Winter solstice walk scheduled

 

Last updated 12/14/2022 at Noon

T. LEE BROWN

A globe and planets around Sisters Community Labyrinth helped people understand the change of seasons during a spring equinox gathering. For the winter solstice walk, the labyrinth may be covered in snow.

Enjoy a silent meditation walk with others in your community, celebrating the longest night of the year on December 21. Sisters Community Labyrinth will begin its annual Winter Solstice Labyrinth Walk with a brief gathering, then proceed through the labyrinth in silence toward the boulder at its center.

Organizers ask that participants dress warmly, wear appropriate snow boots or traction devices, and bring a flashlight or electric candle. Hot beverages will be provided; participants should bring their own mugs to reduce environmental waste.

“I appreciate the organized labyrinth walks that connect us with humans all around the globe,” said Pat Leiser, who sits on the Sisters Community Labyrinth committee. Leiser studies not only the movement of planets and seasons, but the many ways that different cultures celebrate these occasions.

Susan Prince will lead a short gathering at the labyrinth. She helps people connect with the natural earth and the spirit of transformation that comes with a change of seasons.

“It may seem paradoxical that winter officially arrives just as our days begin to lengthen,” she explained. “For eons, humans have joined in ceremony to celebrate together as planet Earth once again turns back towards her sun’s light.”

Earlier this year, the labyrinth was slated for potential destruction. The City of Sisters purchased the land on which the labyrinth sits—a beautifully treed parcel called East Portal—from the U.S. Forest Service. City staff and Council announced plans to transform the land into a “mobility hub” for buses and other transportation.

Former City Manager Cory Misley said that the team hired to design the new hub, Kittleson & Associates, would have a “blank slate” to design the locale regardless of its existing history and facilities, including the labyrinth.

Then the City heard community input about the history of the labyrinth, which was created by a Ford Foundation leadership cohort and funded by many local donors. The Nugget’s Sue Stafford investigated and reported on the planning process.

When the City and Kittleson & Associates presented concept layouts for the new East Portal hub layout this fall, the announcement came with an early solstice gift for labyrinth fans: the new vision preserved the community labyrinth in all three layouts.

Sisters-area residents were invited to view these layouts at City Hall; several labyrinth proponents voted for Option #2, with one hoped-for alteration to ensure that more mature ponderosa pines are preserved.

Sharlene Weed is a Sisters Community Labyrinth committee member who also helped physically build the labyrinth as part of the original Ford Foundation cohort.

“We were very happy to see that all of the designs for the transit hub allow Sisters Community Labyrinth to remain,” Weed said. “We will be able to continue our community labyrinth walks marking the changing of the seasons in this special space.”

Leiser said she was “thrilled” to see the new plans allowing the labyrinth to continue. “The second plan with a greater park area around the labyrinth is my preference,” she elaborated, “although extra head-in parking along Highway 242 might mean the loss of some large ponderosa.”

“I would like to see a map of the trees that would be eliminated for each plan,” Leiser added. “The forest setting is important for the natural spiritual atmosphere at the labyrinth.”

Sisters Community Labyrinth and its events feel spiritual to some, but they are not identified with any particular religion, spiritual tradition, or belief system. Labyrinths around the world are used for meditation, contemplation, and sometimes celebration.

Labyrinths are found in healing environments such as hospital courtyards, spas, and places of natural healing, including Summer Lake Hot Springs southeast of Bend. Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, pagan, and atheist practitioners all walk them.

One of the world’s most famous labyrinths — other than the original Labyrinth myth from Greek mythology, and perhaps the snowy hedge maze of “The Shining” —lies in the Cathedral at Chartres in France. Our town’s community labyrinth is modeled after the Gothic Chartres pattern.

Everyone is welcome to the Winter Solstice event. However: dogs, radios, talking, singing, and musical instruments are inappropriate for the silent meditation walk. Note that restrooms are closed for the winter.

For people who are unable to walk the coiling lanes, a finger-labyrinth is installed at the opening. The path to the labyrinth may be difficult for folks with mobility issues to navigate, depending on ice and snow conditions.

The event takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 21. The labyrinth is located within East Portal, about where Highway 20 and Highway 242 meet, roughly between Bi-Mart and Les Schwab. The driveway is on West Hood Avenue. During winter months, many labyrinth visitors choose to park in nearby lots or streets, then walk over to the labyrinth.

The Sisters Labyrinth Committee maintains and hosts the labyrinth and its activities, with Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) providing fiscal and administrative infrastructure.

 

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