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Venture into a labyrinth and find yourself

A purposeful walk through any of the many sites in Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England is an exercise in mindfulness, author says

Sacred Labyrinth at Turning Point on Block Island.
Sacred Labyrinth at Turning Point on Block Island.Bill Ludwig

If there is a perfect season for walking labyrinths in Rhode Island, this would likely be it. A free outside activity close to home that invites meditation sounds like an antidote for living under the cloud of COVID-19.

“The timing is fortunate in that labyrinth walking is a safe and relaxing activity not too far from home,” said Bill Ludwig, author of the newly released “Chasing Labyrinths: A Field Guide to Labyrinths of Connecticut and Rhode Island” (Hotchkiss Publishing, $16.95). The book details 65 labyrinths open to visitors, most in Connecticut but many in Rhode Island. Each listing features visitation information and back stories, as well as an aerial color photo taken by Ludwig using a drone.

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The book cover.
The book cover.Handout

Ludwig, who lives in Branford, Conn., a coastal town near New Haven, first happened upon a photograph of a beachside labyrinth when he was searching for images for a cover of a book he was publishing on weekly meditations.

He learned that labyrinths, based on ancient patterns, gently lead one down a twisty, turning path to an end, unlike mazes, which are filled with dead ends and disorienting angles.

“A maze keeps you from finding the center, while a labyrinth is designed to help you find your center,” he said.

Author Bill Ludwig has walked dozens of labyrinths, which he says contributes to mindfulness.
Author Bill Ludwig has walked dozens of labyrinths, which he says contributes to mindfulness.Bill Ludwig

Through the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator, Ludwig was excited to spot one in his birthplace of Woodbridge, Conn., at First Church of Christ. On Jan. 1, 2017, he walked his first labyrinth, with dozens more to follow.

“I’d recently started learning more about mindfulness and moving meditation,” said Ludwig, 71. “I like the fact that the labyrinth makes you focus on where you’re walking, and the repetition really creates a mindfulness situation.”

He also thought that labyrinth hunting, and eventually documenting, would be a fun way to experience regional travel.

Many of the labyrinths in both states are affiliated with churches, while others were built as Eagle Scout projects or privately. They contain all manners of surface, including grass, gravel, and stone.

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Constructing the annual Goose Feather Labyrinth at Norwalk Community College in fall 2018.
Constructing the annual Goose Feather Labyrinth at Norwalk Community College in fall 2018.Bill Ludwig

One of Ludwig’s favorites, at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut, is rebuilt yearly. The annual Goose Feather Labyrinth, designed and constructed by professor Renae Edge and volunteers, contains around 1,000 primary wing feathers that have been molted by Canada geese.

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In Rhode Island, the Sacred Labyrinth at Turning Point on Block Island is a standout for its spectacular view and impressive construction, he said. The popular destination features a medieval design with 11 circuits. It overlooks New Harbor and Block Island Sound.

Here are some other Rhode Island labyrinths listed by the World-Wide Labyrinth Locater. Call ahead:

Cumberland

St. John Vianney Church, 3655 Diamond Hill Road, 401-333-6060: “This 62-foot labyrinth with 3-foot paths was the Eagle project of Nicholas Carlucci. Built with his Scout troop and parents, this Spirit-filled labyrinth is a powerful prayer tool! Playground mulch with rock outlined medians.”

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 120 Nate Whipple Highway, 401-658-1506: “Chalice-style 7 circuit labyrinth, rock garden.”

Greene

Horn and Cauldron Church of the Earth, 28 Greenhouse Road, 401-575-6809: Located on private farm land. “Natural outdoor earth and stone labyrinth.”

Hope

Shepherd of the Valley United Methodist Church, 604 Seven Mile Road, 401-821-8217: “It is a seven-circuit classical labyrinth large enough to serve a group of up to 25 comfortably.”

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Matunuck

Matunuck Labyrinth, 401-284-0126: “A circular Cretan labyrinth with a left entry, facing north enclosed by a 100-foot wysteria arbor. Labyrinth is constructed of stone and wood mulch. The middle of the labyrinth has a statue of a Creten woman (Ariadne) as well as large stone bench for meditation and reflection. Torches surround the labyrinth and are within the arbor for night journeys. Please call for appointment.”

Middletown

Calvary United Methodist Church, 200 Turner Road, 401-847-6181: “It is based on the classical 3-circuit labyrinth from the island of Crete, gravel and bluestone.”

Narragansett

St. Peter’s by the Sea, 72 Central St., 401-783-4623: “Medieval, 3-circuit.”

Providence

Central Congregational, United Church of Christ, 296 Angell St., 401-331-1960: “Medieval, Chartres design, painted concrete.”

The Pavilion at Grace, 300 Westminster St., 401-331-3225: “Medieval square, 5-circuit, stone tiles.”

Church of the Redeemer, 655 Hope St., 401-331-0678: “Medieval 4-ring adapted from Chartres pattern, brick/paver and grass.”

Saunderstown

SunRose Farm, 495 Gilbert Stuart Road, 401-295-4070: “Classical 7-circuit, outdoor grass.”

South Kingstown

Fagan Park, Dam Street: “Medieval 5-circuit, stone dust.”

Warwick

Pilgrim Lutheran Church, 1817 Warwick Ave., 401-739-2937: “Medieval; cobbles and compacted stone dust.”

West Greenwich

The Farm Labyrinth, 80 Division Road: “Medieval Chartres replica, build by the family who owned the farm before the state took the land.”

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Ludwig hopes to write a standalone guide on the more than 100 labyrinths in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, he recommends the one in Armenian Heritage Park on the Greenway in Boston because “it’s huge and beautiful, and even has a fountain in the middle.”

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Diane Daniel can be reached at diane@bydianedaniel.com