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Article Published July 10, 2019
Bill Ludwig: Taking the Path Less Traveled
Karena Garrity

A publisher by trade, Branford resident Bill Ludwig was searching for an image for the cover of a book about spiritual meditation, and that’s when it happened.

“Early in 2016, I was working on volume two of the book Dear Friend, Spiritual Meditations and Journal, written by my cousin Sandy Beach. I had rejected all of my designers cover mockups. My first search under ‘spiritual path’ returned a stunning photo of a beach labyrinth being walked by a lone person. I sent it to my designer and we immediately had a great cover. This led me to look into the significance of labyrinths and how they differed from mazes. Gradually I was drawn to learn more,” explained Bill with a smile.

Fast forward to Jan. 1, 2017 and he was walking his very first labyrinth at the Church of Christ in the center of Woodbridge. Push that FF button one more time, and Bill, along with some very industrious volunteers, just completed a 72-foot diameter labyrinth located on the Shoreline Greenway Trail in Branford, across from Chet’s Pond, between Tabor Drive and Pine Orchard Road. Stones for the labyrinth were donated by Stony Creek Quarry.

“Labyrinths are amazing,” says Bill, who has now traversed several continents and walked through many a labyrinth path. “They have an interesting history that goes back thousands of years. Religion didn’t pick them up until the middle ages.”

Having become so enamored by the meditative pathways, Bill the publisher has authored his first book, a field guide to the many and varied labyrinths in Connecticut and Rhode Island. The book is set to come out this fall.

Bill’s research has uncovered some interesting facts about labyrinths, such as the fact that they over time they have been developed independently in different societies and cultures around the world. Some of the earliest labyrinths were painted on the walls of caves.

According to Bill, the term “labyrinth” is loosely used to differentiate a single-path labyrinth from a maze labyrinth. Maze designs are puzzles with many dead ends to prevent finding the right path to reach the center, while a labyrinth has but one pathway to the center and may have many turns, however, it will always lead to the center. Thus, we are reminded to trust the path we are on in our life, says Bill.

Bill says labyrinths led him to be called to another very different meditative walk.

“The Camino de Santiago beckoned when I began following a friend’s blog as he completed his pilgrimage across Spain in the spring of 2016,” Bill says.

By fall 2017, Bill was off on the pilgrimage leading to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which houses the shrine of Saint James the Great. During that trip through northeastern Spain, he took many breaks, veering off the beaten path to travel through surrounding labyrinths, which enlightened and inspired him.

Bill has tips for those on their first journey into a labyrinth based on the three Rs—release, receive/reflect, and return. He says walkers should pause at the entryway of labyrinths to focus and slow their thoughts, releasing stresses; pause in the center to receive or reflect, and then return, walking back out following the same path.

Bill was inspired to share the meditative and healing aspects of labyrinths with the Branford community after the tragic drowning death of 10 year old Ben Callahan in 2017.

“I thought it would be a way to help people grieve and heal,” he explained.

It was then that the wheels were put in motion for what is now a finished 72-foot diameter, handicapped accessible labyrinth, which includes 15 tons of Stony Creek granite.

“I would like to thank [First Selectman] Jamie Cosgrove for suggesting this site and championing the project, Doug Anderson and Stacy Bandecchi of the Story Creek Quarry for donating all the material, [Branford Public Works Director] Gary Zielinski and his town crew for a wonderful job of preparing the site, Eunice Lasala for helping to connect me to all these helpful people, and, of course, to all involved in the greenway trail for making this section of trail beautiful and accessible to everyone,” says Bill.

The labyrinth, which is a hybrid design, is called The Circle of Peace Labyrinth by its designer Lisa Gidlow Moriarty. Bill painted the lines for the creation by hand.

“My hope is that people come here and explore, use the labyrinth and mediate, reflect, release anything that is bothering them or getting them down and find peace. I think labyrinths are beautiful, peaceful places that have changed my life and I hope this one changes others’ lives in our community,” Bill says.