#264–Walking Circles in the Sand . . .

My friend Carole said Circles in the Sand was Sunday. I thought it was Saturday, so I changed it on the calendar. I had marked it months ago and only remembered that someone had told me about it. Later Carole let me know that I had been right, that it was Saturday after all. I almost missed it again.

A few years ago, when my sister was visiting, we went to Bandon particularly to see Circles in the Sand but were too late. So late that the labyrinth had already been washed away by the waves.

This was the third year for Circles in the Sand to come to Florence, but I had been gone the last two years at the time they were here. So I was really looking forward to finally seeing it this year.

The Circles in the Sand form a giant labyrinth for people to walk.

For years, Bandon has had Circles in the Sand labyrinth events. It has become part of the Bandon experience. Denny Dyke is the originator and artistic genius behind each event and has a talented crew that he works with. Normally, Dyke selects a starting point from which the Dedication Circle begins and then swirls extend outward. They lead to hubs that are all designed differently. Dyke determines the route each takes and the team designs each hub. In the design, some use only sand and others add shells, stones, etc. After the design is determined, the sand is raked to differentiate the paths.

Folks can watch the labyrinth being created but are asked to only watch until it is completed. Then the walking begins. But first, Dyke says a few words, which usually have to do with appreciating the beauty and bounty of planet Earth.

The Circles in the Sand labyrinth was elongated to make it easier for people to social distance.

Because of the Covid-19 virus, the group had been on hiatus and had serious concerns about coming to Florence. Dyke determined that his usual round circle to start from was not such a good idea. He decided to stretch the labyrinth, to elongate it. The paths would be narrower, making it less crowded. This would make it easier for folks to social distance. Once this decision was made, they decided to come to Florence.

Dyke does not plan ahead except for knowing the tides. And that this one would be elongated. He creates each unique labyrinth directly on the sand; there are no rolled up plans to refer to. In Florence, the event was held at Heceta Beach on the sand in front of Driftwood Shores Resort.  

And I think there were three or four actual labyrinths to walk that covered nearly a quarter mile. It was really elongated.

Saturday, October 17, was not only the date of Circles in the Sand, but of the opening of the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum from noon to 4 p.m. It was the first time to be open since mid-February, and I was on duty as a docent. Because the Circles in the Sand walking portion was slated to begin about 5 p.m., it would work out for me to be a part of both. So I put a warm jacket and different shoes in the car before I left for the Museum.

Some designs were decorated with shells, rocks, and other stuff.

The Museum had a good turnout for the first day back, and I was able to lock up by 4:30 p.m. As I got closer to Driftwood Shores, I noticed cars parking everywhere. But I continued on heading to the little County Park parking lot. It was bumper to bumper, going 5 mph. Every spot was taken. It was just sinking in that I was going to have to follow traffic all the way back to find a spot and walk about half a mile or more. But then a car pulled out right in front of me, leaving an open spot. I didn’t hesitate, just pulled right in. Lucky, lucky, lucky! I only had to walk a short distance to the beach.

The sun was heading for the horizon and the shadows were long. And there were at least a couple hundred people, but because the labyrinths were so elongated, people were spread out. It was not crowded anywhere.

Some designs were elegant perfection using only sand.

I did a no-no by entering at a narrow spot and stepping over the raked sand to the path within. Every few steps was something of interest. Some hubs were decorated and some elegant, intricate designs just using the sand and others were whimsical drawings, such as a couple of octopuses.

And others were drawings of creatures like this octopus!

The concept of mindful walking is a central concept of Circles in the Sand. After a bit, I settled into a peaceful revery. I had to be careful, though, not to bump into folks ahead of me. Every few minutes someone would stop to take a photo—including me.

If I could change anything, it would be the wind. It was strong right on the beach but only a breeze in the parking lot. I wished I had brought a hat because my ears got very cold.

It wasn’t long before I came to the end. And nearby, I saw the proper way to enter with a person in a beach chair welcoming each person or group and answering any questions. So I entered and saw the rest of that particular labyrinth and redid the last third of it.

Walking at sunset––a magical time!

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the artwork up close. I marveled at how perfect some of the designs were. I laughed at the whimsical ones. I enjoyed the camaraderie that existed between me and the groups I was walking with (six feet apart). And it was almost sunset, a magical time. It wasn’t the quiet contemplation found when walking a garden labyrinth by yourself, but it was profound in its own way. I’m very glad I went.

Note: To learn more about Circles in the Sand, check out http://www.sandypathbandon.com.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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