Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Labyrinths! Thinking outside the box

labyrinth in white paint on green grass, (c) 2013 Stasa Morgan-Appel
At Friends General Conference Gathering this summer, I was scheduled to facilitate an updated version of my workshop "The Goddess Is Alive and Magic Is Afoot."  I was excited, and looking forward to it!

Workshops at FGC Gathering are 13.75 hours, five mornings from 9:00 am to 11:45 pm.  (They used to be 16.5 hours, six mornings.)

My workshop outline called for us to walk a labyrinth on day two.

A number of times over the past ten years or so, someone at Gathering has built a temporary labyrinth on campus.  I was hoping this person, or someone inspired by him, would create a labyrinth this year. But if not, I had a couple of options.  There was supposedly a labyrinth in a church about a mile from this year's campus; I could talk to them and make arrangements for us to go there Tuesday morning.  We could do a spiral walk in our classroom.  We could maybe build a very simple labyrinth in our classroom, with the ever-present blue tape on the carpet.  (I have come to love blue painters' tape.)

I was very sure that building a large outdoor labyrinth was not something we would have time for, and equally sure it was beyond my skill set.

It turns out, I was wrong. Which is a wonderful thing.

About a week and a half before Gathering, I emailed the Gathering Office to find out if anyone was making a labyrinth on campus. No, not this year. 

As I continued finalizing my workshop outline details, I found I wasn't sure I wanted to spend a workshop morning working with an indoor labyrinth in a Christian church.  But I also wasn't really satisfied with any of the alternatives I'd identified, either. 

I posted a query in my social media network for Pagan and Pagan-friendly friends -- here's the situation; here are my options; if you were in this workshop on the Goddess and magic, what would you prefer?  I wasn't looking for anyone to tell me what to do, but I was hoping people's answers would help me sift through all the ideas in my own head and shake something free.

The conversation did way more than that.

A couple people spoke to how walking a labyrinth in a Christian church could be problematic, or work just fine, or both/and.  Someone talked about what a gift it is to the entire Gathering to build a labyrinth.  If my workshop couldn't do it, maybe a Junior Gathering group could.  I started looking at possible labyrinth patterns I could ask someone else to do.  More ideas flowed.  Maybe I and some helpers could do it the day before the workshop started, or the first afternoon of the Gathering.  Maybe we could use a painted dropcloth.  Maybe we could outline it in heavy rope.  Or birdseed.  Or flour or constarch (cornfour) or...  Maybe this.  Maybe that.

Some of the suggestions were completely unrealistic; some were great ideas but not quite "it"... but the whole conversation was super-helpful.  Everybody's contributions got the ideas flowing, and -- most of all -- helped me see I'd been thinking in a box, and that maybe I didn't need to think in that box...

Early in the conversation, one friend shared this video of how to draw a simple Cretan labyrinth, saying (she was right) that she thought I'd be more interested in Cretan ones than Medieval ones:

I suddenly found myself fascinated with drawing labyrinths.  

Later in the conversation, someone shared this page on how to lay out a temporary labyrinth quickly, easily, and with a small group of people:

"Laying Out a Labyrinth," http://www.labyrinthos.net/layout.html

I still didn't see how I could do this in the workshop, but I kept drawing labyrinths.

Then Beloved Wife got home from a professional conference and asked me how my prep was going.  I explained.  She asked more questions.  I showed her my drawings, the video, and the web page.  She studied the how-to.  "Oh, you could totally do this in your workshop, and have plenty of time the same morning to walk it!"  I was dubious at first, but as we talked about it more, I came to the conclusion she was right. 

We played with several different seed patterns.  I wanted something long enough to be interesting, but short enough that we could all walk it in the time needed.  We decided on a seed pattern, and modified it slightly so it would have fewer right angles, and still have the suggestion of a heart-shape in the heart of the labyrinth.

We even laid it out on our living room floor, using ribbon, markers, and really big paper.  It worked!!

I emailed the Gathering Office, apologizing profusely, and said I'd be happy to get in touch with Facilities / Grounds Crew / whoever was appropriate at the University, to find out what it would be all right to use for boundaries -- bird seed, flour, etc.

When I got email back from the Gathering Coordinator, the answer was: I found The Perfect Spot on campus; also, the answer is field paint, and they sold us three cans.  (!!!!!)

(Yes, it's true.  I absolutely had to play with spray paint to build this labyrinth.  Heh heh heh heh.)  (It was wicked fun.)

The afternoon before Gathering started, Beloved Wife and I laid out the seed pattern using tent stakes, a ribbon marked at the appropriate intervals with magic marker, and the field paint.  (This was also a test to make sure I could tolerate the field paint.  It was fine.)

Day two of Gathering, we built the labyrinth in my workshop.  We had a couple of small hitches, but it worked!  Everyone got to participate, either by painting, walking the marker ribbon, making sure the ribbon came around the right pegs without the pegs coming out of the ground, holding space while we did this in a spirit of worship and magic, etc. 

We had just enough space to make aisles that were three feet wide, so people who use wheelchairs or scooters had enough space (and if their chairs or scooters could cope with the grass and the slight slope).  Two of the four trees were outside the labyrinth, two were incorporated; when she had scoped out the space, the Gathering Coordinator was charmed by the idea of including some of the trees, and hoped we would.  Also, and best of all, the space was in shade both morning and afternoon.

Details of how we built it in the next post. 

Now I want to build a labyrinth in our communal back garden at home for Fall Equinox!


Ashley W said...

I was so glad that you created this labyrinth at the Gathering! I had a lovely walk through it one evening.

Morgan said...

I am so glad! Thank you for telling me. :)