The Roads to Wellville
BY IYNA BORT CARUSO In a Long Island park overlooking the
PHOTO BY STACY Z. GOLDBERG isea, families spread out blankets on top
of an exotic stone pattern, unaware that
their makeshift picnic grounds are actually a 21st-century interpretation of an
Turns out labyrinths are everywhere—
universities, open fields, botanical gardens, inns and even private estates. Most
people see the spiral motifs as attractive
floor decorations, not knowing that their
history dates back some 4,000 years.
Labyrinth designs have been found on
Greek coins, Celtic stones and Native
American baskets. Now, the ancient practice of labyrinth walking is being revived
as more and more people discover its
A widespread misconception is
that labyrinths are mazes. A maze is
meant to confuse; it is a puzzle to be
solved. Dead ends are intended to trip
one up. A labyrinth, on the other hand,
is a vehicle to enlighten. One path takes
you to the center, the place for rest,
prayer or meditation. The same path
leads you out again. There are no intersections to ponder along the circuit.
“It’s like six months of therapy,” says
one labyrinth walker.
Each labyrinth has its own special
allure, but they’re all intended to quiet
the mind and foster self-reflection. Here
are five of the Northeast region’s most
magical labyrinths. All are free and open
to the public.
The ancient act of
The Labyrinth for Contemplation
Battery Park, N.Y.
The labyrinth in Battery Park, on the
southern tip of Manhattan, was commissioned for the first anniversary of Sept. 11.
Labyrinths are often about a sense of
place, so when the Battery labyrinth was
proposed, members of the Battery Conservancy, the nonprofit agency charged
with revitalizing and rebuilding the park,
walked its 23 acres to find just the right
spot. They found a stunning one. The
labyrinth is situated among a grove of
Blue Atlas cedar trees. Southern views
look out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis
Island, but its northern views are the
most powerful: the empty space where
the World Trade Center once stood
and the West Street corridor, which in
the minds of New Yorkers still evokes
images of trucks hauling dust and debris
from the area after the attacks.
The labyrinth was designed by an
organization called Camino de Paz
Labyrinths. The group stipulated that
all construction materials had to be
used or recycled and that every member
of the conservancy, which numbered
eight at that time, had to participate in
the labyrinth’s construction, according
to Warrie Price, president of the Battery
Conservancy. The 3-foot-wide paths
were made with existing grasses, clover,
plantain and mug wort, and were defined
with recycled Belgian block.
Despite its location in a public park
visited by more than 4 million locals and
The Labyrinth at The National
Cathedral in Washington, D.C.