Perspectives and Landscapes Change Lives

Norma's Yard Before

Norma's Yard Before

Norma's Yard After

Norma's Yard After

There is always an interesting story behind the creation of labyrinths, whether they are public or privately commissioned works of art created by a group or an individual. The labyrinth at Norma Stark’s home near Toledo, Ohio is one of those labyrinths with just such a story.

Around 2002, Norma Stark was introduced to labyrinths through Helen Raphael Sand’s book, The Healing Labyrinth. Norma was fascinated by what she read and began to seek out labyrinths to walk in her local area and around the country. Little did she know what a wonderful healing tool it would become in her own life.

Just three years later, Norma’s parents died within six months of each other. As an only child struggling to deal with the grieving process, Norma found herself in need of hope and healing. One balmy summer day while she was sitting on her patio meditating and asking for spiritual guidance about the future, the inspiration for the labyrinth began to take shape in a powerful and certain way. It became clear that her backyard could be transformed into a memory garden for her parents with a labyrinth as the focal point.

The next nine months were spent consulting with experts such as John Ridder of PAXworks in Indianapolis, Indiana, working with civil engineers to eliminate drainage problems in the space where the labyrinth was to be constructed, planning with a landscape designer how to incorporate fountains, benches, paths, garden art, and a variety of perennials in this memory garden, and utilizing the expertise of Marty Kermeen from Labyrinths in Stone, to build a beautiful brick paver labyrinth, 33 feet in diameter, complete with an original sculpture of a nautilus created by Marty at the center.

Interestingly, Marty arrived onsite in April 2007, and the birth of the labyrinth in Norma Stark’s memory garden began just nine months after the idea was conceived. Planning and implementation of the plan proceeded so smoothly that it was clear this labyrinth was meant to be.

It seemed so natural that “The Garden,” as it would soon be called, would be open to the public for all who wished to come and experience the healing energy and find peace. Norma never intended to advertise its availability, but information would spread “by word of mouth.” In the first five months after completion, over five hundred visitors were welcomed at the Stark’s. As John Ridder put it, “This labyrinth has changed NW Ohio forever!”

Healing from the grief over her parents’ deaths began to take place for Norma when she became aware of a plan for her life unfolding over the years—a plan which included the labyrinth and her work as a Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator. In July 2005 Norma attended a conference in San Francisco, which was related to her work in music at a United Methodist Church in Ohio at that time. It is here that she walked the labyrinths at Grace Cathedral and first heard The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress speak about labyrinths.

Norma was in awe after her experiences at Grace, so it is not surprising that one year later, while she and her husband were on a Native American Cultural Tour in Santa Fe, she walked the labyrinth outside the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi there. She was taken aback when many passersby interrupted her walk with questions about what she was doing. As she pondered these strange interruptions, she began to feel that she was hearing a call to guide people to a better understanding of the labyrinth.

Just minutes later, Norma learned of a conference to be held in October 2006 in Santa Fe featuring Dr. Artress and entitled “Walking Together.” The conference included labyrinth facilitator training, and Norma knew it was the next step on her journey. She returned to Santa Fe in October for a wonderful experience which began to give her a vision and hope for the future, quite a contrast to the bleak days she had spent resulting from her parents’ deaths. Like many of the other participants in training to be facilitators, she considered it a ministry to share the labyrinth with others. But there was so much to do before that would be possible.

At the facilitator training in Santa Fe, Norma first learned about John Ridder of PAXworks in Indianapolis. Upon returning to Ohio she contacted him about building a labyrinth in her backyard. In December 2006 John traveled to Perrysburg to Norma and Jim Stark’s home to meet with the landscape designer, civil engineer, and the Starks. During this meeting it became obvious to Mr. Ridder that his labyrinth colleague, Marty Kermeen, would be the one to construct Norma’s labyrinth. John told Norma that this was no ordinary project and Marty had the “heart and soul and passion” necessary for this particular project.

It is rare to see two “competitors” in the same business working side by side on projects; however, as you can see from the Collaborations page of this website and many other labyrinth builder websites, competitiveness doesn’t seem to enter into the equation with most of them.

John returned to Indianapolis and in January 2007 completed his design for the Stark’s labyrinth on his daughter’s 25th birthday. Several of the photos on this website show the Melissa Labyrinth, affectionately named after John Ridder’s daughter.

In these photos one’s attention is sure to be drawn to the 13-chambered nautilus sculpture at the center of the Melissa Labyrinth. Much of the healing from Norma’s grief over her parents’ deaths took place because of the many synchronicities that occurred during this project. Norma Stark views the number 13 much differently than many people. When she was a little girl, she told her grandmother that her favorite number was 13. Grandma tried to convince her granddaughter that 13 was an unlucky number and that she should rethink her choice. Norma felt strongly that superstitious events were not related to the number 13 and has found her theory to be reinforced not only during the creation of her labyrinth but continuing in her experiences as a facilitator. Norma’s father passed away on October 13, 2005, her facilitator training in Santa Fe began exactly one year later on October 13, 2006, the bricks for the labyrinth were poured April 13, Marty was onsite constructing the labyrinth for 13 days, the landscape planting was begun June 13… the synchronicities just go on and on, even in the stories that visitors to the labyrinth share.

Rather than list all the events/synchronicities associated with the number 13 that have occurred and continue to do so in the story of this labyrinth, the main message here is that something thought to be “unlucky and negative” to most people has proven to be a very positive influence in Norma Stark’s life. Norma definitely sees it as affirmation that she is on the right path.

People come from all over. Frequently Norma facilitates scheduled walks for individuals and groups. Often people come and walk the circuitous paths when she and her husband are not home. Norma and Jim are amazed at the number of people who send cards or leave notes and express their gratitude for being blessed to be part of the ever growing labyrinth movement.

The labyrinth helped Norma transform the grieving for her parents into a healing gift for herself and all those that choose to visit the memorial garden in her backyard. She speaks of the many butterflies that frequent the area now, which were never present before the labyrinth was built. Perhaps if we choose to view things from a different perspective, as Norma did with the number 13, we could change a negative life event into a positive one. The labyrinth assists us in doing just that and brings forth the transformations needed to help us heal.

Nautilus Sculpture

Nautilus sculpture by Marty - all photos by Norma Stark