Sophialinus Labyrinth

How We Did It - By Spelcastor

     Presentation by Spelcastor at UUCFL Sunday May 26, 2002

It has been a five year plan to build a labyrinth at the UU Church of Fort Lauderdale.

 We began by using stakes and barricade tape to build a seven-circuit labyrinth.

  We made this temporary construction at the north end of our building.

   It was a space not used for other activities but still close to ongoing church events.


We have since built our tape labyrinth at festivals and
 SWIM <>  and SUUSI   <>.

We tried candles once for lighting, but they kept blowing out.
 Christmas tree, or Yule lights, stay lit and are much easier to lay out.
  There is a limit to how many strings of lights can be joined together
   before the wires melt. We found that four strings branching out from
    the center require the least distance.  

We save these lights for special occasions because they do not weather well.

We looked for a spot on the church property for a permanent labyrinth.

We knew that within five years, a building expansion program would blossom.
 A new sanctuary would extend east from the rear of our present building.
  Additional classrooms would be added to our building on the south. The
   existing playground in that space would have to be located somewhere else.

Parents voiced concern that the new playground must be visible from the
 patio at the rear of our building. Children could be observed playing
  by those drinking coffee after Sunday Service. This would put the new
   playground in the northeast corner of our property. We thought about
    the north end of the building for our labyrinth.

To make it more accessible to visitors, we also thought about the front
 side of our building to the north. But that piece of ground is sloping.

We had an opportunity to level it when $20,000 became available from
 Endowment, but nothing happened. There is also a new church to be built
  on the property north of us. We were waiting for nearly a year to see
   what they would do, but so far they are just planning.

Florida Power & Light has an easement to enter our property and maintain
 transformers on the power pole at the north side of the building. The
   reason there is a gap in the hedge in front of our building is because
    FP&L drove a truck through it. Any labyrinth in that location would
     have to be able to survive an FP&L truck.

We asked, anyone who would talk to us, what they would want in a labyrinth design.
 We talked with our Church Prez, the Minister, the Buildings & Grounds Committee,
  the Building Expansion People, the Long Range Planners, and other church leaders.

Buildings & Grounds said, "Low maintenance. We have too much to do already."
 Others said, "A space in the center large enough for 10 - 15 people to stand together."
  Still others said, "Don't kill trees to build your Earth-healing meditation."

Some liked the classic seven-circuit design. Others liked the longer walk within the
 more complex eleven-circuit design from the Chartres Cathedral <>.
  We found no shortage of opinions on how to do this great work, and far more of that
   than offers to come out and join us.

We researched labyrinths on the Internet. We discovered the National Labyrinth

 Project based out of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Franciso

  <>. We discovered the UU Labyrinth Project

   <> based out of the UU Church of Arlington, Virginia.

We found six local labyrinths between Stuart and South Miami, and we visited all of
 them. The concrete labyrinths were expensive ($20,000 - $25,000) and not that
  pretty. The brick-walk labyrinths were expensive and labor intensive to construct.

We considered a labyrinth made of a brick border, but that required a mechanical
 trenching machine to bury the bricks down to ground level. Again, this was labor

The site at the north side of the building became the most popular. We were limited
 to the east by plans for the new playground. We were limited to the west by FP&L
  trucks. We were limited to the south by the building.  

We cut back the jungle of vines and brush to the north to make more room along the fence.  

We chose the square seven-circuit design. Square labyrinths have been found among
 the Hopi Indians and in Ancient Greece and Rome.  

Our confining parameters dictated a center that could include 10 to 15 people
 and we had a 52 feet by 52 feet space.

This configuration makes possible the longest walk, 800 feet within our available
 space.  Now that we had our shape, the next question was construction technique.

We liked the mulch labyrinths at the UU Society of Miami and the Miami Lakes
 Methodist Church. We could haul all the rocks we would need from a nearby
  construction site on Sample Road. We measured our path so that existing trees became
   part of the paths. Because of our space limitations, six-inch diameter rocks were as
    big as we could use in our inner paths in order to maintain a path that was three
     feet wide. Larger rocks could be placed on the outside.

We looked around for what to use for mulch. Any ground scraps containing palm would
 decay. Much from construction sites would be of unknown quality. Cypress mulch from
  building supply stores (at $1 a cubic foot) proved best. Much delivered in bags was
   much easier to handle than a load off a dump truck. The labor was ours and our backs
    were delicate. Our possible labyrinth was to be 50 by 52 or 2600 square feet. There
     are two cubic feet of mulch to a bag. To lay mulch four inches deep, we needed 625+
       bags. And mulch compresses, so four inches is a minimum. Weeds would become a
         problem. We thought about spraying Roundup to kill everything green, but this would
          have been politically incorrect.

We experimented with mulch on bare ground and mulch over plastic "weed web." We saw
 weeds spring up quickly where there was no web. Web was the way to go.

With the ongoing work of Sophia and six or so helpers, the labyrinth was completed
 in March, 2002.

There are still things to be done. We need a sign at the front of the Labyrinth to
 welcome visitors and explain the walk. We need a small sign at the FP&L opening in
  the hedge to show newcomers the way. We need a walkway, from the front of our
   building. As for maintenance, the mulch will continue to compress, and more bags
    will have to be added. The weed web will become exposed, tear, and have to be
     patched. Rocks will get kicked and have to be returned to their places. Weeds will
      occasionally sprout and have to be pulled. Leaves fall from the over hanging trees.

But we expect that the labyrinth will attract friends and supporters. After each
 Sunday service, we see people walking it. Labyrinth maintenance is light work. We
  are giving more people a place to become involved.

             Sophialinus             The Drum Lioness