Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth

This extended mild autumn weather saw us considering a fall burn of the prairie and the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  November 29th was perfect and Rich along with Ben Stamats tackled the task while I taught.

My before picture shows tall, tawny grasses and open milkweed pods standing among stiff stalks of coneflower and Maximillian Sunflower.  And the little bur oak in the center.

After, the scorched ground with the smell of ash wafting on the breeze contrasted to the path to the center and back out.

I walked it contemplatively, remembering the work with friends this spring, watching it grow all summer and tending the plants.  Then, the exasperation at the overwhelming aggressive grasses.  “You guys are too exuberant!” I’d moan as I swash-buckled my way along a path.  So, next growing season will see more changes as I prepare the ground and we plant beaucoups forbs.

The Transitions course I am doing on-line through Veriditas asks participants to think of transitions in our lives, what the status was before then after and who was involved and who was “left out.” Some transitions are happy, others sad, some downright devastating.  All learning experiences.

So, the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth is an excellent place, especially in its current state, to contemplate these and prepare for the next lesson in transitions.

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Sublime Summer Walk

Occasionally a labyrinth speaks so softly to me, it takes my breath away.

Paddle and tree color

Approaching autumn

On July 31st we paddled the Odessa Water Trail south of Muscatine, IA.  What a beautiful day.  High pressure held breezes down to cooling zephyrs. The sun was warm but not overly so. Summer clouds formed and drifted across the blue sky. We ate a light lunch in the shade of a silver maple beginning to turn to autumn’s palette.



Great Egret

Watchful eye.

Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret squawked as we kept approaching down stream.  Why they didn’t just fly past us or way out of the way, well they just don’t.

So the morning was pleasant. But, by early afternoon I was tired, warm, and hungry.  I misdirected Rich so we turned around and found the labyrinth tucked into the Muscatine Arboretum off Harmony Court.

What a name! And, it really was harmonious.

View Far

From afar – peacefulness

As I stepped out of the car and onto the arboretum, a sense of calm gently enfolded me. Rich pointed out the labyrinth a short distance away. Even from afar, it had an inviting quality. So, I began to walk. Only rarely have I felt the serenity that washed over me as I stepped onto the path and slowly made my way along the circuits.  Open, yet private.  Spacious yet contained.  Each brick seemed to share a story without being overbearing.  I wound past wrought iron benches each with a different motif – cats, puppies, and a lovely spreading oak under a spreading oak tree.  Joggers padded by.  A couple holding hands nodded and moved along. Rich studied the trees and walked the perimeter path. This was just the balm that sealed a lovely morning of paddling along the Odessa Water Trail.

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Worth Doing Well



For several weeks I have struggled with a matter concerning a labyrinth. Finally, I stepped away from the situation.  Yet, my distress continues.  So, in an attempt to be philosophical and move away from raw emotions here is where I am.

  1. Breathing helps:  Heart Math with heart focused breathing…picturing a place of safety, happiness, calm…feeling gratitude (not just thinking about it, but choosing to feel it)…and asking, “What is a more appropriate way to be with this situation?”
  2. Tonglen:   “Pema Chödrön teaches us “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each out-breath, we send them relief.”  We do this with and for ourselves, too. Compassion. Agape. Grace.
  3. Communication is important. Perfunctory reply emails that lack content are useless and demean the sender.  No replies, especially to an observation, a question, a concern are passive-aggressive and unprofessional. They complicate matters. And, my professional sharing information, perspectives, possible solutions apparently were not welcome.
  4. I had a vested interest in the project that spanned several dimensions. One is that as a Veriditas trained and certified labyrinth facilitator and since I was invited to do a workshop, I expected foundational work to be done appropriately and correctly .  If that foundational work is done poorly, then that compromises everyone’s integrity. 
  5. Perhaps best written to summarize is the poem by Marge Piercy:  ” The work of the world is as common as mud.  Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”

By contrast the program at Unity Center’s “Prayer-a-thon” was so exciting, energizing and light.  Prairiewoods’ “Adult Summer Camp” will be tons of fun and energizing. And at both, materials were well assembled and available.  And, the Midwest Reiki Festival coming up in September will be stellar! Thank you, Unity, PW and Midwest Reiki Festival organizers.  The shape was and is satisfying, clean and evident.

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High Summer Walks

Ed_1080_Clouds_Close_10-14-2010A steamy July day with threat of storms didn’t deter some dedicated and interested folks from visiting Winding Pathways to walk the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  In fact the weather added to the energy of the afternoon.

Author and artist, Sandy Cannon, of Des Moines PinkSlip Studio arranged to stop at Regis Middle School’s labyirnth and 1080 Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. We  connected right away and the possibilities are lovely to think of building out the circle of labyrinth lovers. She sat meditatively for a spell and then found a nook and wrote.  So many interesting sights, sounds and smell stirred her words.

Bankers Trust staff and some clients came for a chat about creating wondrous yards.  From economics to food to preparedness, Winding Pathways shared options for visitors.  Most are easy to do:  Turn off lights and water when not using.  Install water barrels to catch and then re-use water on gardens. Create small pollinator pockets. Even a deck with patio plants and herbs livens up a “yard” and invites in beneficial insects and cheerful summer birds.

Here is a photo album of some of the sights from the afternoon

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Duluth OWAA Labyrinth Walk

Duluth, MN, is home to at least three labyrinths all registered on The Labyrinth Locator page of The Labyrinth Society’s website. For the past few years I have led walks for Outdoor Writers of American Association members and spouses/partners.  The curious and seekers join me.

In June five pilgrims paused in their busy days and walked two challenging labyrinths.  The McCabe Renewal Center houses a simple grass mowed labyrinth to the side of the large home.  The design is unusual and because it is all grass, walkers had to pay attention to the height of grass to stay on the path. They all did well.  Initial tentativeness gave way to confidence as each walked.  Birds sang gloriously, the wind whispered in the evergreens, yet for one pilgrim, “Time stood still.” For another walker, an issue began to take form and the resolution clarity.

The Forest Hill Cemetery labyrinth is located near one of the buildings and unfortunately, at this time, was in need of weeding and resetting of some stones.  I opted for us to not visit this time because I wanted the novice walkers to have an optimal experience. The manager of the cemetery was kind in his reply to my concern and said hiring adequate crews has been tough and they will get to the needed care.  It can be a lovely place for those grieving and to see it taken care of will be encouraging.

Holy Rosary School  labyrinth is set overlooking Lake Superior in Duluth. This unusual design has at least two ways to enter and then a set of ways in the shape of a + to access the center.  Each walker found her own way in and out. This was a challenge to be individual, have confidence and then return with serenity.

The wind whipped past us, the Lake sparkled, children played in the nearby playground and some teens bounced and tossed basketballs on the court down below.  Although I did remind people that outside noises can be a distraction, we also have a choice to perseverate or allow to pass by us and just accept.

One walker could not concentrate with the external noises.  Another entered and left by different entrances and exits and a third found increased clarity in her situation. She plans to walk another labyirnth close to a family homestead and simply put out to the Universe the situation and ask for openness and guidance.

Overall satisfying and I introduced to two long time Duluthians these amazing resources in their home town.

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1080 Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth Rising

“To every thing there is a season.”

The past few years I have been dismayed at how the 1080 Laughing Labyrinth prairie grasses have taken over the seven circuit Classical labyrinth we designed and created in the front yard.  And, the lovely magnolia tree was dying. What to do?

This winter I decided that after our annual burn, we’d restructure the labyrinth to a five circuit, dual entry. Happens that is a design colleague and friend Lisa Gidlow Moriarty designed.  I must have seen it somewhere because as I began to draw out, based on my seven circuit, the design flowed and seemed to be what the land called for.

In Tom Sawyer tradition, I roped several colleagues and good friends into helping in late March through the dedication in early May about the cross-quarter date that we call May Day. Faithfully they came, staked, marked, suggested, laughed and after cheerfully ate snacks as we reflected.

After the magnolia tree came down, I saved a piece for a friend at her request to make her own finger labyrinth from a cross section. Rich selected a sturdy bur oak to plant in the center. We both check it out weekly and thank it for gracing the center.  It’s doing well and does not seem quite so small anymore with leaves and some growth. It’s a good addition.

I routinely mow the paths, re-adjust flags, string and re-paint strips in bright orange field paint along to mark the paths until vegetation grows up.  Now, it’s pretty easy to find the way.

In July we have two labyrinth programs here at Winding Pathways.  One for employees and members of Bankers Trust and the other for an out-of-town garden club.

Rich and I are amazed at how luxuriant the grasses and forbs are, how many butterflies and birds use the labyrinth.  We saw a mama turkey with her poults scurry along the path. Deer wander through and eat foliage which I have sprayed with stinky deer repellent to keep them at bay. Works some until the rains come. Vultures from the nearby nesting tree wing overhead. Bluebirds perch on the post and bell at the entry.  Milkweed has colonized along the edge. A garter snake cools itself under one of the entry rocks.

So, all in all, the redesign has been successful and a pleasure.  “And a time to every purpose under Heaven.”

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2016 Labyrinths

Check out Winding Pathways for a blog on labyrinths I visited and walked in 2016. I am always surprised at how many labyrinths I actually go to in a year.  Always is my favorite at Regis Middle School in Cedar Rapids.  Overlooking the city, set apart yet part of a complex, it is always comforting and inspiring to me.

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