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Gently Green

Walking the Labyrinth

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Labyrinths have been used for hundreds of years as a means of meditation, introspection and spiritual guidance. First appearing in mythology, in the story of Daedalus and the Minotaur, today you will find labyrinths in church and school yards, gardens, and in both public and private buildings. They are a means of finding balance in life, providing stress relief as well as a link to the past. In gardens, they are a beautiful, geometric arrangement that is soothing to both the mind and the senses.

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Part of living a healthy, holistic life is self-care on an emotional and spiritual level. If you live in a healthy home built on the latest sustainable principles, choose organic foods and exercise, yet don’t have a way to de-stress on a regular basis, you may find yourself still struggling to find balance. I have a busy, active life that demands I take good care of myself to maintain the energy to meet the demands of my daily schedule. When I had my garden designed, I added a labyrinth in the back yard. Whether walking its circuitous path or simply catching a glimpse of it from my kitchen window, I am soothed by its graceful spirals etched in the lawn, similar to the labyrinth shown below.

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Research by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard University has found that walking meditations are highly effective at reducing anxiety, blood pressure, and insomnia, invoking what he called the “relaxation response.” Labyrinth walking is a highly focused form of walking meditation. and is thought to enhance creativity by enhancing right brain activity.

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photograph from Pinterest

A labyrinth is simply a formalized spiral, evoked as a sacred form throughout the ages, and found in nature repeatedly through the Fibonacci sequence. I’ve written about the Golden Mean and the prevalence of spirals in nature and art before; you can read more about it here. One of the many natural spirals in my personal collection is the ammonite fossil, itself a labyrinth.

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Interior design incorporates the idea of the labyrinth in patterns, particularly one known as the Greek Key. The Greek Key is an endlessly running “meander,” a decorative border formed by one continuous line.

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You can lay a path for walking a labyrinth in your own garden, if you have the space and if the idea appeals to you. There are companies that provide templates or even weed and grass smothering cloth to help you in the task. One is The Labyrinth Company, which provides pre-shaped landscape fabric that you cover with stone, river rock, gravel or pavers.

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Once you begin exploring the mystery of spirals in nature, you’ll find that you see labyrinths everywhere you turn. The curves in the petals of a rose, the roll of the surf and the spiny center of a coneflower are all labyrinths leading you deep into the heart of life. A walk through a man-made labyrinth is simply another way to experience it.

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To read further, a book you may enjoy is Labyrinths: The Art of the Maze.

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Please Join Me

Bring the Look Home with Coastal Living!

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Used with permission by Coastal Living Magazine; Photo by Ozerov Alexander

We’re in the Summer Issue of Coastal Living Magazine!

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According to the July/August 2014 issue of Coastal Living Magazine, the Union Street Inn on Nantucket is one of the most friendly and refined of all the B&B’s on the island. I would wholeheartedly agree, as Dujardin Design had the privilege of working with innkeepers Ken and Deborah Withrow to create an updated and elegant look that is still quintessential Nantucket. Our five-phase design of the inn began more than 12 years ago, and was completed by redoing every room and common area in time for guests arriving in Spring 2013.

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As Coastal Living says: “Housed in a 1770s whaling captain’s home minutes from Nantucket’s humming wharves, this intimate inn embraces a crisp, modern look created by Dujardin Design Associates–there are no doilies here.”

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“Its gently sloping hallways and narrow doorways lead to 12 guest rooms dressed in broad-striped wallpapers and richly patterned fabrics in a quartet of colors–pale yellow, nautical blue, sea glass green, and deep crimson. The shell white Frette linens and Matouk duvets on the beds make the rooms at Union Street feel like especially comfy havens.”

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“Guests linger over the library nook’s seafaring titles.”

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“In the sunny common rooms, oak pedestal breakfast tables are set for cooked-to-order breakfasts…”

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“…while a sleek settee and chairs are clustered around an antique chest in a corner made for coffee and easy conversation.”

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You won’t regret a stay in an inn named “one of the ten most romantic hotels in the U.S.” by Fodor’s. In the meantime, check out the The Summer Issue of Coastal Living!

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All Union Street Inn Photography by Jeffrey Allen

What I Love

Three Lighthouses

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There is magic and mystery in lighthouses, beacons of safety for hundreds of years for sailors and ships at sea. There is only one manned lighthouse left in the United States today, the very first lighthouse ever built on U.S. soil: Boston Light on Little Brewster Island, established in 1716. We are fortunate to have 680 lighthouses remaining in the U.S. today, though, three of which are located on Nantucket: Brant Point Light, Great Point Light, and Sankaty Head Light.

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Boston Light on Little Brewster Island

The very first “lighthouses” were simply bonfires built on hills to guide ships away from dangerous coastlines, with the first known structure appearing in the old city of Alexandria in 285 B.C.E. Julius Caesar described the light, also known as the “Pharos,” as a key part of his strategic advantage in subduing Ptolemy’s armies. The Pharos was one of the tallest manmade structures on earth for centuries, and was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It became an abandoned ruin after being damaged by three earthquakes between 956 and 1323. In 1480, the last of its remnant stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay on the site.

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Mosaic of the Alexandria Lighthouse. Photo in public domain.

Nantucket’s lighthouses have a long and storied history as well. The most photographed and recognizable Nantucket light is Brant Point Light, seen by every visitor to the island as the ferry rounds Brant Point on its way to the island. The original Brant Point Light was a simple wooden building established in 1746. After it burned to the ground in 1757, it was replaced with a new wooden structure in 1758. That one fell to  “a violent Gust of Wind” and began a succession of lighthouses which either burned or were destroyed by storms.

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Brant Point Light: Photo by David Fingerhut

The existing Brant Point Light was erected in 1901 as a 26 foot wooden tower, the shortest lighthouse in New England. The Coast Guard took over the property in 1939, when the last lighthouse keeper left.

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Brant Point Light: Photo by David Fingerhut

A second lighthouse was added on Nantucket in 1785: Great Point Light. Sadly, the original wooden tower was destroyed by fire in 1816. Rebuilt in 1818, erosion claimed the second lighthouse in 1984, due to a brutal storm with gale force winds.

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Great Point Light: Photo by David Fingerhut

On September 6, 1986, a replica was lit, three hundreds yards west of the previous tower.  You must have a four wheel drive vehicle and a permit to visit the light, seven miles from Wauwinet. It is part of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

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Great Point Light: Photo by David Fingerhut

The last lighthouse built on Nantucket is Sankaty Head Light.  As the first U.S. lighthouse to receive a “Fresnel lens,” it was the most powerful light in New England when it was built in 1849. Local fishermen referred to it as “the blazing star,” and it was visible from 20 miles away. The Fresnel lens was replaced by aerobeacons in 1950, but the original lens is on display at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.

Erosion came close to claiming the Sankaty Head Light in 2006, when the tower stood only 79 feet from the edge of a cliff which was losing a foot a year to the sea. The tower was moved 400 feet to a new location, where it safely stands today.

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Sankaty Head Light: Photo by David Fingerhut

About the photographer: David Fingerhut specializes in nature photography. His photographs have been shown in 16 countries at exhibits sponsored by the Photographic Society of America. He has been designated a star exhibitor in both Nature and Color Slide Photography. His photographs are for sale as prints, or as high resolution images for publication. Contact him at Davidfingerhut.com. 

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Photo by David Fingerhut