Dr. Lori Tate stood at the entrance to the five-circuit labyrinth that she created to help the community find peace and understanding.
Story and Photos
By Michelle McLemore
Unlike the David Bowie movie and the Minotaur’s lair, Dr. Lori Tate’s yard labyrinth in Jackson doesn’t connect random direction choices with dire consequences. Instead, all are welcome to a free, guided path for meditative and mindful observances.
Tate’s home is next to the northern trail entrances to the Dahlia Conservation Center off Wickwire Road. She and an early director had several conversations about creating a labyrinth as part of the meadows on the property. “When he left, I suddenly realized I should design the labyrinth in my own backyard.”
At that point, Tate began gathering field stones along her walks and lugging them back to her home. In 2016 she used a string compass to design an 11-circuit, field-stone-edged grass walk in the medieval style. (Eleven circuits mean 11 turns of the path and spirals back and forth until the walker reaches the center of the design.) “In version 2.0, I expanded the path so I could use a lawn mower to speed up maintenance.”
Tate laughed lightly. “The current labyrinth is open to the public and is version 3.0.” She continued explaining the revision was “a dramatic revision.” She removed all of the stones and reworked them into a five-circuit path widening the walk so a riding lawn mower could be used to maintain the plush grass path.
Baptista and other perennials bloom along the border of a handicap-accessible grass path for all who visit to enjoy.
For path borders, she transitioned to perennials donated, purchased, and transplanted. Wild yarrow, iris, milkweed, allium, lambs ear, and lavender, are on display along with other plants which line the walk promising a continuously changing experience of blooms. June kicks off the bloom season with the center encircling the visitors with daffodils. The variety of plant diversity, textures, colors, and sounds of birds in the nearby tree line and pond add to the experience. “It is an ongoing development process with continued maintenance,” Tate said.
Though labyrinths may be square, oval, circular, and even random shapes, the oldest (between 3000-2000 BCE), according to “The Polyphemus Cave Paintings” by Marguerite Rigoglioso and “Labyrinthos Photo Library” is oval and found in northwest Spain carved on rock and in Sicilian cave paintings. The theory is they may have been traced with one’s finger or eyes. Additional ancient labyrinths have been found on pottery, Roman floor mosaics, coins, the Nazca desert in Peru, and even tablets worldwide.
At some point, Christian institutions began designing them as part of their complexes — either as outside gardens or indoor floor designs. It is believed they were used as a safe, cost-effective alternative to traveling to Holy sites on a full pilgrimage to walk the steps of Jesus or other mystics. The oldest Christian labyrinth is in the Basilica of Resparatus at Orleonsville, Algeria, and is estimated to be from 324 CE. One of the most walked, and most emulated, medieval labyrinths are at Chartres Cathedral in France, dating circa 1205 CE.
As a spiritual director, life coach, and owner of Soul Dig, LLC, Tate enjoys “helping people listen, notice, and discern what it is like hearing the Holy Spirit . . . the labyrinth can be helpful in learning to listen.” Tate continued, “Mornings are the most magical. It’s like the Cat Stevens song.”
The SoulDig labyrinth and others in southeastern Michigan can be found on the Worldwide labyrinth locator at https://labyrinthlocator.com/. There are eight registered labyrinths within a 25-mile radius of Brooklyn and 37 (inside and outside designs) within 50 miles. It is advisable to call before visiting as not all labyrinths are maintained over time.
To visit the Jackson location, Tate requests you call her in advance at 419-345-0592. She welcomes all to walk the path and sit as long as needed at the center bench. Parking is free at the Dahlia Conservation Center. Walk through the dog-friendly butterfly meadow to her home located next door. Where Leo the Tate’s family golden retriever may greet visitors. For more, information visit www.souldig.org.