Wearing sunscreen, a straw hat and kneepads over her jeans, the Rev. Kimberly Willis got down on her knees Monday to paint graceful teal circles on the concrete courtyard at Christ Church United Methodist in Santa Rosa.
"It doesn't look physical until you do it," Willis said, working under a warm late-winter sun.
But in about five-and-a-half hours, Willis and four church volunteers, directed by Santa Rosa labyrinth designer Lea Goode-Harris, created a 31-foot wide spherical labyrinth next to the church sanctuary.
To be dedicated on Palm Sunday, March 28, the Methodist church labyrinth will be the sixth one open to the public in Sonoma County for slow, meditative walks.
"Walk slower, breathe deeper," Willis said. "You don't have to be a religious person to say &‘I'm moving through the world way too fast.'"
Glo Wellman, one of the volunteers and chairwoman of the congregation's spiritual enrichment committee, said they wanted their own labyrinth for years.
"Somehow this was the time," she said.
For Goode-Harris, the timing was exquisite, as Monday marked 13 years — to the day — that she created the Santa Rosa Labyrinth, a seven-ringed path to the design's center.
"Basically, the labyrinth is a mirror," said Goode-Harris, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and leads creativity workshops. "It will reflect life's lessons back to you."
A labyrinth, despite its common association in Greek mythology with the structure that enclosed the fearsome Minotaur, is not to be confused with a maze, with high walls, false starts and dead ends, she said.
The path in a labyrinth is unambiguous: "It will take you to the center and back out," Goode-Harris said.
Along the way, one may contemplate big questions, such marriage or career change, Pastor Willis said. A quiet, inward-looking, centering experience "shows up in nearly all the religions of the world," she said.
On May 1, World Labyrinth Day, people are encouraged to walk in one at 1 p.m. in their time zone, creating a "rolling wave of labyrinth walking as the Earth turns," according to The Labyrinth Society.
The society maintains an online labyrinth locator — at labyrinthlocator.com — to help people find them by city, state or ZIP code.
In addition to the Methodist church on Yulupa Avenue, there are public labyrinths at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Sebastopol Teen Center, Oak Hill Park in Petaluma, Trinity Episcopal Church in Sonoma and the Kaiser Medical Clinic Stein Building.
At least seven more are on private property and at retreat centers, some of them open by appointment.
Only two public labyrinths — at the Methodist church and in Sebastopol — are Santa Rosa Labyrinths, built to Goode-Harris' specifications.
She's done several others, including a green roof labyrinth atop the American Psychological Association building in Washington. Counting other styles, including the Schulz Museum labyrinth shaped like Snoopy's head, she's done more labyrinths than she can count.
Designing labyrinths "changed the course of my life," Goode-Harris said. And after 17 years of research, she still doesn't know where or when they originated.
"They are ancient," she said.