Solstice labyrinth gathering celebrates peace and light


Last updated 12/12/2023 at 9:56am

A small fire. Cups of steaming hot cocoa. Walking together in silent meditation, contemplating the idea of peace. It’s the little things that help people through the darkest time of the year.

Sisters Community Labyrinth will host its annual Winter Solstice gathering and labyrinth walk on Thursday, December 21, the shortest day of 2023.

Everyone is invited; there is no charge to attend, and no religious affiliation is involved.

Sharlene Weed came up with the theme: peace.

“I guess things feel pretty heavy right now all around, starting with the personal and working outward,” she explained.

“My own transition from my job, our town and state’s growth, new people moving in... a culture change and some conflict. Moving out from there to national and world events,” Weed continued.

Traditional celebrations of Winter Solstice reach across cultures and around the globe. Solstice gatherings acknowledge that we are moving from the shortest, darkest days of the year into winter and then spring. Every day after solstice, the days will grow a little longer, the sun a bit stronger, moving from the low southern horizon and becoming brighter overhead.

Weed envisions the labyrinth walk providing a tie between dark, difficult times and lighter days. “Can our walk bring light and peace in the midst of this dark time?” Weed wondered. “Can we find peace within, which can help us accept the challenges of the time and support one another?”

According to group materials, Sisters Community Labyrinth is a gathering place for relaxation, meditation, and reflection; walking a labyrinth is known to promote health and wellness. A metal “finger labyrinth” provides an accessible experience on-site for the visually impaired.

Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce

This year’s Winter Solstice gathering has been changed to a 6 p.m. start time, to avoid conflicting with the sing-along activities being presented by Citizens4Community the same night. Carolers and everyone in Sisters Country are welcome.

After an initial gathering, participants will walk silently together through the labyrinth’s curves. Afterward, folks are welcome to sip cocoa around a small fire, or bring their preferred drink in their own thermal cup. Sisters Community Labyrinth gatherings are typically 45-60 minutes long, depending on weather.

Silent meditations are difficult to manage with young children in tow. Families seeking a louder labyrinth walk can join the Summer Solstice gathering in June, or enjoy their own unstructured walk at the labyrinth earlier in the day on December 21.

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Founding a community asset

The Sisters Community Labyrinth was founded and built by Sisters Cohort 3 of the Ford Family Foundation’s Community Leadership course around 2013. It was built on U.S. Forest Service land known as East Portal, which was purchased by the City of Sisters in 2022.

The City and its consultants originally planned to turn East Portal into a transportation hub without consideration for the labyrinth.

In a letter to the City, labyrinth fans observed: “Those attending [labyrinth events] learn about the changing seasons and the planets, in a setting that combines the natural ponderosas and shrubs of Sisters Country with the traditional labyrinth walking pattern established by the famous cathedral at Chartres,” in France.

Sisters Oregon Guide

The letter continued, “Sometimes, people make music. Other times, a silent meditation is offered. Labyrinth gatherings promote contemplation, healing, and community. While ritualistic or celebratory in feeling, the walks are non-religious and nondenominational.

“The Labyrinth has become a sacred space in our town. Many community members who walk it leave special rocks or other objects in the center as a prayer, to symbolize letting go or rebirth, to commemorate an occasion, or to make a wish. We strongly urge the council to preserve this important amenity for the whole Sisters community.”

Sisters Furry Friends Foundation

The City agreed to include the existing labyrinth in plans for the new hub. The Sisters community will keep its nondenominational labyrinth but the parcel of land around it will change considerably in the near future. Currently, the labyrinth sits among trees and meandering paths, a favorite spot for local deer.

Sisters Community Labyrinth Committee, under Sisters Park & Recreation District, (SPRD) runs the labyrinth. The Winter Solstice gathering for peace starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 21. The group asks that participants dress warmly and bring a flashlight or candle.

Sisters Community Labyrinth is located in East Portal on West Hood Avenue, where Highway 20 and Highway 242 meet.

Restrooms will be closed. Gates should be open and driveways plowed for the event; if not, participants can park on nearby roadsides.

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