Into the Labyrinth

11 July 2016 – I attend a glorious noon-hour Bach recital in the Church of the Holy Trinity, and then sit for a while by the Toronto Public Labyrinth in tiny, peaceful Trinity Square Park next to the church.

raised plaque, Toronto Public Labyrinth, Trinity Square Park

The metal plaque is battered, but striking.

And tactile. You can trace the path with your finger tips — and also, if you have the skill, read the braille lettering at the top.

The labyrinth itself, like this plaque, is a bit weary; its colours faded though still decipherable.


Toronto Public Labyrinth

I stroke the raised path, enjoy the touch, but must then turn to a conventional sign for more information.

This, I learn, is a labyrinth (one clear path), not a maze (one path, many dead ends). Labyrinths go back some 3,000 years; this one is based on the 11-circuit labyrinth constructed at Chartres Cathedral in France in the 13th century. Many are located near water, and this one honours the tradition: it is located near the now-buried Taddle Creek.

I’ve sat here before, seen three or four people at a time walking the path.

Today, a single young man. He carefully, calmly makes his way, ear-buds in his ears & eyes on the phone to which they are attached. Is he following some labyrinth app? Listening to a Hildegard von Bingen composition? I wonder, but of course don’t ask.

man walking the Toronto Public Labyrinth

The conventional sign tells us how to walk a labyrinth:

  • Enter with a question or intention
  • Follow the path from the entrance to the centre
  • Walk at a comfortable pace
  • Pass or yield to others on the path as necessary
  • Stay in the centre as long as you wish
  • Retrace the path back to the entrance

part o the labyrinth path, to centre

Later, I click on the Labyrinth Community Network website, and learn — among other things — that there are hundreds of labyrinths in Ontario alone. I am charmed by this discovery. And by the tools for locating any of them.

Later still, a book title suddenly pops to mind and, yes, I am right: Larry’s Party, the 1997 novel by Carol Shields, is about an ordinary man made extraordinary by his ability to create labyrinths.

Read the book. Go walk a labyrinth.






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  1. Very cool! I’ve seen one here in San Diego, by the Coronado Hospital.

  2. I enjoyed this essay and photos so much. I believe because of the calm and peacefulness of it. So interesting to learn the history of this particular beauty of a labyrinth. I had not previously drew a distinction between a labyrinth and a maze, and it is always such fun to pick up a new bit of word knowledge.

    In the Verde Valley Medicine Wheels are popular, modern, often New Age versions of the Native American Ceremonial Wheels.

    Thank you. All my best to you. 🐞

    • JoHanna, what a lovely message! Thank you. I’m so happy that I was able to convey some of the peace & pleasure of my few moments by the labyrinth.

  3. Larry Webb

     /  11 July 2016

    Hi Penny.

    Remind me some day to tell you my relationship with “Larry’s Party” and Larry himself!!

    Best, Larry

    Larry Webb

    (416) 508-1291

  4. Wow! Great story about Labyrinths, I’ll love to go there!
    Did you watch the spanish movie El Laberinto del Fauno?

  5. Fascinating! This really captures the imagination. I’ll bet the Bach recital was memorable too. 🙂

    • I enjoyed the Bach a lot, also the young organist’s learned (but lightly presented) information about the type of organ & why it suits baroque music so well.

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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