Labyrinth helps Fairbanks man through chronic pain

A man in a flannel shirt, a white straw hat holds a board of wood with a circular labyrinth design with some forest in the background
Ramey Wood shows a finger board labyrinth that uses a design similar to the labyrinth on his property. (Dan Bross/KUAC)

The labyrinth constructed on Ramey Wood’s land in West Fairbanks is hidden by willow, alder, birch, grass and wildflowers. It isn’t until you begin walking you see its narrow circular paths are precisely sculpted into the earth, and regularly maintained in concert with the forest.

“It’s work, but it’s doing as much as me,” he said.

Wood, who suffers from chronic neurologic pain, said the labyrinth provides a literal path to calming and focusing the mind.

“The pattern allows one to not have to worry about where one’s going. You can allow yourself to concentrate on whatever it is that you’re thinking about whatever your intention is, your question, your problem, your concern, what you’re stressing about what you’re excited about, and then allow yourself to just go through that motion,” he said.

It takes about 20 minutes to walk the medieval-style labyrinth, which spans 66 feet. There’s one path to the center and a different but adjacent one back out. When you walk the labyrinth, you know where you’re going, but the circuitous path there requires a certain surrender.

“Trust the pattern, and then do what you can with it,” he said.

Wood stresses the labyrinth isn’t itself a cure or remedy.

“To make them be something like a prescription, I think that’s goofy. I like it. I enjoy it. I’m dependent on it, I love the relationship with it. And at the same time like, it’s only worthwhile in that relationship, it’s only worthwhile in the act of engagement. It isn’t a thing,” he said.

Wood characterizes the labyrinth as a friend of sorts, helping him navigate through pain.

“I know that sounds … whatever it sounds like, you know, to have it as your friend. But I hope more people can find friends like that,” he said.

Wood shares the labyrinth with local people, as well as travelers passing through town.

This story has been updated to correct a misspelling in Ramey Woods’ name. 

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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