By Caleb Stento
Ouray County has its very own medieval labyrinth. As of Sunday, May 20 at 4 p.m., the labyrinth gets its official dedication and will be open to all. Any who wish to come are invited to attend the dedication at 2490 County Road 17. Once open, there will be no set hours of operation as one never knows when they will feel the need to embark on a meditative walk.
The idea for this particular labyrinth came from local Pastor Kathy Graff of the Special Ministries of the United Church of the San Juans in Ridgway. Graff got the idea for a labyrinth after attending a conference by Lauren Artress. Artress is a leading force in the labyrinth revival. “It was an amazing experience,” Graff said. “I felt there was a need for one in this area.”
Fairly recently, Lauren Artress visited Europe and was inspired by the labyrinths she found there. After coming back to the U.S., she built one in San Francisco. They have been steadily gaining in popularity ever since.
A labyrinth is different from a maze, and no, there is no fierce Minotaur roaming a dark path seeking to destroy any that happen upon it. Labyrinths have been in existence for over 4,000 years. They were used quite extensively during the Middle Ages and were eventually misused and fell out of fashion.
Over the centuries the purpose of labyrinths has varied from group rituals and individual meditation to a place to trap malevolent spirits and to a representation of the journey to the Holy Land. The purpose of Ouray County’s labyrinth is meditative in nature. You walk the path to relieve stress, sharpen focus, facilitate mental healing or reach a contemplative mental state.
A labyrinth is not designed to imbue the mental confusion or anguish that comes along with a traditional maze. The paths of a labyrinth are designed to lead you to the center of the location. Maybe, in some metaphysical way, the journey to the center of a labyrinth shows the subconscious the way to its restful center.
Graff was ordained a couple of years ago. During one of her meditation groups it was suggested by members that they get together and build a labyrinth as a commemoration of Graff’s ordination. “This is what inspired the action on the idea,” Graff said.
According to Graff you can find labyrinths all over in various settings. There are literally thousands in the U.S. alone. Graff says they plan to register Ouray County’s labyrinth on Labyrinthlocator.com. The website provides locations, descriptions and photos of over 3,000 labyrinths in over 70 countries. Graff feels that this will be beneficial to the county because it will attract visitors. “Many people will go out of their way to visit a labyrinth,” Graff said.
As with many other unique things in this county of ours, the labyrinth was made possible by a contingent of volunteers last September. There were approximately 25 volunteers that participated and work was completed mostly on one damp Saturday, Graff reminisced. The plan was to open and do the dedication last fall, but the weather did not permit.
“I want to offer it as a gift to the community,” Graff said, in a spirit coinciding with the labyrinth’s stated purpose.