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Labyrinth Takes Shape in UC Merced’s Kelley Grove

November 8, 2022
Lars Howlett displays the Baltic Wheel design for UC Merced's labyrinth.
Master builder Lars Howlett designed the pattern and then created a temporary labyrinth at UC Merced.

    A temporary labyrinth has taken shape on the UC Merced campus.

    The labyrinth, which is an ancient pattern people walk to reflect, was
    built by master designer Lars Howlett. Marked by spray paint now,
    once the final design is determined, the path will be delineated by river
    rocks and decomposed granite.

    Walking a labyrinth is a different experience for everyone. Some people
    meditate, some pray and some just take a break from their day to reset.
    Those who approach the labyrinth are invited to take it by whatever means
    they see fit in the moment, Howlett said. Labyrinths are meant to create
    time and space to reconnect with oneself, the environment and the
    community.

    “You can run it, dance it, skip it,” he said, “whatever energy your spirit
    and you want to bring to the walk.”
    UC Merced’s 65-foot labyrinth is in the pattern of the Baltic Wheel, with
    an additional “triple meander” built into it, Howlett said. It took him
    roughly three hours to set up the temporary design.

    The idea isn’t to get lost, like a maze, but to intentionally walk the
    complicated pattern while allowing your mind to wander. Labyrinths are
    generally designed flat on the ground, with the design and destination in
    full view from the entrance.

    Once the walker reaches the center of the Baltic Wheel design, an immediate
    exit is available. But many people choose to walk back through the way they
    came to close out their experience.

    “It depends on how much time you have or where your energy is on a given
    day,” Howlett said.

    There are four phases of walking a labyrinth, according to the nonprofit
    Veriditas, an organization aimed at inspiring change through the labyrinth
    experience. Remember is before walking the path, release is walking the
    pattern itself, receive is in the center of the labyrinth and return is
    walking out.

    The labyrinth is open to everyone and provides a different experience to
    all who walk it, said De Acker, programs development director at UC Merced.
    “Sometimes I have a question that I am thinking about and I walk a
    labyrinth,” she said. The idea isn’t to concentrate on the question at hand
    but to get away from it. At the end of the path, the answer might be
    apparent anyway.

    Even for those who aren’t trying to grapple with questions or problems, the
    labyrinth can serve as a refuge.

    “It’s a place to release all the busyness of the day,” Acker said.
    A group of stakeholders has been meeting to find the right spot for the
    labyrinth. They ultimately chose Kelley Grove, which previously was
    underutilized, Acker said. The grove is located near Little Lake next to
    the Pavilion.

    The spot is ideal for a labyrinth because it’s easily accessible and
    adjacent to trees, water and buildings.

    She said the temporary pattern should last at least a week. It remained
    visible after the recent rains the area experienced. Once the design is
    finalized, construction on the permanent path will begin. It’s expected to
    be in place ahead of World Labyrinth Day on May 6.