People stroll around The Labyrinth at the Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce’s Food Forest Thursday morning during an official opening and ribbon-cutting event for the new contemplative space, which is at St. George’s Park just off the 10th Street East hill in Owen Sound. Denis Langlois/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Post Media Network
Denis Langlois / Denis Langlois/The Sun Times/Post Media Network
Slowly and quietly walking the meandering single path of a labyrinth has long been considered a spiritual exercise that many believe has the power to calm and clarify the mind.“There’s really an important difference between a maze and a labyrinth. A maze is constructed to confuse. In a maze, you get lost.“A labyrinth is constructed to soothe. And in a labyrinth, you find your way. You find clarity,” Clark MacFarlane, CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce Mental Health & Addiction Services, said Thursday during an official opening event for the organization’s labyrinth.He said the circular space, located within the CMHA Fresh Roots Food Forest & Gardens in Owen Sound, is a “wonderful community resource” to help people to “find their way.”Thomas Dean, who designed the labyrinth, said he hopes people who walk along its plant-lined pathway will achieve a feeling of restoration.“It’s a space for quiet meditation, contemplation, healing,” he said.The local CMHA received city approval and began work three years ago to create its community food forest at St. George’s Park, just off the 10th Street East hill.The site now includes a large, fenced-in area where fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants grow in raised beds.Each Saturday, the gates to the gardens are opened from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. so the community can venture inside to harvest food.Work on the labyrinth began as a new phase of the project last year, Dean said.The food forest and gardens initiative has been fuelled by a $100,000 grant from the Aviva Community Fund, which the local CMHA won in 2016 as part of a contest that included a crucial online voting component.Dean said more than 30 contractors, gardeners and other volunteers have worked together to bring the labyrinth plan to fruition.He came up with a four-circuit medieval design with a total path length of nearly 100 metres.People enter under a large wooden arbour and can rest on several benches on the outside of the labyrinth.Inside, the path is lined with multiple types of plants, including lavender, echinacea, sage, strawberry, cedar and catmint.The centre of the labyrinth is bordered by tall bunches of hardy switch grass.About 50 people attended Thursday’s ribbon-cutting event. It rained just before the start of the 11 a.m. event and poured about an hour after it concluded. But the weather was calm and overcast during the ceremony.Teresa Pearson, program manager at CMHA Grey Bruce, said like most gardens, the food forest site continues to be a work in progress.There are plans to add an outdoor art component, she said, as well as a memorial forest and live wall garden.She said she is thrilled with the way the labyrinth turned out.“It’s beautiful and I’m sure Thomas will always be fine-tuning it,” she said.Dean added, “It will never stop. It’s really a living thing.”Labyrinths, a term originating from ancient Greece, have been found on Cretan coins dating back to 450 BC. They have been found in many cultures and locations since then.There are more than 150 labyrinths in Ontario, according to the Labyrinth Community Network. They are located in parks, hospitals, jails, wading pools, forests, cemeteries, retreat centres and private gardens.The CMHA labyrinth, along with the nearby Owen Sound Peace Labyrinth at Georgian Shores United Church, are both on that list.The volunteer group behind the latter project, which was headed by the late Marg Capel, won a 2006 YMCA peace medallion.