GTPulse: Clear Your Mind With This Traverse City Labyrith

Dr. James Decker Munson believed that ‘beauty is therapy’ and used this philosophy to treat his patients. What used to be the farm that connected to the state hospital is now Historic Barns Park and I can’t help but think that about how pleased Dr. Munson would be with the beauty that continues to grow at Barns Park. With nine different themed gardens, a winding fairy trail in the woods, and beautifully restored historic granary and barn buildings, it’s an easy way to spend a nice day outside, and it just got easier. The newest addition to the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is a labyrinth made to clear your mind and melt your stress away.

When I think of labyrinths I think of the one from Alice in Wonderland. In it, the edges are raised walls of shrubbery, making it difficult to get through. The more I think about it the more I think it was a maze and not a labyrinth. What’s the difference? A maze has different turns you can take, like a choose your own adventure novel. Cornfield mazes from Halloweens past have proven to not be the most leisurely experience for me. I can handle about an hour of being lost in a field on a cold fall night, anything more becomes exasperating. A labyrinth is exactly the opposite. Instead of multiple paths there is only one to follow. We’re tasked with making decisions throughout each day and a labyrinth is meant to be a welcome break from thought. Having one built for the Botanic Gardens has been exciting for all of the volunteer staff, including Karen Scmidt.

The $450,000 project was funded by an anonymous donor. The project began last April and was completed in March. The labyrinth is apart of a larger, healing garden that is meant to be as beautiful as it is soothing.

“We really wanted to focus on the mission of health and healing. A lot of the classes and workshops we do are on health and healing. Walking a labyrinth has a lot of physical and emotional healing benefits. It lowers your blood pressure, it helps with insomnia, and also improves cognitive skills that help with brainstorming and problem solving. So we thought this would be the perfect thing to have in a healing garde.”

The project is halfway done, with the labyrinth being the first of three parts. The second part is a Native American Medicine Wheel, something they’re working on with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. A Medicine Wheel is used for health and healing, and to represent the connectedness of everything in life.

“The Ottawa and Chippewa Band is working with us so that it is authentic. It’s a representation of all of the components of life to show that life is a circle. For example, birth, childhood, adulthood, death. Spring, summer, winter, fall. Morning, noon, evening, night. It’s used as a teaching tool that they use with children to teach them their culture. Surrounding it and within it will be all plants that they traditionally use for medicine.”

The labyrinth is surrounded by gingko biloba trees and other herbs like echinacea, lady’s mantle, and others. 

“Gingoks are a plant that people use for memory and cognitive skills. The achillea has been traditionally used to treat wounds. The echinacea, the cone flower, ,you can find it over the counter to help fight infections and colds. We’re putting in a whole series of red twig dogwood this week. We’ve got 30 of them in this week, and that will go around too because the bark is medicinal.”

The plants chosen were carefully selected by the herbalist at Historic Barns Park, and by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Although they’re consumable in teas, tinctures and other edible goods, the plants at the healing garden are meant to be symbolic and beautiful only.

All of the plants, trees and herbs surrounding the labyrinth will be red at some point in the year. This was intentionally chosen so that there will always be red around the labyrinth four seasons a year to represent the red spires from the state hospital. The red spire is also represented through the red tips around the rosette in the center of the labyrinth.

Center yourself there next time you’re on a walk or hike, or maybe the next time you’re just looking for quiet contemplation.


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Categories: GTPulse