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.
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.