Path of Life Sculpture Garden in Windsor, Vermont
April 3, 2015

by Kim Foley MacKinnon

The Path of Life Sculpture Garden in Windsor, Vt., is one of those places that exceed expectations. Described to me as a sculpture garden, I thought it would be a cool place to check out while spending a weekend in nearby Hanover, N.H.

Located in a complex that includes Great River Outfitters, Vermont Farmstead Cheese, SILO, Simon Pearce, Sustainable Farmer, and Harpoon Brewery, the garden is located on 14 acres of field and trails on the banks of the Connecticut River. The 18 works of art, made of different materials and of different sizes, symbolize the circle of life from birth to death.

The garden is the brainchild of Terry McDonnell, a child and family therapist from Norwich, Vt., who was inspired after visiting a famous Japanese garden, The Life of Man in Kildare, Ireland. It symbolizes the journey of a human soul from birth to death. McDonnell had a 14-acre riverside field that he owned in Windsor and almost 20 years ago he began his pet project. 

You enter the garden through the “Tunnel of Oblivion,” the darkness representing the beginning of life, then head through or by various sculptures representing the stages of life, from a small stone signifying birth to a 800 hemlock-tree maze (childhood) to five large flat stones arranged in a circle (family) and so on. My family visited in the winter and we loved going through the maze and trying to identify the animal tracks we found in the fresh snow.

Over the years, the attraction (part of Great River Outfitters) has grown to be much more than a sculpture park. It’s also home to part of a 5-mile trail network and since it’s open year-round, all sorts of activities are regularly scheduled. 

In the winter and early spring, it’s groomed for dogsledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, while in summer and fall, you can take float trips (canoes, kayaks, rafts, and river tubes) on a section of the Connecticut River (with all necessary gear and transportation provided). The tipis in the Path of Life Garden sleep 12 to 16 people or you can paddle down the river to primitive island campsites along the river if you want to stay overnight.

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