Creating an outdoor labyrinth
The creation of a permanent outdoor labyrinth on one’s property is a wonderful goal. When you have the labyrinth on your lawn, the labyrinth is always available rather than being something that you do at a special event. Because the labyrinth is always present, you have the opportunity to integrate your work with your labyrinth into your daily or weekly schedule. Finally, with the labyrinth just outside your door, you can explore the labyrinth, its energies, and your experience with the labyrinth whenever you wish.
However, the installation of an outdoor labyrinth is big decision that needs to be considered from several viewpoints. Labyrinths can cost several thousands of dollars to install. This means that a client needs to consider that after all the money is spent, whether she or he will actually use the labyrinth with sufficient frequency to justify the expense. Secondly, a labyrinth requires maintenance. Some of this is daily, that is when you walk it you remove fallen twigs or leaves. Some of it is yearly as in cleaning up in the fall or spring or resetting pavers that may have shifted because of frost heaves. Some of the maintenance may be unusual, such as a large tree near the labyrinth falling and ripping up the area around the labyrinth or part of the labyrinth. A labyrinth owner needs to be willing to do or have this maintenance done. For example, each fall I remove the leaves on our Forest Labyrinth, in the spring I remove downed twigs, branches, and more leaves, and every year or two I re-mulch the entire labyrinth. I can’t always say that I feel enthusiastic about what is hours of work, but if I wish to keep my labyrinth, I have to do what is necessary. Finally, a last general consideration is whether you plan to be in your home or office for a long time. If not, though a labyrinth is exciting for you, a potential buyer may not feel the same way and ask to have the labyrinth removed as a condition of the sale.
Once you decide that you have the money, can do the maintenance, and plan to stay, you are ready to begin the process of creating a labyrinth. If you are working with me, I only install three classical designs that are not mine. The classical or Cretan three and seven circuit labyrinths and the Botticelli labyrinth. What I prefer to do is to create a new design that captures your intention and is in harmony with your property, or to help you select from among the labyrinths that I have already created. The design process begins with a site visit during which we walk your property, determine where you would like to have the labyrinth, and create a land map that includes the size of the place where you want the labyrinth and the peculiarities of the land, e.g. trees, rock outcropping, water. I usually give some directions on how you can find where the center of the labyrinth would be and in which direction you would like to look when you begin your journey on the labyrinth. Once we have done this, the process is the same as when I make a new design for anyone: the discussion of your intention, the creation of the design, making this design on canvas, and writing the handbook. (See Creating a labyrinth design for you.) Once this is done, I take the design and re-size it in order to have a working drawing for the land and to have measurements that will assist me in giving you the amount of stones, sand, and other building material that needs to be ordered.
Once I have the working drawing for the land, I assemble or create the necessary tools, ropes, and pegs that I will use to put down the labyrinth design. Depending on the size and complexity of the design, drawing the labyrinth on the ground can take a day or several days. Sometimes, because of physical conditions that I discover as I begin to work, such as a hidden rock ledge or drains or something that I missed when I first saw the land or considerations that the client brings up, I need to re-consider how the labyrinth will go down.
When I’m finished with putting the design for your labyrinth on the ground, we are ready to build. At this point, there are several ways in which we can do the work of finishing the installation. I’ll start with the most expensive which is me and a helper doing all of the work. Or sometimes, the client will elect to have someone else do the physical installation, and I’ll be retained as a consultant if needed. This too is expensive because someone else is doing all the work. However, if you wish to save money, there are ways to reduce the cost. Let’s assume that we are sinking the pavers or stones into the ground. This requires someone to dig the trench and take the dirt away. The next step is to line the trench with two or more inches of sand or stone dust, and finally, to nestle the pavers in the stone dust and back fill. A last step is to plant grass or to tidy up around the now finished labyrinth. All these steps— the trenching, transport of the dirt, the partial filling of the trench with stone dust, placing the pavers, and back filling — can be done by almost anyone. Therefore, one way to save money is to ask other labyrinth lovers, friends, and family to come and do all or part of these with you. I usually show folks how to do it, and then assist or stay around to consult and answer questions that may arise. When you ask others to assist you in the construction, you are creating community or adding something beautiful to the community. (Note: Though all of this work may sound grueling, and in fact sometimes is, I find a great deal of satisfaction and joy in working with the earth and working with others to create a labyrinth. I know that my clients who have worked with me in the physical creation have experienced this as well.)
The three biggest factors that determine cost are the size of the labyrinth, the types of material chosen, and the time it takes to do the work. Obviously, the size is discussed as part of our initial consultations. The choice of materials is something that you determine. (Note: The materials are bought in pallet amounts or truck loads, and the bulk cost is usually less.) The final factor – time – is also something that you can control. When I create the estimate for the installation, I include the estimated cost of materials and the time. If you wish, I can do it all. If you want to save money, get your friends and family to help. Just throw a big picnic and set everyone to work.
Finally, I believe that art, that is the creation of beauty in its many forms, is one of our most important attributes. When I and others create a labyrinth, we are creating something beautiful for ourselves, for others, and for the Earth. In doing this, we are healing ourselves and our world, and creating a special place of joy and wonder for all who encounter the labyrinth.