A Sense of Wonder in the Woods, by Karen Marsh.
It all began with an unsigned document describing a labyrinth that had been assembled from natural materials in our neighborhood woods. I picked it up one day at a business on Ludlow Avenue, and a week later, my kids and I went in search of the labyrinth. (For those local to Cincinnati, go to the lake at Burnet Woods, then start up the road that will lead you to both the gazebo and the upper playground area. Just about 25 yards up the hill, there is a trailhead on your right. You'll know it's the right one if you see artistically arranged piles of rocks on either side of two trees that line the path -- I love that -- a clue...) My four-year-old was eager to lead the way. He had been there once already with my husband, who had seen the map lying on our kitchen counter and was actually the first one to take our kids there. So, my four-year-old was able to lead us right to it. The labyrinth begins with an arch of large branches from which point your feet are guided along a path edged by rocks of all sizes and carefully lined up branches. The path is a lovely meandering one and at points along the way, there are sculptures that are made of large rocks assembled in different formations. Many of the sculptures are bedecked with pretty rocks and shells. Some have a theme, like one that is decorated exclusively with conical shells, all of the same size and color. Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the assemblage, and my son seemed to fall naturally into this task with no prompting. I enjoyed watching him select shells that were in a scattered pile on the ground, clean them off, and arrange them with great precision on a sculpture that had consisted exclusively of bare rock up to that point. My kids also enjoyed leaving behind two sticks and a marble that we had found on our journey to the labyrinth, choosing just the right place for each item. The marble was carefully placed in an open shell, giving the appearance of a black pearl, the sticks joined others that line the path. While we were there, we saw a solo man enjoying the labyrinth, followed by a pair of women. The women and I shared our reactions to the place and agreed that it was special. I think that a lot of the best mothering is done when one follows the energy of one's children -- the labyrinth at Burnet Woods seems to give rise to just that type of energy. And let's remember that this is in Cincinnati, too. Running across something like this in the woods of California might be like going to a nice restaurant and being presented with a lovely, artistically presented entree. Running across something like this in Burnet Woods, in the neighorhood of Clifton, in Cincinnati, Ohio is more like walking into a McDonalds, bellying up to the counter and being informed by an elegant, smiling counter person, "Today, we are offering a selection of homemade soups prepared with ingredients from a local organic garden, and accompanied by wholegrain bread that is still warm from the oven."
To whomever is responsible for the labyrinth being in our woods, I'd like to say thanks for the wonderful afternoon experience. We'll be back.