitment to upkeep and understanding of the entire concept to make a labyrinth a true part of an organization.
The labyrinth at Okoboji is set back in the woods – hidden,
surrounded by dense vegetation, and cramped. And buggy in summer! The builders created an 11-circuit. Again, while admirable, it appears that little consideration was given to the actual setting, need, and intent. The paths are too narrow and have to go around a tree. If a different design had been chosen to incorporate the trees and wind through and around them that could have been an interesting and perhaps inspirational design. Much like the labyrinth in Los Alamos.
I don’t feel all that good about critiquing the labyrinths because I know people worked hard to establish them. I also know that sometimes we restrict ourselves in options because of a certain perception of what a labyrinth is or “should be.” Sometimes limited information limits our creativity.
So what is my role as a certified labyrinth facilitator? Teddy Shuttleworth suggested one in the Okoboji area. I explained about the Lakeshore Labyrinth. Perhaps another one on the west side can be considered. People do like to take in multiple labyrinths while in an area.