Parkrose Labyrinth: Connecting community with high school

When it is finished, creators of Parkrose Labyrinth hope neighbors will come, and get lost‚ in thought!‚ as they walk the serpentine path. See the dedication and groundbreaking ceremony right here‚

With shovels in hand, ready to break the ground for the Parkrose Labyrinth are Dominique Blanchard, Kerina Blanchard, Michael Schilling, Sterling Arkills, Isaac Song and Elizabeth Walker.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For as long as anyone can remember, the lawn in the far southwest corner of Parkrose High School’s property has been inaccessible. A galvanized steel cyclone fence has been the dividing line between the neighborhood and the school.

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Parkrose Labyrinth a couple of weeks ago, we talked with high school principal Roy Reynolds.

Parkrose High students, faculty and community members gather for a brief but poignant dedication ceremony for the new Parkrose Labyrinth.

“It is important that we’re connecting with the community by doing all kinds of projects all over the school and grounds. Each of these projects‚ like this one‚ has a way of growing, creating stronger community bonds throughout the school.”

Because the labyrinth will be a highly visible project, Reynolds said he hopes to see members of the community using it. “This is a space for thinking, meditating, and hopefully creating further connections between themselves and the school.”

Sharon DeWitt, the Parkrose High staff member who proposed the project, Dominique Blanchard, and Isaac Song share their thoughts about the new Parkrose Labyrinth at the dedication ceremony.

Parkrose High School student Isaac Song performed as the master of ceremonies, welcoming the guests to the dedication ceremony on April 21.

Another student, Dominique Blanchard, read a poem by Cesar Pina entitled “Direction“:

We see or view the word “direction” as a place on a map or a navigational device, when in fact, it is much more.
A “direction” is the will to carry on, proceed, overcome the obstacles that exist between one’s goal.
The path to one’s goal may seem tricky, curvy, swirly; yet determination is what drives us to the center of our destination.
A direction may be, in fact, four points: Whether the points be cardinal, symbolical, or spiritual‚ it really doesn’t matter.
If there is something about the word “direction” that all of us can agree with, it is this: No matter what path you take, no matter how hard it may be, no matter the challenges‚ you will eventually find yourself reflecting on the path taken, in the very end.

The school’s groundskeeper, Sharon DeWitt proposed the labyrinth.

“The labyrinth is an ancient symbol,” DeWitt told the group. “The oldest examples are found in art, dating back 3000 years. They are found in all cultures and religions, and in locations all over the world. It is a winding path that moves back and fourth into the center. Path labyrinths can be seen as a journey of life. We all enter at the same way, travel through time, and our lives take twists and turns. In the past ten years, labyrinths have increased in popularity in schools, hospitals, churches, prisons, retreat centers, and parks. When our labyrinth is completed, we will register it with the Labyrinth Society.”

DeWitt continued, “We have a really busy chaotic life. No one seems to know how to take time to be quiet. By having this labyrinth here, people can come and take a few minutes for themselves.”

Parkrose Neighborhood Chair Marcy Emerson-Peters, grant committee and school board member Alicia Reece and East Portland Neighborhood Office administrator Richard Bixby participate in the dedication.

“I’m here as the chair of the East Portland Parks Coalition, a member of East Portland Neighborhood Grant Selection Committee which approved the grant for this project,” said Alicia Reece. “The contemplative nature of this site is important, because it gives both students and members of the community the opportunity to gather and be together.”

Parkrose Neighborhood Association chair Marcy Emerson-Peters commented, “This project is the realization of a vision. And, here in Parkrose, we’re creating a vision for our community. Here, neighbors will be able to do cloud-watching, think, and play.”

Given the word to begin, the young people dig in, breaking the ground for this groundbreaking Parkrose Project.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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