Today… in a world that’s both astonishingly beautiful and horrifically cruel, “sanctuary” is as vital as breathing to me. Sometimes I find it in churches, monasteries, and other sites designated as sacred. But more often I find it in places sacred to my soul: in the natural world, in the company of a trustworthy friend, in solitary or shared silence, in the ambience of a good poem or good music.
Sanctuary is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival.
Fed by the taproot some call the soul, we need neither to flee from the world, nor exploit it. Instead, we can love the world with all of its (and our) flaws by trying to live in a way that models life’s finest possibilities.
That kind of love is possible, I believe, only if we know when and where to seek sanctuary, reclaiming our souls in order to engage the world in life-giving ways.
~Parker Palmer from “Seeking Sanctuary in our own Sacred Spaces”
When I go to our 100+ year old hay barn to fetch a couple of bales for the horses, I stop to marvel at the continual miracle of this barn that I call my sanctuary. It is breaking down along its roof crest, yes. It is sorely in need of another coat of paint, yes. It has leaks where the winter winds have blown shingles off so the rain and snow come straight indoors, yes.
Yet these old growth beams and rafters, recycled from a nearby dismantled saw mill over a century ago, continue to do their job of holding up the world encased within. This home of pigeons, swallows, bats, barn owls, mice, rats, raccoons, skunks and possum remains a steadfast sanctuary for the harvest of our hill. For decades it has remained steep and silent, serene and solace-filled.
Every cubic inch of this place, its streams of light and its shadowy dark, inside and out, is wonder-full, even when it is empty in the late spring and especially when packed to the rafters, as it is now, with this summer’s hay crop. The miraculous is grown, cut, dried, raked, baled, hauled, stacked and piece by piece, stem by stem, as it sustains living creatures through three seasons of the year.
As it sustains me…
I have the privilege of entering here every day and witnessing the miracle year after year.
I know nothing else but miracles, despite my own sagging, my weakening foundation and some *occasional* inopportune leaking of my own.
I know where and to whom I belong.