This blog describes the events and background of this community space for reflection that was dedicated October 10, 2013. The Rivoli Park Labyrinth is a place of peace and subtle beauty nestled in an urban neighborhood. You can find it in the 900 block of N Kealing Ave on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 46201.
This was my favorite moment of the Peace Day gathering last week at Rivoli Park Labyrinth: when young Elijah piped up with an innocent question. He’s 9, and his mother Alicia Oskay was leading us in some gentle postures and breathing. When she mentioned how yoga brings more peacefulness, in keeping withInternational Day of Peace, Elijah stage whispered, “Is that a thing?”
Alicia and her son Elijah modeling hip stretches.
Why yes, young sir. Your mother did not make it up. This Peace Day business is for real. According to the website, “Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.”
International Day of Peace is observed around the world each year on September 21st, ever since it was established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution. In recent years, people observing the day have begun using the hashtag #peaceday to share stories of random acts of kindness and inspirational quotes on social media.
After yoga, Lisa invited all of us to make #PeaceDay signs for our walk through the Rivoli Park neighborhood with local law enforcement. (For everyone making a sign, she banked a half hour on TimeBank Indy, our local hours-bartering exchange network.)
Elijah shows the poster he and his mother created.
Both the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department were represented in our little march. We drew honks and waves and fist pumps from passing drivers, and one woman on foot offered several God-bless-yous.
Getting ready to walk the neighborhood.
We returned to the pocket park to share food and conversation, and walk the labyrinth at our leisure. For more details on the day, find an IndyStar photo essay here.
Lisa has coordinated the labyrinth’s fans into various neighborhood projects over the years. Coming up this week is Indy Do Day—an annual three-day citywide service blitz, set for Sept. 29, 30, and Oct. 1. The Rivoli Park Labyrinth was installed on Indy Do Day on October 10, 2013.
“I would like the tradition of doing service and giving back to continue,” she says, emphasizing that everyone is encouraged to find an Indy Do Day opportunity to spread some good in the community. She herself plans to offer her time packing snack bags for children in a low-income neighborhood alongside a group called #gRoE , Inc.
Projects like these can be found by searching the website of Indy Do Day.
The park’s founder, Lisa Boyles, led the youth on a walk through the labyrinth, which is beautifully ringed by wildflowers this summer.
Sharp-eyed kids spotted some of the critters that make the park their home.
on the butterfly bush
As a certified wildlife habitat, the park provides food, cover, water, and nesting places for creeping and flying insects, toads, birds, and small mammals–and it is managed with sustainable gardening practices that are wildlife-friendly. (Lisa recently saw a falcon with a mouse in its talons, high in one of the trees.)
View from the butterfly bush
After the walk we talked about why it’s so important to support pollinators … without which it would be difficult to find actual food. When one of the boys said something about licking a flower, we picked red clover petals so everyone could try a sip of nectar. Tasty!
Soon the park will be designated a Monarch Waystation with the addition of milkweed, which monarch caterpillars eat. The kids got to sow milkweed seeds in small pots to take home and start their own monarch-friendly habitats.
Starting milkweed seed in peat pots.
Each teen also went home with a kit to make a butterfly feeder and instructions to make more nectar (1 part sugar to 1 part water, heated until sugar dissolves, then cooled).
A simple butterfly feeder.
Lisa notes that you can also attract butterflies with fruit. Butterflies are reported to love oranges, watermelons, mangoes, kiwis and apples. Fruit slices can be put on a plate with some water, or they can also be added to the sugar water feeders for added variety for the butterflies.
Pollination takes many forms. Insects pollinate flowers, while a woman like Lisa pollinates young lives by sharing a quiet space in the middle of the city’s hubbub.
A contemplative moment in the center of the labyrinth
All are welcome to explore Rivoli Park Labyrinth’s beauty, spread a blanket for a picnic, or walk the labyrinth anytime between dawn and dusk.
Walking is a time-honored way to meditate, ruminate, and otherwise seek clarity. Walking a labyrinth gives each footstep even more meaning. And walking in community brings added sweetness to the experience.
On World Labyrinth Day, May 7, people all over the world gathered to “walk as one at 1” in the afternoon. The idea behind this annual event, according to the Labyrinth Society, is to “create a wave of peaceful energy washing across the time zones.”
The Rivoli Park Labyrinth hosted a potluck and group walk, representing the local community on a day when some 200 public events took place across the globe. An intermittent drizzle didn’t keep us from sharing soup and salad while we made new connections and renewed old acquaintanceships. At 1 it was time to drift into the circle of the labyrinth as we each felt ready.
Walking the labyrinth as one
I had never participated in a communal labyrinth walk before, and I found it quite lovely to share the labyrinth with others. Each in our own space and yet connected, some chatting, some silent. Sometimes meeting on the path and clasping a hand as we passed each other with a smile. At one point I found myself walking next to an acquaintance who gave off motherly vibes, and I impulsively decided to take her hand until our paths diverged.
When I enter the sacred space of a labyrinth, I like to set an intention or ask a question. My intention for this particular labyrinth walk: To take nourishment from all quarters. I was feeling depleted after a busy week and several short nights. The meal we shared was one source of sustenance, and I wanted to see if I could also be nourished by the air, the rain, the soil, the plants, and the beings around me, both human and nonhuman—and the movement of walking itself.
The boulder in the center is a perfect resting spot.
Afterwards, I did feel restored.
What makes this labyrinth unique is the fact that it is a pocket park situated on a vacant lot in the heart of the city, a public space developed and managed by volunteers. Lisa Boyles, Rivoli Park’s founder, strives to bring people together through art, so the park has numerous community-made art pieces displayed. (Note the paintings on the fence in the photo above.)
Walkers can record their thoughts in a log book at the start/end point of the labyrinth. Lisa sees the logbook as a way to encourage reflection and sharing, and to build community among solitary walkers as well.
In fact, creative expression is built into the design of the labyrinth itself.
The “pole of possibility”
According to Lisa, the pole at the entrance to the labyrinth marks one of three “focus points” in the labyrinth. Volunteers from 2015’s Indy Do Day (citywide service day) decorated the bricks. “The poles at the three focus points,” she says, “were handmade expressly for the purpose they are serving now as delineators of the focus points. This tall one at the entrance of the labyrinth I like to call the ‘pole of possibility.’”
In keeping with the art theme, Lisa invited the “Seeds of Common Sound” music bus to take part. On board the bus, we could add to communal art pieces, play instruments, and get inspired.
Communal art on board the music bus
Care for creatures is another role of this labyrinth, as it was just designated a certified wildlife habitat. Here is our little group with the plaque.
I plan to visit Rivoli Park often over the growing season to watch the plant, animal, and insect life flourish there. And to seek nourishment for my soul in this place of quiet reflection.
The park, which formed on a vacant lot thanks to community organizer Lisa Boyles, has gotten overgrown this rainy summer—but it is also a haven for life.
“Queen Anne’s Lace provides beneficial nectar to insects… Caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves… and predatory insects come to Queen Anne’s Lace to attack prey,” according to Chiot’s Run. (Click photo for more.)
Some plants we call weeds and others we call ornamentals. Some we consider natives, wildflowers, edibles, or another elevated status. Some we designate as invasive, others as desirable.
What I realized yesterday: These divisions are more important to humans than the rest of nature, which seeks its own balance.
The plants called “weeds” are the ones we pull out. Still, the grasshoppers, bees, and spiders find food and shelter on plants of all stripes. They are the epitome of nonjudgment, our guides in an insectile anti-labeling initiative.
So often I am quick to judge something good or bad.
Just now I went to strike that sentence, gauging it too trite! As testament to my new commitment to allowing things to be messy and imperfect, I am leaving it there.
Lisa and I talked about this very thing: In my writing, I declared my intent to finish my book while letting go of the need for it to be “perfect, balanced, and comprehensive.” Lisa swept her arm toward the “weedy” labyrinth and said, “Here’s living proof that a project doesn’t have to be perfect—just look at it!”
What I saw: voluptuous plants abuzz with happy pollinators. Abundant living entities in ongoing conversation, all encircling the glorious hibiscus at the center. The idea of perfection doesn’t really apply when we’re partnering with life, does it? So it can be with writing.
I told Lisa that the labyrinth didn’t have to reach some ideal in order to be a marvelous contribution to the community. Uh, hello. Maybe I should write that down and stick it on my computer monitor.
Repeat after me: We don’t have to reach some ideal in order to be a marvelous contribution!
My vision is to give purpose to a vacant lot. Where once stood abandoned houses, there will be a reflection space with a labyrinth and a community art installation.
In June 2013, we brought light to this space on the longest day of the year with a circle gathering and a modified sun salutation series. The children at this gathering helped decorate a stepping stone for the labyrinth entrance.
Since the summer, various people have joined me at this lot on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. We have prepared the ground, moved bricks, unloaded wood, and removed trees. It is enlivening to get in touch with the dirt and have ruddy cheeks from working so hard outside.
Gordon removing an invasive tree.
The transformation from empty lot to Rivoli Park Labyrinth is primarily funded through a community action grant from Peace Learning Center‘sFocus2020 initiative.
The vision of Focus2020 is to create an engaged and inclusive city. I was one of several grant awardees at the beginning of September. The collective effect of these grants will be seen throughout the city over the course of the next year. The Peace Learning Center offers workshops so that more people can become Focus 2020 graduates.
John Ridder of Paxworks: the Labyrinth Shop created the triune focus design of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth. Logo by Susan Williams Boyles.
The Rivoli Park Labyrinth project brings the international labyrinth movement to an urban neighborhood setting. Our space will be listed in theworldwide labyrinth locator, putting the eastside of Indianapolis on the labyrinth map.
To offset the often solitary nature of walking a labyrinth, this project also includes a healthy dose of community celebrations. For example, on May 3, 2014, we will celebrate World Labyrinth Day. And workdays at the site include a potluck to celebrate our growing community.
Aaron, James and the neighborhood cat moving a young tree to make room for the winding path of the labyrinth.
Many partnerships are arising from this effort to give purpose to a vacant lot. One example of that synergy involves the documentation of the upcoming Oct. 10 workday (part of Indy Do Day). AKI EcoCenter videography intern is mentoring another young man that he met through this project. We can’t wait to see their collaborative videography of the workday, when volunteers will place bricks outlining the labyrinth path.
Meanwhile, the soil needs repairing and we plan to use hugelkultur to do it. We’ll mound soil and compost over woody debris and put our plantings on top of that mass. Permaculture designer Katherine Boyles Ogawa says, “Hugelkultur is an ideal method for urban lots where the soils are usually very compacted and often contaminated with heavy metals.”
Permaculture designer Katherine supervises unloading of logs for hugelkultur.
We hope to eventually make the space into a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.
Another goal is to display artwork and illustrated quotes along the fence. Panels would be created by special education students at the nearby public school and the art group at Midtown Community Mental Health Center.
Sarah, a fellow Focus 2020 workshop participant, donating paint for the community art wall.