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Home · Articles · News · Features · Petoskey‘s Labyrinth
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Petoskey‘s Labyrinth

Kristi Kates - April 25th, 2011
Petoskey’s Labyrinth: Metaphor for Life
By Kristi Kates
Visitors to the Petoskey District Library who take the time to look around
the grounds will soon find a gem on the building’s western side - a large,
precisely-built labyrinth, 35 feet in diameter and constructed of charcoal
and red paver bricks by The Labyrinth Company of Connecticut.
The labyrinth, of the medieval “Breamore” design, was long in its planning
stages before it surfaced at the library, explains Petoskey Library
Director Karen Sherrard.
“There was separate interest in having a labyrinth long before it became
associated with the library,” Sherrard explains, “but there wasn’t really
a place to put it in Petoskey until the library.”
“The funds for the labyrinth were raised separately from the funds raised
for the library itself,” she continues, “and both opened in November of
2004.”

CRAFTING A PLAN
Most often circular in design, labyrinths’ definitive origins remain
murky, to some degree, but it’s said that the earliest dateable labyrinths
(some back as far as prehistoric times) have been found in Southern
Europe. Those labyrinths share with their later contemporaries the same
basic elements - a series of concentric pathways intricately connected and
focusing on a center goal.
“The most ancient labyrinth design we know of has seven circuits (or
rings) with a back-and-forth pattern,” explains Deb Hansen, an interfaith
chaplain from Douglas Lake who headed up the initiative to build the
Petoskey Library labyrinth. “Those labyrinths have been found all over,
including in the Hopi culture, where the people wouldn’t really walk them,
but would carve them into cliff faces.”
Along with Dale Hull, formerly the executive director at the Crooked Tree
Arts Center; Ruth Clausen, a retired Episcopal priest who had a pioneering
interest in bringing labyrinths to Northern Michigan; the members of the
Petoskey Garden Club; and Al Hansen, the head of Petoskey Parks and
Recreation, Ms. Hansen and crew rounded up a large troupe of volunteers -
but first, the Petoskey labyrinth’s design had to be selected.

TWISTS AND TURNS
 The Breamore design was thought to have originally been constructed by
the monks of a Benedictine priory in southwest England. The Breamore used
the same pattern as the famous Chartres cathedral labyrinth, which Hansen
explains is part of the reason it was chosen.
“The Breamore was a little less complicated than the Chartres labyrinth,”
she says, “if you overlaid the Chartres and the Breamore on top of each
other, the paths would be identical - but the Chartres has lunations
(patterns thought to indicate the lunar cycles) around the perimeter, as
well as petal-like decorations in the center. In a public space like the
library, you never know if people might object to something with more
religious elements, so I chose the more simple labyrinth design.”
Hansen often arranges labyrinth walks and labyrinth retreats (including
one scheduled for Bay View this summer), and enjoys this work even more
because the labyrinths have personal meaning to her.
“Both labyrinth designs, symbolically, have a lot of meaning for me,” she
says. “The labyrinth is a metaphor for life, a pattern of twists and
turns, as we all go through in life. I also like them both because they
have 11 circuits - the more circuits, the larger in diameter, the more
time you have to be on the labyrinth.”
Sherrard points out that the labyrinths have special meaning to a wide
variety of people, whether they’re sought out or unexpectedly
happened-upon.
“Most people just find the library labyrinth accidentally,” she says,
“people don’t generally go into a town and say, ‘hmm, I wonder if they
have a labyrinth here,’” she laughs. “But one person told me that they
often use the labyrinth as a problem-solving activity, walking through the
pattern in order to think through something. Other times, I think it’s
just a calm place to rest, or go and gather your thoughts.”
“Labyrinths tend to help you get clarity,” Hansen agrees, “I was going
through a lot of things in my own life (when the plan for the Petoskey
labyrinth was being made), and I really needed to have a labyrinth to walk
here.”

WALKING THE PATH
“There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth,” explains the
Petoskey Library’s labyrinth literature, ”you may pass other people on the
path… those going in will meet those coming out… center yourself before
you begin your walk… find your natural pace… (and) as you walk out, take
the experience with you as you prepare to return to daily life.”
A meditative and/or spiritual experience as well as a beautiful piece of
art and a garden centerpiece, the labyrinth’s impression on people can be
that of a simple calm moment in a day, or something bigger. Both Sherrard
and Hansen say that they enjoy watching people walk through the labyrinth,
each in their own way.
“A lot of people don’t know the difference between a maze and a
labyrinth,” Sherrard says, “mazes are made of tall shrubs, and are made to
confuse you; labyrinths are meant as a spiritual journey. The labyrinth
here fits in well with the library, as a library is about lifelong
learning and experiences - so we’re happy to offer something that enhances
peoples’ enjoyment of their community.”
“I really like hearing how walking the labyrinth is a meaningful thing to
so many people,” Hansen says, “and Karen’s office window overlooks the
labyrinth, so I enjoy hearing her stories of peoples’ experiences with it,
as well.”
People walk the labyrinth in all kinds of weather. And although the snow
might deter a few folks who simply can’t see the pattern, spring reveals
the labyrinth again every year, to welcome visitors new and old.
“In the winter, of course, it has snow on it - but then it emerges
gradually in the spring, like the rest of us do,” Sherrard says.
The Petoskey District Library is located at 451 East Mitchell Street in
downtown Petoskey, telephone 231-758-3100. The labyrinth may be found on
the library’s west side, near the corner of Mitchell Street and Waukazoo
Avenue. 

 
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