Labyrinth. The word evokes brutish Minotaurs and ill-fated Greek demigods. Indeed, depictions of the structures date as far back as 2500 b.c. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one path and no blind ends. Walkable versions, such as that at the French cathedral of Chartres, began appearing in European churches around a.d. 1200 and today are created in both classic and new styles. Devotees praise labyrinth walking as meditation in motion. Here are some sites open to the public.
- Alhambra Creek Meadow Labyrinth Briones Regional Park, Martinez, Calif. Tree branches from an adjoining forest fence off this stone version that has a logbook for notes at its center. (888) 327-2757.
- Aura Soma Lava Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Next to the Portneuf River, artist Marty Cain and students laid out a stone labyrinth with cottonwoods sprouting at its center. (208) 776-5800, www.aurasomalava.com.
- Charles M. Schulz Museum Santa Rosa, Calif. A stone-lined labyrinth of packed gravel near the museum entrance is laid out in the shape of Snoopy's head. (707) 579-4452, www.schulzmuseum.org.
- Desert Rose Labyrinth & Sculpture Garden Ivins, Utah. The Kayenta artistic community built this structure from local stone the same color as nearby cliffs. (435) 674-2306, www.coyotegulchartvillage.com.
- Grace Cathedral San Francisco. Two elegant Chartres-style labyrinths—a limestone indoor version and a terrazzo outdoor one—draw walkers to this church. (415) 749-6300, www.gracecathedral.org.
- Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Labyrinth Clackamas, Ore. Concrete and natural bluestone mark this installation in the heart of a courtyard filled with walking paths, benches, and cherry trees. (503) 571-4001.
- Mercy Center Burlingame, Calif. A stand of oaks and a well-tended garden flank lanes of fine gold gravel bordered by red bricks. (650) 340-7474.
- St. Luke the Physician Episcopal Church Gresham, Ore. In a garden alive with lavender, hibiscuses, blueberries, and flowering dogwood trees, visitors find an exact replica of the labyrinth at Chartres. (503) 665-9442, www.saintlukesgresham.org.
- St. Paul's Centennial Garden and Labyrinth Seattle. This etched-concrete structure was built to honor the church's 100th anniversary. Walkers enjoy the sound of an adjacent lava-rock fountain. (206) 282-0786, www.stpaulseattle.org.
- Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, Reno. At the equinoxes, docents lead walks through a labyrinth inlaid with brick and encircled by leafy trellises. (775) 785-4153, www.maycenter.com.
Photography by Wood/GTPhoto
This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.