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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Labyrinth offers multiple meanings for Kailua residents

• Mazes have lengthy history

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Religion and Ethics Writer

The labyrinth consists of 11 concentric circles and 28 180-degree turns. People consider the project everything from an exercise marker to a work of art.

Photos by Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

In the morning dew, the rocks of Estelle Codier's labyrinth glisten like just-licked lollipops.

But this isn't just eye candy along the jogging path of Kawainui Marsh. Here, Codier and a friend lovingly shaped an elaborate pattern in the gravel, modeling their four-month-old labyrinth after the one on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France.

With 11 concentric circles and 28 180-degree turns, this represents to Codier a metaphor of life: Sometimes you head toward the center, sometimes you turn away.

To her, the ancient labyrinth is a meditative tool, one she used when coping with the deaths of her mother, and more recently, her father.

Like a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting, Codier's art is transitory and eventually will give way to the elements. But those same elements seem to be in league with her, so far.

A few weeks after Sept. 11, when Codier and Beth Davidaan took their "liturgical instruments" (that's what they laughingly call their hoes) and started to rearrange the gravel at a truck turnaround along the path, the rocks seemed to naturally fall away, Codier recalled.

It was as if the land was embracing its destiny.

"It was just chicken skin-y," she said, softly. "It really was."

Passers-by don't often attribute spiritual significance to the 30-plus-foot circle of rocks. They may walk the "maze" as part of their exercise regimen, use it as a marker for their run or simply enjoy it as a work of art.

Some aren't sure what it is. One person asked Codier if aliens had left it.

"It's one of the wonders of Kailua," said Rob Borofsky, a Hawai'i Pacific University professor of anthropology, out one morning with his wife and daughter.

It takes Borofsky about 30 minutes to walk the labyrinth. Others take it even more slowly.

Borofsky said he was out for a walk one day when an official-looking truck passed. The driver was about to use the labyrinth to turn around. Borofsky asked the driver to not disturb the pattern, explaining it was important to people who walk the marsh.

The driver thought for a moment, then backed his truck all the way to the entrance, leaving the pattern intact.

Will state officials turn a benevolent eye toward the creation? They manage the marsh, after all.

After consulting with state lawyers, the Department of Land and Natural Resources aims to be "practical and even-handed," said Gil Agaran, chairman of the state Land Board.

"Our public parks are for the use of everyone," he said. "As long as we don't have any complaints or concerns raised by other people about the use of the property, we probably wouldn't have a problem with it. If it becomes overtly religious, then we need to uphold the law."

Is a labyrinth necessarily religious?

"That's always a question," Agaran said. "If someone puts up a cross, people consider that overtly religious. I don't think people consider a labyrinth overtly religious, necessarily. ..."

But one state official suggested that the officially designated use of the turnaround should not be impeded.

"Just as a general statement," said Yvonne Izu, a deputy attorney general who said she has not viewed the labyrinth, "in any situation like this, the department will have to look at where to draw the line."

Codier didn't get a permit or look into state regulations.

"It's easier asking forgiveness than permission," she said.

"The rocks seemed to naturally fall away" when the labyrinth was built, Estelle Codier said.
As a sand castle gives way to ocean, so the labyrinth will one day surrender to the elements. That's why Rep. David Pendleton, R-50th (Maunawili, Enchanted Lake), a lawyer and Seventh-day Adventist minister whose district includes the marsh, said he "personally would have no problem with it."

"The land is something for us to enjoy and express ourselves with," Pendleton said. "I think the analogy to a sand castle is a good one. I hope DLNR draws a distinction between that and someone who (paints) graffiti on a rock."

It's about contemplation for Codier, "not about spreading a doctrine," she said.

Codier learned about labyrinths in San Francisco before she and her husband moved to Hawai'i. Then in the summer of 1997, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and her mother died within a week of one another.

Soon after, with her husband off on a business trip, she found herself at work on the garage floor with duct tape. Her first labyrinth was born.

This one won't be Codier's last.

Sometimes, she sees dog-paw scuff marks through it. Other times, bicycle tracks disrupt the rock patterns. And if someday Codier does come out to the marsh and finds her labyrinth bulldozed, she'll probably rebuild.

"But not as a rebel thing," she said, adding she doesn't want to get into a power struggle with the state. "It's just wonderful to have a labyrinth in my life."

• • •

Mazes have lengthy history

Labyrinths are often assumed to be religious symbols. They predate Christianity: The practice of making them goes back at least 4,000 years.

The origins of the labyrinth have been lost in antiquity. The structure was described in mythology as the one in which King Minos of Crete imprisoned the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull. However the word labyrinth is believed to predate the Greeks, too.

Today, many denominations claim the geometric pattern as their own, using the "sacred labyrinth" as the footpath for prayer walks. Veriditas, a project that registers and identifies labyrinths worldwide, was created by the Rev. Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Estelle Codier, who traced the Kailua labyrinth from gravel, says purists would shudder when they see how she deviated from the "sacred labyrinth" design: She didn't make a "rose" in the center; she didn't use the four compass directions (choosing instead to orient the labyrinth's entrance toward the path). Nor did she add the points ("lunation cusps and foils," in labyrinth lingo), which are supposed to conform to the compass directions.

There are at least six "sacred"-style labyrinths in Hawai'i. On O'ahu, Honey Becker created a 30-foot canvas, portable labyrinth at St. Andrew's Cathedral as part of the Labyrinth Project. Also, Dr. Neal Pinckney of the Healing Heart Foundation has one, painted on concrete, in Makaha.

— Mary Kaye Ritz