Life around the University can be hectic. It’s a big campus and lots of things to do. So, a quiet moment or two of reflection can come in handy. Yes, the University has that, too.
In the heart of the campus, a short spin around the M circle off the south entrance, then a left off the circle, a few blocks, then a right turn and you’ve arrived at the University’s interfaith garden and labyrinth and Memorial Chapel. The garden is the product of the Student Affairs department and the campus interfaith community. It was designed by students in the UMCP landscape architecture program. Unfortunately, the stimulus came from the September 11 terrorist attacks and the massacre at Virginia Tech.
The Garden of Reflection and Remembrance is the place to go for respite, contemplation, healing, and tranquility. The Student Affairs office programs multicultural opportunities for this location. It was designed to be a “place free from everyday demands, like clogged commuter routes and stressful schedules.” Open Spaces Sacred Places Foundation awarded the Chapel a $200,000 grant in the spring of 2007, to create the garden on the south side of the Chapel. It was completed in 2010.
Included in this area are a labyrinth to walk and think (or not), benches to sit still, water features, and journals so visitors can express their thoughts. Wellness guru Edie Anderson of the University’s Health Center has led walks and meditation at the labyrinth.
The labyrinth here is considered Medieval or Chartres/cathedral or eleven-path/circuit in its design. This pattern was created during the ninth and tenth centuries and combines the eleven circuits with a four-fold symmetry of Roman design. It would become common in manuscripts and church decorations in Italy. It then spread to Rome and soon became popular throughout southern and western Europe. Numerous variations have been employed including circular, square, and polygonal shapes. Some may have more or fewer circuits and different ways to connect the paths. Often, it’s merely a way to fit the space available.
There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. The theory is that you focus on the path that leads in and then leads out, with no decisions to make as if you had to decide to turn right or left. This lets your mind relax and focus on the pleasure of walking the path.
Catherine Kapikian created the Tree of Life artwork that represents a “respect for the diversity of different religions. The work is a model for a larger project in needlework that is a centerpiece of this Chapel.”
The labyrinth is always open, but is not lit at night.