Friday, December 4, 2015

Living Proof

Living Proof

Yesterday at Rivoli Park Labyrinth, I met up with a riotous party of plants, insects, and birds.
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 during this dry part of the summer when they don’t have many options. Caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves, bees and other insects drink the nectar, and predatory insects, such as the Green Lacewing, come to Queen Anne’s Lace to attack prey, such as aphids" according to Chiot's Run. (Click photo for more.)
“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.
Friendly pollinator
Friendly pollinator
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!

Vacant Lot Becomes Community Space

Vacant Lot Becomes Community Space

Originally posted on
Guest post by Lisa Boyles
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.
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 a new place to make room for the labyrinth.
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.
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 donating paint for the community art wall
Sarah, a fellow Focus 2020 workshop participant, donating paint for the community art wall.
The community art aspect of the project is being funded through this crowdsourcing site.
We would love to have you join us in celebrating a year of this project coming into being on the summer solstice, June 21, 2014.
Like the Rivoli Park Labyrinth Indianapolis Facebook page to see project news. Join the Rivoli Park Labyrinth community group to collaborate with others and be invited to the annual celebration. We will post monthly featurettes and more detailed updates on our blog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Successful Service Day at Rivoli Park Labyrinth

On April 12th, 2014 a fine group of volunteers from Pro(Act) Community Partnerships, Inc assembled to devote their Saturday to service at the Rivoli Park Labyrinth on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. You can view more photos of our workday at

The mission of Pro(Act) is to activate and equip youth for service.  Through weekly service projects these youth learn values such as integrity, humility and confidence. We saw many young leaders emerge from the crews that worked on the landscaping needs at the Rivoli Park Labyrinth this weekend.
The plan is to plant bushes that attract butterflies on these berms that the youth helped to create. The mulch that is being laid down in the labyrinth path will make the path more welcoming to visitors.  All the work that was done by the forty some volunteers on Saturday prepared the way for our upcoming event to commemorate World Labyrinth Day. On May 3rd at 1 o'clock we hope that you will join us in walking the Rivoli Park Labyrinth. You are also invited to stay and view the community art installation and participate in an art activity as well.

This awesome day of service was an outgrowth of the friendships that have come into being because of the Focus 2020 initiative of the Peace Learning Center. Derrin Slack and Ed Stites were leaders of the volunteer crew during our day of service.

Derrin as executive director of Pro(Act) and Ed Stites as the director of community outreach at Recycle Force also received community action grants through Focus 2020.  Partnerships supporting each other's respective missions, such as this service day, among the Focus 2020 grantee cohort have assisted in making Indianapolis a more engaged city. Follow this link to learn more about how you can be a part of the community action that is happening because of Focus 2020.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

By the end of March, twenty-one wood panels, decorated by artists throughout the community, will be ready to be installed on this fence that stands by the Rivoli Park Labyrinth.
The community art installation will be hung for public viewing year round.  I am so grateful to all the artists who have contributed their talents towards beautifying this outdoor labyrinth space.  I prepared the panels so that they would co-ordinate no matter how uniquely the artists chose to decorate them.  The circles suggest the outer edge of the labyrinth itself and facilitated the use of natural curves.  Some artists have even created mandalas in the circle provided.

Several of the artists go to the nearby elementary school, Brookside.  Here is a student working intently on finishing her panel. 
Another group of adult artists that contributed their artistic talents participate in a community art class.  Here is our teacher, Chris Tower, working on creating a panel for the art installation as well.
Several more individual artists are completing panels to be ready for installation. Most of the artists are using nature as their inspiration to interpret the words community, reflection, and peace. The Rivoli Park Labyrinth strives to be a place of peace and reflection in the community.  Some artists are basing their painting on a thoughtful quote. My picture below is a waterfall with a rainbow emanating from it to depict the word renewal.
I have posted more photos of the completed panels on the Rivoli Park Labyrinth Indianapolis public Facebook page,  The best way to see them all is to come to the community art installation opening on World Labyrinth Day, May 3rd, 2014.  We will have a facilitated walk of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth at 1 pm and the opening right after the walk.  The purpose of World Labyrinth Day, which happens every year on the first Saturday of May, is to have people around the world walk their labyrinth at the same time in a gesture of unity.  If you would like to join us, please contact me at


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I have been waiting to write my second blog post until I could say that the labyrinth was finished, but then I realized, it will never really be finished. There will always been new plants to plant or a focus point altar to be updated and people to invite to join in the community. Here is a picture of the stepping stone that was placed at the entrance of the labyrinth. It was made by children at a gathering in the space this past summer solstice. We did have a dedication of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth on October 10th, 2013. As part of Indy Do Day, more than a dozen people helped place bricks to mark the outline of the path. Fox 59 filmed the installation live on the 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock news as part of their coverage of service projects going on throughout the city. Tim Nation, leader of the Peace Learning Center and the Focus 2020 initiative that funded this project, joined us as we walked the path when it was just marked out with white paint on the dirt. Neighbors, family, and volunteers from the group, Evolver Indianapolis, were part of the crew that participated in the installation. The path of the labyrinth is a focus triune design created by John E. Ridder of Paxworks: the Labyrinth Shop . Dhyana Raynor and Katherine Ogawa Boyles marked out design, which was slightly altered to allow for circles of plants to be part of the labyrinth layout. Dhyana wrote the first entry in the log book for the labyrinth about finding the center of the path. To date nearly thirty people have walked the labyrinth and left a comment in the log book. They have spoken of the peace and beauty of the labyrinth and listed personal insights that they gained from their walk. Often illumination comes when one is at the center of a labyrinth. We installed a boulder at the center that can be used for sitting and contemplating. Work on the labyrinth continues. Mounds, known as berms in landscaping, are being created around the labyrinth using the hugelkultur technique that is popular in permaculture circles. We will plant native Indiana wildflower seeds in the labyrinth design right after we have a hard freeze. Another aspect of the project that is getting underway is the community art that will be installed in the space. Some money has been raised and been used to purchase the boards that we will be decorating. Two groups have been confirmed to create pieces to be displayed on the fence next to the labyrinth. Students in a self-contained classroom at School #54, which is less than a mile away, are going to create art and participants in a art group at Midtown Community Mental Health Center are going to lend their skills to the project as well. You can learn more at this crowdsourcing website, It has been fun distributing thank you gifts of key chains, t-shirts and even original art to people who have donated. A supporter, modeling her new t-shirt before she walked the labyrinth. We plan to have a celebration in the space on World Labyrinth Day, which will be May 3rd, 2014 at 1 pm with twenty-one decorated panels installed on the fence for viewing. You can receive more updates by liking the Rivoli Park Labyrinth Indianapolis public page,  Please do subscribe to the blog in the upper right hand corner of the page if you want to keep up with digest updates of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth project posted roughly once a season. I also wrote a guest blog post for Shawndra Miller, who is researching community resilience, at the beginning of October. I encourage you to read that post here. Thank you so much for being a part of the Rivoli Park Labyrinth community.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A year ago it was just a dream. Now it is becoming a reality.

In the summer of 2012 I learned that the vacant lot next to my house would be up for sale. I knew that I wanted to find a way to become more deeply rooted in my neighborhood. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to be out and about in the community...which means I don't spend much time at home. Taking on this labyrinth project would mean that I could do service for the wider community while working on my own yard. Why a labyrinth? The unicursal path of a labyrinth provides one way in and one way out.  It is a way to loose yourself without getting lost.  I promise to write more about the labyrinth movement and this meditational tool in a future post. I have walked labyrinths at different times in my life in different places and I have found it to be a way to mark passages and gather insights and I wanted to share that with others. Mainly I thought it would be an excellent way to give purpose to an empty space. I met Sarah at a workshop through the Focus 2020 initiative of the Peace Learning Center in Indianapolis. She was the first one to embrace the vision that I had for the space. She helped organize a volunteer crew and get supplies to paint the fence along the side of the property. She is going into the Peace Corps in Madagascar and donated more paint for the community art aspect of the labyrinth project this weekend. Doesn't she just look lovely carrying paint cans in her going away party dress? She said that what she would want depicted on the reflection wall was the phrase, "Joy in the Journey". Originally, the name of the project was going to be Ananda Labyrinth. I have always connected with that universal joy that lets the stars shine, but upon reflection I realized that some people would be walking the labyrinth in times of loss or transition, so naming the labyrinth in such a way might limit the use of the space to only joyful times. I do love a celebration, though. Even as three men worked on shoveling dirt, I kept spirits high as I sang "I've been workin' on the labyrinth all the live long day. I've been workin' on the labyrinth just to pass the time away." And I have already planned for the annual celebration on the summer solstice on June 21, 2014 at 6 pm.  We are going to have a picnic dinner potluck.  If you join the Rivoli Park Labyrinth Community page on Facebook, you will get an invite to that celebration. I will be celebrating tomorrow at the awards ceremony for the Focus 2020 Community Action Grants. Part of the reason I received one of these grants is because of the partnerships I have formed in the community. The express yourself rain barrel that I ordered from the local social enterprise, KI Eco Center, is one example of those partnerships. I will write more about the partnerships I am forming to have community art as part of this project in a future post. But really, this project would still be an idea in my head without the help of my family. My sister, Katherine Ogawa, has put in hours on the landscape design using her background in permaculture. My mother, Susan Williams Boyles, an accomplished artist, designed the logo which is being put to use to brand the project and create items to give as thank you gifts to supporters. My brother, Geoffrey Boyles, is providing practical support and craftsmanship skills. That man wielding a tool next to a straw bale is my Dad, Gordon, just before he cut down an invasive tree in the lot. Boy, can he swing an ax! The straw will be put to use in reconditioning the soil in lot soon. If you would like to support this effort as well be sure to follow on Twitter @RPLabytinth or like Rivoli Park Labyrinth Indianapolis on Facebook, I launched a GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraising campaign to fund the community art aspect of the project. You can support the project through the website There is more information about the community art project there as well. Thanks for taking the time to learn more about this community asset in the making.