News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Winter solstice gathering set in Sisters

The darkest day of the year sounds like a gloomy proposition. No wonder people around the world brighten it with traditional fires and candles. In Sisters, all are invited to a winter solstice gathering, silent meditation, and labyrinth walk at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 21, at Sisters Community Labyrinth.

The “Labyrinth Ladies” will bring a new element to this year’s gathering: fire. Bonfires have been a traditional element in solstice celebrations the world over since antiquity. Pat Leiser is preparing a fire column in addition to a portable metal fire pit in the labyrinth’s center.

Leiser brings a festive spirit to labyrinth events, along with cultural and scientific knowledge (see related story, page 26).

“I enjoy celebrating the labyrinth walks through the year on days that have a significance for people all over the world,” she said.

Community labyrinth walks “allow us to appreciate together our relationships to the rhythms of the solar system and nature,” said Leiser, “and honor our capacity to understand them.”

During a walk, participants “contemplate the flow of each of our own personal experiences of doubt and hope through the seasons of darkness and light.”

The solstice gathering offers “a great way to take a break and get centered, no matter how busy you are during the holiday season,” said Jan McGowan, a Sisters Community Labyrinth co-founder and current committee member.

“There is magic in walking silently among a crowd of people doing the same,” she said. “You have the opportunity for personal reflection, while being part of something larger.”

McGowan noted, “As you walk, you begin to notice the same people passing you on another place on the path. Your experience is individual, yet interwoven. Beautiful! And cool!”

People from all spiritual traditions and walks of life are invited to join in. The group asks that participants dress warmly and bring a flashlight. A warm beverage in a well-insulated vessel is a good idea, too.

After an opening circle at 4:30 p.m., participants will enact a silent walking meditation through the labyrinth’s curves, beginning at 4:45 p.m. Afterward, folks are welcome to sip their drinks around the fire. Sisters Community Labyrinth gatherings are typically 45 to 60 minutes long.

Silent meditations are difficult to manage with young children in tow. Any families wishing to take part may contact New Oregon Arts & Letters by December 20 via email to [email protected] A separate, special walk will be scheduled earlier in the day for families if there is a need.

The labyrinth is located in East Portal on West Hood Avenue. East Portal is the U.S. Forest Service site where Highway 20 and Highway 242 meet, roughly between Bi-Mart and Les Schwab. This park-like area is generally closed and gated off in winter. Gates will be open for this Solstice event, but restrooms will be closed.

The event is co-presented by New Oregon Arts & Letters and the Friends of the Labyrinth Committee at Sisters Park & Recreation District. For updates and details, see


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