When the tide is low on the southern Oregon coast, giant spiraling paths can be seen drawn in the sand. In the spring and summer, people flock to Bandon to walk these artistic labyrinths that stretch out to the size of a football field.
This walkable, ephemeral art experience is known as Circles in the Sand. It wrapped up its ninth summer season Aug. 5.
On a recent morning, volunteers prepared the beach for the final walk by running rakes through pristine sand on the beach at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. This darkens the sand and highlights the path, which loops and swirls across the beach. A “detail artist” laid out white stones and carved shapes into the sand, images that looked almost like sunbursts. These intricate drawings are created for visitors to admire as they walk by.
Over the course of the morning, the beach transformed into a winding labyrinth. People from all over gathered on the sand, and Southern Oregon locals returned for an opportunity to meditate, to honor loved ones and to celebrate what has at this point become a coastal tradition.
Before the walk began, Denny Dyke, creator of Circles in the Sand, greeted visitors at the entrance to the labyrinth with a welcome speech and a thank you to the volunteers who raked around the path.
“My team and I, we just love what we do,” Dyke said. “And I think that is shown in our art, and everything else.”
Dyke, a generous hugger and a charismatic leader, has enjoyed the art of the labyrinth for a long time. He said creating these works of art is a kind of meditation for him that he loves to share with others.
“Oh, what an honor,” Dyke said. “What more can you do for somebody?”
The labyrinth is expansive. The path leads participants through spirals, squiggles, and loops that meander the beach, allowing visitors time to admire the shoreline, the massive sea stacks and the birds flying overhead. It takes about twenty minutes to walk in its entirety.
“It’s a single entrance, single exit, and you don’t have to worry about getting lost,” said Bethe Patrick, administrative director and detail artist for Circles in the Sand. “And that allows you to just let go, relax, meditate or just enjoy the scenery here at the ocean.”
At the entrance to the labyrinth, the words “leave behind what is not needed” are written in the sand. Circles in the Sand team members offer visitors a selection of colorful “dream stones” to choose from, hold and keep. Dream stones are a gift that every visitor gets in order to remember their walk.
Outside of the labyrinth is what’s called a dedication circle. About thirty feet in diameter, this circle is simple in comparison to the nearby walkable artwork, but it’s a space where visitors are free to draw, write and create their own artwork in the sand. They can write their name, or a loved one’s name, and dedicate their walk to them. Visible inside the circle are phrases like “For Emily,” “Happy B-Day Dad” and “I love you!”
Nancy Borglund and Jim Bell, who attended the Aug. 4 walk together, wrote a dedication inside the circle to Bell’s sister who passed away recently. Borglund said the walk is a nice way to reflect on the people in her life who have passed on.
“Everybody’s in the same frame of mind,” Bell said. “Just walking, everybody’s quiet, pretty much.”
“Very peaceful,” Borglund added.
Circles in the Sand takes place intermittently throughout the late spring and summer, depending on the tides. The labyrinth is scheduled to be in place for about two hours for the walk, but the tide will ultimately determine when it ends by washing the artwork out to sea.
According to Patrick, nothing is drawn out in advance; the team comes out to the beach and creates their design based on what the sand looks like that day. But themes for each day, such as ocean or zen, determine what kinds of detail artwork Patrick will do.
“I love doing this,” Patrick said. “Just to listen to the surf and draw some art and just make this cool thing. And we get to meet all of these people.”
Though the summer season has come to a close, Circles in the Sand will return for its annual sunset walk through the labyrinth on Oct. 14 in Florence, Oregon.