Without any fanfare, a new labyrinth, made of natural stones, has sprung up in Ashland's railroad district, where it is offered as "a gift to the community" and a place to "center yourself in the big picture that surrounds us."
Created in the tiny, 21-foot-wide front yard of the Ashland Yoga Center at the corner of Fourth and B streets, the labyrinth invites the public to wander a seemingly aimless, stone-lined path to the center, where users have left notes with smiley faces and the word "love."
Only 100 feet from Noble Coffee on Fourth Street, the labyrinth suddenly took shape in the last week or two and is seeing increased use, especially on the weekend, when children seem attracted to it as a place to prance and dance, said Nora Coolridge with the Spirit of Shakti yoga clothing and supply store, which helped sponsored it.
"It's so beautiful to have a labyrinth here," said Coolridge. "I've always loved labyrinths."
She said she enters the circle with the intent of "leaving something behind that's not serving me and exiting by bringing something into my life that does serve me."
The labyrinth joins several others in the Ashland area, including those at Trinity Episcopal Church on Lithia Way in Ashland, Earth Teach Forest Park east of Ashland, Rogue Valley Medical Center and, during the New Year, a temporary one at Unitarian-Universalist Church in Ashland.
Labyrinths are ancient meditative devices that offer only one path going to the center, then the same path back outward. The most popular ones are from ancient Crete and the Chartres Cathedral (Trinity's is the Chartres model) but AYC's appears to be an original, designed and created by Wesley Hoseclaw, a yoga student at AYC.
"I'm a yoga enthusiast and this labyrinth is about creating healing, a place where you can get in touch with your real self, as you do in yoga," said Hoseclaw, who found the rocks for it at Emigrant Lake and aligned them so some rise out of the ground a foot or more.
Walking the labyrinth, said Hoseclaw, can be viewed as a "birthing process that brings yourself in harmony with yourself." He said that, in walking the device, he finds "it's the mind's journey to the heart."
AYC yoga teacher Vanessa Scott called it "very centering, calming. It creates awareness of how you can center yourself in the big picture that surrounds us — the whole, that is greater than me. It's a gift to the community."
Yoga student Bill Exley said, "It's brilliant! When I saw it, I said oh, wow, this is better than perfect! It's so organic, with a sense of grounding and the opportunity for introspection."
Coolridge months ago had a vision of using the unlandscaped front area of the AYC lot for a labyrinth — and it took shape in talks with several people in AYC. Hoseclaw roughed out the design, which divides the space into quarters, and fetched the rocks with his pickup truck.
Walkers end up in a tiny space at the center, with taller rocks around them — a space too rough to stand on very long in bare feet, said Coolridge.
Hoseclaw noted that the center is like the human heart, which also has defenses and it's hard to stay there very long, but, he added, he plans to soften the center by having a Virgin of Guadalupe painted on a tall stone facing visitors at the end of their walks.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.