Gardening & More: St. Paul’s Lutheran Church labyrinth offers meditation and relaxation
“I didn’t even know what a labyrinth was. But they said they would need a lot of rocks. That caught my attention.” He joked that his 40 acres yield more rocks than corn and the labyrinth project looked like a good way to use up some of the rocks he had piled up over the years. That got him involved in creating and maintaining the labyrinth that is located just beyond the parking lot behind that church.
The labyrinth is used for walking meditation. Many Christian churches incorporated labyrinths into floor designs in medieval times.
“In periods when it was dangerous to leave the walls of the town, it was a way to go on a pilgrimage,” said the Rev. Gary Schindler, pastor of St. Paul’s.
“In a lot of ways, walking a labyrinth now is like a mini-pilgrimage. You take time out to pray, reflect, recharge and reconnect with the earth.”
A labyrinth is not a maze. You cannot get lost in one. Walkers follow one path, which winds to the center, and use the same path to leave.
Most people approach the labyrinth prayerfully and quietly. They may walk and pray, or walk with a verse of Scripture, according to Schindler. Some people with problems will figuratively leave their burden in the center. Some people walk in groups and there have been remembrance ceremonies for Sept. 11 held there.
There is no one right way to walk a labyrinth. Kids will run into the labyrinth and jump over the short hedges delineating the path and Schindler said he thinks that is wonderful, too.
St. Paul’s labyrinth is based on the famous labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France, but, while the Chartres labyrinth is about 43 feet in diameter, St. Paul’s labyrinth is much larger than most, at 104 feet.
What is nice about St. Paul’s labyrinth is that it is natural and changes with the seasons, the weather and the time of day, according to Schindler.
To create the design of the labyrinth, Pukay set a stake at the center and tied a string to the stake so he could make smooth circles. To mark the circles, he used a wheeled device with a spray can, designed to paint lines in a parking lot. When one circle was done, he moved out four feet to paint the next circle, and continued until all 11 circuits were completed.
The path is mowed with a push mower and the short hedges marking the path boundaries are kept even with a weed trimmer.
Pukay used some of his rocks in the labyrinth and parishioners have brought back rocks from their travels, as well. A special cage beneath the cross at the center of the labyrinth held rocks from the Holy Land. Pukay said that some kids took those rocks, so he would like to get more.
Plants in the labyrinth include wild strawberries, day lilies, daisies, milkweed and Queen Anne’s lace. There are some flowers, such as rose campion, that may have been planted purposely in the labyrinth or they may have found their own way there through seeds.
Labyrinths are not just for churches. They can be found at medical centers, conference centers, parks and colleges. You can also walk a labyrinth at the nearby Chautauqua Institution.
Suzanna Drozd-Kowalski of 10 Maple Ave. in Corfu created a labyrinth in her yard that is open to the public. You can search for labyrinths at the World-wide Labyrinth Locator at www.labyrinthlocator.com.
St. Paul’s labyrinth is open year-round during daylight hours.
“I’ve seen people walking it in some nasty weather, so there are people who find it helpful,” Schindler said.
Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.