Intrigued by a short news item I saw that a new labyrinth was being built off the public walking trails at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, I had to go see for myself. “A labyrinth is not a maze,” it stated. So, if not a maze, then what is it?
Located just off the Garden Trail near the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, the labyrinth, a joint project between the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust and the First Parish Church (UCC) in Brunswick, spans a clearing of about 50 feet and is made of cobblestone and natural mulch. It was built in honor of Susan Fitzgerald, a long time member of both the land trust and the First Parish Church.
Though there are a number of styles, the Brunswick labyrinth is a 7-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth. The ancient labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, just southwest of Paris, built around 1200, is one of the most famous labyrinths in the world and serves as a destination for religious pilgrimage.
According to the Labyrinth Society, a group that tracks and studies labyrinths around the world, they are often confused with mazes. But the two are different. A labyrinth has one continuous path, while a maze offers the traveler many choices along the way. A labyrinth has one entrance and exit, while a maze may have many. Mazes can be difficult to navigate, while labyrinths are easy. Mazes are designed to puzzle and confuse; labyrinths encourage mindful relaxation, or religious reflection. Still, it’s easy to understand how the two can be mistaken for one another.
The Labyrinth in the Woods in Brunswick is not the only labyrinth in Maine. There are at least a dozen in public and private places across the state, and hundreds, if not thousands, more across the country and throughout the world. (For a complete list, check out the online Labyrinth Locator. )
Although it is positioned on the edge of a public trail overlooking the community garden and several housing complexes, the Crystal Spring Farm labyrinth feels very private, surrounded by tall pines and having just three natural stone benches at the center.
And, it takes longer to walk than you might think.
If You Go:
The Labyrinth in the Woods is located off Maurice Drive in Brunswick. Plenty of parking is available, near the trail head, located near the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. There is no fee.