Thursday, May 04, 2006


Or is that too dignified a name for it? As I was digging up curved pieces of our back lawn, I found myself daydreaming about being asked what I was up to. My answer? "Removing all doubt that I'm insane!"

You might recall my Tai Chi Labyrinth post from last fall, about a labyrinth for meditative walking, with its design based on the Tai Chi symbol. I know, it has nothing to contribute to self-sufficiency, but I just can't let this idea go.

I originally imagined it built on grass, with stone borders outlining the paths. Garth said he didn't want rows of stones all over our yard, and I secretly agreed with him.

Then I thought about painting it onto a floor somewhere, but never quite got up the courage to approach any owners of big empty floors.

I set the idea aside and plodded on through winter. It wasn't much of a winter, in some ways, since there was almost no snow to shovel, but in other ways it was pretty dreary, since there wasn't enough snow to bother getting the skis out. Most of the time I couldn't even use a sled to get the groceries. All in all, the winter did its best to keep me in that dogged waiting-for-spring mood.

Mom dropped off a seed catalog so we could do our garden seed order together. I pulled out my Harrowsmith Northern Gardener and started reading about different styles of garden beds, trying to figure how much extra garden we could cram into our existing plot.

All of a sudden I saw my permanent wide beds bending into arcs. There was my labyrinth. Instead of broad footpaths separated with narrow lines of stones, I saw narrow footpaths winding among broad borders of garden. A fusion of two passions. It had to happen.

I sketched, and I plotted, and I calculated. I worked from both ends: how much garden I would get if I widened my labyrinth borders into garden beds, and how much garden I would need to grow the vegetables I had in mind. To my amazement, the numbers came out in the same range.

My mom told me I couldn't possibly want that many vegetables.

Garth told me I couldn't have the whole yard.

I listen to my mom. Sure, if I want to be self-sufficient, I should grow an even bigger garden than she and Dad do, but it's not wise to try to do it all at once.

I listen to Garth, too, although I don't like to admit it.

So, I asked Mom to pare back the seed order to something reasonable.

I tried to pay attention when Garth talked about neighbours that might lend us some garden space.

I put my sketches away (well, tucked them deeper in one of my paper piles), but still, I pulled them out and looked at them sometimes.

I started some seedlings.

When the snow went off the garden, I wandered around the edges of the muddy plot, pausing to gaze at it, but somehow, my mind refused to picture those orderly straight square-bound beds.

I noticed the grass of the adjacent lawn greening up, noticed where it seemed more lush, wondered what parts of the yard might respond best if converted to garden.

And then I saw the arcs again.

Only this time, the garden was just half of the labyrinth, just the black sweep of the Tai Chi symbol. The white sweep would be lawn, with some kind of subtle outline marking the paths . . . I'd figure that out later.

Garth said okay. In fact, he said something like, "I think you should do it."

Mom, hearing me explain at band practice why my hands were so tired from cutting sod, said she thought it was a good idea to make gardening more interesting. Really? My practical, keep-it-simple mother, endorsing my grand artsy self-indulgent scheme?

James, hearing me talk about the details of the design, asked if there would be a dot of garden in the lawn part, and a dot of lawn in the garden part, like in the Tai Chi symbol. "Yes!" I exclaimed, delighted at his curiosity and insight.

Ruth, watching me digging, wandered back and forth, looking from different angles, and said, "I don't get it. There's a sharp corner here." I explained that it would disappear as I took more sod out. She continued to wander back and forth, asking about other points of confusion, until she caught the gist of the design. I was cutting sod from one part, and using it to fill in a corner of the existing garden plot that would become lawn. To my astonishment, Ruth started helping me dig garden soil into the wheelbarrow to make way for the sod.

This might work.

Laying out the arcs

How much lawn can I take? (Note blue flags farther back in the picture)

Developing . . .


Madcap said...

That's a really impressive project! You've been moving a lot of dirt there, Madame Laura. I'm looking forward to the update pictures as you go.

Ontario Wanderer said...

I admire your youthful energy and love you idea! I just took up a small plot of turf to 1. avoid mowing it as it was so small, and 2. plant two new Witch Hazels shrubs and a large rock and a few flowers. My back and legs are still store.

Re Labyrinth: We have a traditional labyrinth mowed into an old field. It is 1.23 km long by the time one walks to the centre and back out. I am still waiting for a friendly pilot to drop by and photograph it as it is too large to photograph from my ladder.

Our garden project for this spring, for some neighbour children, will be a simple maze made of flowers. It is much smaller: diameter will be about 18 feet (U.S. plans).

CG said...

Can I just say, I LOVE THIS! You go girl.

arcolaura said...

Thanks everyone! I'll keep you posted. Not much happening right now - just the usual busy-ness.

OW: another labyrinth enthusiast! Sometimes this blogging thing is downright spooky.