414 Heroes: A Sanctuary Opens Early to Provide Healing During the Pandemic

“What is this city going to look like when we come out of the pandemic? Will we be as kind to one another?”


Alice’s Garden, at 21st St. and Garfield Ave., is a sacred space, a sanctuary within the city limits. The land was first home to native people, and it was also a stop on the Underground Railway. In the 1950s, the land was cleared for a freeway that was never built; eventually Johnson’s Park was created on the site. The garden, part of Johnson’s Park, is a 2.2-acre urban farm that hosts 100 rental plots for city residents to garden.

An important part of the garden is the labyrinth, marked with healing herbs and plants. It invites you to walk with openness to the moving of the Spirit of Life, of whoever or whatever you place your ultimate trust in. We often think we have to leave the city to find peace and calm, but the “living labyrinth” is a meditative space here amidst the hustle and bustle.

Usually the labyrinth is open from May through October, weather permitting, but last Saturday [April 18] we opened it early. It is important to come out of our homes and breathe deeply, breathe in and out. Perhaps you’ve established a beautiful routine, or you may have feelings of isolation and despair. Either way, take the time just to walk this intentional path.

The labyrinth will be open for prescheduled, half-hour walks every Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The walks will be led by me or our spiritual caretaker, Cheri Johnston. We’ll have a basket of prompts available should you want one going in and/or coming out. For example, going in, you might be asked to reflect on: What is it you have been longing for that is no longer a part or your daily or weekly routine? Coming out, you might be asked to reflect on: What are you going to embrace as you move forward?

Or you could walk without a prompt. You could just take the time to literally inhale and exhale — which, by the way, is clearer because there are fewer fumes.

We use the labyrinth as a point of seasonal change — at every equinox or solstice — to help people look at their life journey. Right now is not an equinox or solstice, but it is a moment of change. It is a time we can ask: What is this city going to look like when we come out of the pandemic? Will we be as kind to one another? Or will we lose this compassion and generosity?

– As told to Carolyn Kott Washburne



To schedule a walk in the labyrinth, email Venice Williams at venicewb@gmail.com suggesting three times that you are available. For more information, and to read the suggested “Guidelines for Walking” in the labyrinth, go to www.alicesgardenmke.com