Unveiling the labyrinth: Amazing race to the altar

Volunteers break from working and stand together at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

IVINS — With Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” playing against a backdrop of red rocks, sagebrush and shimmering, desert heat, around 25 people shoveled out dirt Friday morning to uncover the labyrinth at Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in the Kayenta community of Ivins for a wedding ceremony to be held Saturday evening.

After visiting the labyrinth around three years ago, Draper resident Kendra soon-to-be Koehler said she discovered a spiritual, healing energy within Kayenta’s labyrinth  —  patterned as an eleven-circuit path defined by more than 1,800 indigenous rocks and designed after the 12th century Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. It was this magnetic energy that  led her to choose this location for her wedding ceremony.

Darin Newton scoops away dirt from rocks at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News
Darin Newton scoops away dirt from rocks at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

She and her fiancé, Matt Koehler arrived in Kayenta Wednesday evening to find that recent area flooding had coated the labyrinth in a thick layer of mud.

“At first I thought we could go down there and fix it, but then we came down here and saw that it had basically turned into a river bed,” Kendra Koehler said. “I was given some options of other locations, but I was set on this place. I thought, ‘even if it looks like this tomorrow, I’m getting married here. It’s not about the rocks, it’s the sacred ground.”

Shortly after, an email was sent to residents of Kayenta’s desert community calling for volunteers to help clear the labyrinth for the Koehlers. The turnout took everyone by surprise.

Kristen Hunt and Tom Hunt, of Kayenta, had never before met the Kohlers but they heard about the need for help.

Volunteers work at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News
Volunteers work at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“It really is a community effort. We consider this labyrinth to be a part of our spirit. People coming together like this falls in alignment very much with the tradition of labyrinths,” Kristen Hunt said. “Peace and blessings … that’s what it’s all about.”

By definition, a labyrinth is a singular, nonbranching path that leads to a center. It stems from Greek mythology and is found in numerous ancient societies including Native American, Mayan and Celtic cultures, as well as others. The practice of walking a labyrinth is defined in no certain terms and allows for an individual experience for purposes of healing, blessing or honoring life.

Anthony Mickay, 10, of Draper, said that at first when he heard that they were going to have to go work he was disappointed.

“I thought, ‘dang it, how long are we going to be out there,'” Mickay said. “But then we got out here and it feels awesome to help. I’ve walked the labyrinth before and it makes you feel relaxed like nothing else is happening.”

Tate Simpson scrapes dirt away from the rocks at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News
Tate Simpson scrapes dirt away from the rocks at the Desert Rose Labyrinth Sculpture Garden in Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Sept. 19, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“The hardest part about doing this is when the mud is really hard it’s hard to move it,” Tate Simpson, 12, said.

Simpson’s friend Sebastion Torres, 12, has never seen the labyrinth before.

“It feels great that we’re uncovering this place. I was sad to hear that the whole place had got destroyed,” Torres said. “It’s going to feel amazing to see what it looks like once it’s uncovered.”

Corinne Van Meter said she and her husband visit the labyrinth often and have a bench dedicated to their daughter Vicki Van Meter, who died about six years ago, mounted near the labyrinth. Van Meter also did not know the bride and groom before this joint effort.

“My husband received an email and we immediately decided to come help,” Van Meter said. “It’s times like these that we all end up being reminded that we are all connected. The universe is working to make this wedding happen.”

The Koehlers’ original pre-wedding plan was to hold an “amazing race” that would include activities like paddle boarding and archery. The idea was to pull the families from both sides together.

“We had to cancel the amazing race, but instead we met people and made friends that we would not have met otherwise,” Kendra Koehler said, “We are calling this ‘the amazing race to the alter.’ In 20 years from now we’ll be able to come back and remember all of us — friends, family, strangers — working together to restore the labyrinth.”

Ed. note: The bride-elect, Kendra, asked to be referred to as Kendra Koehler in anticipation of her Saturday wedding.

Ed.  correction:  The word “alter” in the headline has been corrected to “altar.”

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4 Comments

  • Koolaid September 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Instead of Alter or Altar, use the word Neuter which best describes how guys are altered at the altar in southern Utah, especially when the bride at the altar is religiously mentally altered.

  • chupacabra September 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    KOOLAID, it sounds as if your personal choices have limited you to such a degree that you believe your past life experiences are applicable to all others. Back in reality, by projecting your own failures and personal disharmony on others only serves to distract you from working on your sense of worth and true purpose.

  • sagemoon September 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I absolutely love the Desert Rose Labyrinth. I was hoping to make it out there in the next few days. I’m glad others love it as much as I do.

  • SCORPIONCIRCUS September 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Kudos to all the volunteers and families who put in such hard work! Thank you!

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