Harwich Considers A Labyrinth For Cultural Center Lawn

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Recreation

The 11-circuit labyrinth that was dedicated to the town of Chatham for its 300th anniversary in 2012 by the Chatham Clergy Association. The labyrinth is located in Chase Park. WILLIAM F. GALVIN

HARWICH — There may be a symbol of peace and meditation added to the town's Cultural Center on Sisson Road as selectmen consider a proposal put forward by Community Center Director Carolyn Carey to locate a peace labyrinth and garden on the front lawn.

A labyrinth and garden is something she has been thinking about for a while, Carey said, and when she learned one of the artists at the Cultural Center, Laurinda Raquel, has expertise in the development of labyrinths, she approached her about the concept. Raquel was more than willing to help, Carey said.

The proposal is to create a seven-circuit labyrinth. The seven-circle design would lead to a center peace symbol in the heart of the labyrinth. Carey said the project would bring a new element to compliment the Cultural Center and would be available for use by teachers at the adjacent Harwich Elementary School.

She pointed out labyrinths are growing in popularity and communities and schools are using them as outdoor educational tools to better understand internal and external awareness. Carey also said it would expand the Cultural Center offerings and help grow the community.

There is a labyrinth in place in Chase Park in Chatham. The concept was proposed to the town in 2010 by members of the Chatham Clergy Association and was given to the town to mark its 300th anniversary in 2012.

“To walk or trace the labyrinth is to create balance within by connecting the mind and heart. A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering, but purposeful path. It represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools,” states a definition provided to selectmen by Carey.

Raquel put Carey in touch with Donald Moore of Walk in Beauty in Hyannis, a company that develops gardens for peace, joy and healing, who agreed to provide a design for the labyrinth at no cost to the town.

The design shows the seven-circuit labyrinth with an approximately 50-foot diameter placed on the front lawn with benches on the west side and potentially a location for market spaces and vendors, if the town wants to provide a location for the sale of artwork or even a new location for the town's farmers market, which is located a quarter-mile up Sisson Road at the Brooks Academy property. Carey said the market concept and a rain garden could be a consideration for the future.

“This beautiful interactive land sculpture will become an asset to the grounds and the town with positive activities arising with its use becoming a focal point for the campus,” Moore stated in a letter about the project. “To create a save space for adults and children that is open to the promotion and alignment of peace within and for all.”

Moore said outdoor classes would stimulate the senses allowing kids to experience the subtle supporting nuances of nature while learning and understanding the lessons. The current awareness of outdoor learning has inspired parents and teachers alike, promoting new ways to incorporate gardens, activities and classes for the children. Incorporating a garden is a wonderful way to ground children through growing vegetables and seeing the connection between earth, sun, water and life, Moore said. “Learning how to center in a busy world is a good exercise for all students generating peace and good will. A peace labyrinth is a logical tool to support this idea,” Moore stated.

“The great thing about it,” Carey said, “is you can do it as an individual, children or a family and people of all ages can get involved. It's a real destination for people and will bring new spirit and body to the Cultural Center that we haven't tapped into yet.”

Steps in putting the labyrinth in place would require excavation of grass and weeds and the use of landscape fabric in the labyrinth area. Gravel walkways would be laid in and there would be a two-color peace symbol in the center.

Carey said the project could be done with minimal cost and she is hoping that local businesses might make contributions of required materials such as rocks and paving stones. She also said she is looking at writing a grant to assist with funding. Carey said she has identified two grant possibilities from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Selectman Jannell Brown, Monday night, said she had a real problem with the church and state issue and that separation is something the selectmen should uphold. Citing the spiritual beliefs associated with the labyrinth, Brown said she was uncomfortable.

She also suggested it is too early in the planning process for the site to put a permanent structure there. Carey stressed it is not a permanent structure and could easily be removed.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said he wants to take time to visit a couple of labyrinths to better understand what they are about. He said he had some of the concerns raised by Brown, but added he did like the concept. MacAskill asked the board not to vote on it Monday so he could do research.