We’ve all been dealing with added stress and uncertainty in the COVID era. There’s job insecurity, fear of catching the virus, an oversaturation of (conflicting) information, and tension from being cooped up for the last seven months.
Getting away to a sculpture park on Whidbey Island might be just the escape you need. We recommend you visit the Earth Sanctuary and the Price Sculpture Forest. Both are open from dawn to dusk daily.
The Earth Sanctuary is a Buddist-inspired sculpture garden, nature preserve and retreat center in Langley. Its 72 acres feature 11 sculptures — the newest is “Ley Line” — as well as other artwork and sacred spaces for meditation and prayer.
“Ley Line,” by Freeland artist Chuck Pettis, is a curation of charred driftwood marking a “ley line” that runs from the deeper woods to a rising hillside. The wood — there are 21 pieces in all — is arranged to hold yin (calm) and yang (excited) energies.
Pettit, the founder of Earth Sanctuary, has added sacred sculptures along the site’s ley lines, including two stone circles, a labyrinth, a Buddhist stupa and a dolmen. He authored the book “Secrets of Sacred Spaces,” which explains the idea of ley lines.
“They hold strong emotion,” he said. “When someone comes and has a spiritual experience, some of that feeling stays in the space, and it enables someone who comes afterward to get that kind of upliftment.”
Visitors are encouraged to stand between the driftwood of the “Ley Lines” sculpture and pay attention to their sensations. Do you feel calm? Do you feel energized? Does the energy surrounding you seem fuzzy or smooth?
Pettis, 72, also is launching a series of short meditation videos to teach mindfulness and help manage stress from the pandemic.
New videos will be posted 10 a.m. each Friday from Oct. 23 through Nov. 13 via Facebook and Instagram. They will feature 60-second meditation exercises at four of Earth Sanctuary’s sacred spaces, including the new “Ley Line” sculpture.
“Meditation calms the mind and by creating spaces between thoughts,” said Pettis, who has been practicing meditation since 1970. “If you don’t have any thoughts, you can’t worry. You just feel happy.”
Before COVID-19 hit, Pettis was teaching meditation at Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle. He said the videos allow him to continue teaching meditation and mindfulness at a time when the monastery is closed.
In addition to “Ley Lines,” Pettis also is the artist of “The Infinite Tower” at Earth Sanctuary. He created another sculpture, “Veils of Reality,” with his wife. Also an artist, Claudia Pettis specializes in painting sheep in oil on canvas.
Pettis purchased the property in 2000 with the goal of restoring the land’s forest and wetlands and providing a natural setting for meditation and prayer. In addition to shrines, medicine wheels and cairns, the sanctuary has 2 miles of hiking trails, a peat bog, streams and three ponds.
He said Earth Sanctuary sees about 4,000 visitors per year. This year, the park has seen a 44% increase in visits. Many visitors have told him they find the sanctuary therapeutic, a space for self-awareness and comfort, especially in these COVID times.
“The whole idea was to create a place where people could feel peaceful,” Pettis said. “They come here to relax and be in nature.”
Price Sculpture Forest
The Price Sculpture Forest in Coupeville is new to Whidbey Island. The 16-acre park opens Oct. 23.
Founder Scott Price has designed a park where visitors can wander through a winding labyrinth of sculptures.
After visiting Big Rock Garden in Bellingham, San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve at Friday Harbor and Webster’s Woods Sculpture Park in Port Angeles, he was inspired to create his own.
Price, 53, said his park was designed so that you’re not only discovering the old-growth forest around you, but also the art — because it may be hanging from trees or hiding behind foliage.
The park has two looping nature trails — totaling six-tenths of a mile — each with their own theme. Nature Nurtured sculptures relate to Earth’s natural elements, while Whimsy Way sculptures are more humorous and playful. There are about 22 sculptures right now.
“They’re designed to meander, so that you can get different views,” Price said, meaning views of the forest and the artwork.
Price said a stroll through the sculpture park is an ideal activity during the era of social distancing.
“The trails are designed to have a one-directional flow,” he said. “I originally did that to space people out for privacy, but now it’s also a benefit for COVID.”
The sculptures’ plaques are installed on the opposite side of the trail — not directly in front of the artwork. Price said the spacing allows for optimal impact and improved photos.
As you stroll, you’ll see such sculptures as “Soaring Eagle” by Greg Neal, installed in honor of a COVID-19 victim, as well as “Playa Flowers,” by Jeff Tangen and “Pentillium” by Gary Gunderson, which were both Burning Man installations. Price said Gunderson has plans to add to “Pentillium” in phases.
Our favorites include “The Foundation of Animalia and Fungi” by David D’Ostilio, “Tyrannosaurus Rex” by Joe Treat, “Pegasus” by Elizabeth Berrien, “Stevo’s Dream: The Ultimate Flying Machine” by MacRae Wylde and “Icarus Was Here” by Pat McVay.
Guided tours of the park are scheduled for 1 and 3 p.m. Oct. 23 and 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Oct 24 by reservation only. No more than 10 to a group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the wait list. More guided tours will be scheduled after the opening weekend.
However, you don’t need a guide to enjoy Price Sculpture Forest. You can go on a self-guided tour of the park with help from your smartphone. Each plaque has a QR code and a weblink that will pull up 4-minute videos featuring the artist’s explanation of his or her work.
Price said there are plans to install more sculptures along the trails and build an indoor art gallery just off the parking lot.
After owning the land for 12 years, Price worked with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to establish it as a nature preserve.
“We originally intended to build our home here,” the Coupeville resident said. “We decided to build somewhere else, but I realized that if somebody bought this, they’d probably subdivide it and clear it. The forest is so beautiful, I didn’t want that to happen.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
If you go
Earth Sanctuary, at the corner of Newman and Emil roads in Langley, is a nature reserve, sculpture garden and retreat center designed to promote peacefulness, meditation and reflection. The park has two entrances — 2059 Newman Road and 5536 Emil Road. Maps at the kiosks offer three different self-guided tours. Open every day during daylight hours. Admission is $7; annual passes are $35. No dogs allowed. Go to www.earthsanctuary.org for more information.
Price Sculpture Forest, 678 Parker Road, Coupeville, is a 16-acre sculpture forest and nature preserve. Open every day during daylight hours. Admission is free; donations are welcome. A kiosk at the entrance and exit include a map of the park and a logbook to share your thoughts. No dogs allowed. Go to www.sculptureforest.org for more information.