South Carolina: Hopelands Gardens

While visiting family in Georgia we spent some time in South Carolina and one of the first places we visited was the Hopelands Gardens. The Hopelands Gardens were given to the city of Aiken and opened in 1969 as a public garden, however there are still private residences on the 14 acres. While we were there we passed a home with a friendly cat that wandered throughout the garden. What we were pretty interested in was the labyrinth. We expected it to be a large garden maze and were disappointed to find that it wasn’t.

DSCN5964This labyrinth is more of a mediation tool. As you follow the path winding about towards the center you’re suppose to relax, become calm and clear your mind and focus on whatever comes to you. Once in the center you spend however much time you need and however you’d like to spend the time, i.e. sitting, standing, kneeling. You’re suppose to keep your mind open to any sort of feelings or ideas that come to you. After you’re done in the center you follow the path out and use this time to remember and take whatever experience you gained with you outside of the labyrinth. You can take your path however you want, running, dancing, or mediative.  It’s brick with a granite center and 45 feet in diameter, following the idea of a similar labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral in France.

The Labyrinth isn’t the only highlight of the gardens. Aiken is an equestrian town and it’s reflected in the gardens. There are several horse statues around the gardens, a thoroughbred racing hall of fame and museum as well as some stables. We went during the late fall so the gardens weren’t very busy. Most of the buildings were closed, including the museum but it was a rather peaceful space. They decorated for the holidays with lights and they host all sorts of events. It would be a lovely place to visit during the spring when everything is in bloom and all their non-resident buildings are open.

 

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