Sand Master Denny Dyke
Visiting the beach for a long walk and spiritual rejuvenation is nothing new, but Coquille-based labyrinth artist Denny Dyke takes the idea to a new level, with his intricate sand drawings that have captivated locals and tourists alike.
An ancient form of walkable art, labyrinths are twisting paths designed for meditative use. There is one way in and one way out. Simply walking the flowing path is meant to calm the mind.
As a long-time teacher of metaphysics and meditation, Dyke often used the labyrinth as a tool in his practice. But it wasn’t until he moved to Oregon in 2007 that he started creating labyrinths in the sand and inviting the public to experience them.
When Dyke started drawing on the beach, it was primarily for himself. Over time, he realized that other people were intrigued by what he was doing. They stopped him to ask questions, and he invited them to walk the labyrinth.
He discovered that beachgoers — already in relaxation mode — were particularly open to experiencing this age-old method of calming the mind. “At the beach, most of the barriers to a meditative walk are out of the way,” Dyke says.
One of Dyke’s favorite places to draw is at Bandon’s Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. Not only is the backdrop breathtaking, with Face Rock and Cat and Kittens Rocks visible, it’s also one of the few places on the Coast with a vantage point from above for admiring the patterns, or what Dyke calls “dream fields.” His designs are typically a series of interconnected labyrinths with one path going through them all.
Wearing a T-shirt adorned with one of the world’s most famous labyrinths — at France’s Chartes Cathedral — Dyke selects a site on the beach and lays out the initial design in response to the surrounding landscape, the tide pattern and the sand texture. Next, a team of volunteer groomers helps rake out the shaded areas and add detail to the design. At the entrance to the labyrinth, Dyke places a shell filled with polished rocks, inviting walkers to take one to hold during their journey through the design. With all its twists and turns, Dyke says a larger dream field can yield a half- to three-quarter-mile walk.
The experience is for all ages — from babes in arms to 90-year-olds, Dyke says. “Kids just love them. Some sprint through the first time and then walk. But there’s no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.”
One thing is certain: He’s developed a following — with more than 2,200 people walking his designs in 2015, and locals calling him to find out when they can bring down a visitor to check out his latest creation.
Seeing people enjoy his designs is what makes the process so rewarding, Dyke says, for when the tide comes in, it washes the labyrinth away and the sand becomes a clean canvas for another day.
“Not one walker has exited without a smile, a sense of completion or good feeling,” Dyke says.
Dyke will be creating labyrinths at Face Rock Wayside on August 15, 16 and 31. Check his Facebook page for exact times. More upcoming schedules and additional information can be found on the Circles in the Sand website.
Photo by Pamela Hansen