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When someone draws lines in the sand — walk them


                                                                                                                     — Heather Conn photos

                                Sand mandala creator Les Blydo at Spanish Banks in Vancouver

Walking in someone else’s footsteps, literally, inside a sand labyrinth on a sunny, windy day, is a glorious meditation in nature. I loved it. Recently, I had the opportunity to try this out for the first time at low tide in Spanish Banks in Vancouver, BC.

With each step, my feet touched wavy ridges and ripples of sand, etched by the receding ocean. I walked over open, splayed clam shells, crunchy and purple, and bypassed a discarded crab shell. The footprints of previous walkers had left deep imprints and outlines in the sand and my own feet slid into these shallows. Wind sent my hair into a flurry as I gazed at the gorgeous sea of blue calm, the panoramic stretch of Coast Mountains, freighters, and the city skyline.

Vancouverite Les Blydo, trained in the art of labyrinths by Lauren Artress of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, likes to create 11-circuit sand labyrinths in an expanded version of the same pattern as the indoor one at Grace Cathedral and Chartres in France. He invites the public to walk inside his sand labyrinths for free at two-hour stretches as  an invitation to commune with one’s spirit and senses. Like the outdoor creations of artist Andy Goldworthy, of Rivers and Tides fame, his efforts disappear once the tide comes in.


To draw his circular lines, which form an image roughly 80 feet (24.4 metres) wide, Les uses the end of a hard, wide piece of hollow bamboo; it takes him about an hour and a half to create a sand labyrinth. To keep the width of each circuit fairly uniform (about two feet), he stretches out a piece of pre-measured string. He lines up the opening of the labyrinth with a landmark, such as the tower of the downtown Shangri La Hotel, or a tall buoy at sea.

Les, who works as a psychiatric nurse and maintains the blog Walking a Labyrinth, says he likes to think of a labyrinth as a place to explore “liminal space: a ‘betwixt and between’ place.” I walked his labyrinth two days after co-hosting an indoor labyrinth and SoulCollage workshop with Diana Ng (“The Labyrinth Lady”) at St. Paul’s Church in Vancouver. (See my website Sunshine Coast SoulCollage for more details.) It was wonderful to combine both forms of labyrinth-walking in one weekend. I’ve been a lover of labyrinths for a long time and even got married in an outdoor, 11-circuit one.

Les will be hosting a sand labyrinth at Spanish Banks on May 7 to celebrate World Wide Labyrinth Day, organized by the Labyrinth Society. For more details, see his blog Walking a Labyrinth.

April 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm
  • May 1, 2011 at 6:32 amConstance

    More photos of Heather requested! Your friends in Alberta, C and L

  • April 27, 2011 at 8:40 pmFrank L. McElroy

    The imprint of the walkers is something physically absent from labyrinths made on stone floors or even in roll-up forms. As a path to some level of enlightenment, meditation or just simple release, the labyrinth in the sand captures the experience of each participant, building one upon another, and subtly changing the experience of the next walker. Frank McElroy

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