Journey 223: Sanctuary

I’ve always enjoyed times of solitude and having my own secret place to hang out in. As a child, when I needed my own space, I sought out places that others either didn’t know about or wouldn’t bother to enter. I’d crawl under the large bush in the backyard, where I discovered a hollow space between the base of the bush and the thick leafy perimeter. Or I’d climb high into the tree in the front yard, where I had a view of the entire neighborhood and could remain still and concealed. 

From the tree next to the house it was easy enough to climb onto the roof. If my parents couldn’t find me, they checked the roof and there I’d be, happily dangling my legs over the edge. At the local swimming pool, I’d sink to the bottom, holding my breath, the laughter and noise from dozens of splashing kids becoming muffled and distant. I’ve never been able to hold my breath for long, so I’d return to the surface to gulp in air and sink again. In bad weather, although I always had my own room, when I needed deeper solitude I sat in my closet or crawled under the bed. 

I didn’t understand then why I craved those times of aloneness, in all those secret spaces. Now I do. It was my way of letting my heart settle. My way of quieting my spirit and opening to the Divine. Withdrawing to enjoy peace, calm and solitude has been a life-long habit that I’ve cultivated. 

Today I longed for that time of quiet solitary joy. It’s been a busy season. There’s been loss and grief, work and play, and precious time with family and friends. When this deep need for solitude comes upon me I especially enjoy a weekend away, with a stack of books, a collection of DVDs and my iPod. That’s not happening anytime soon! 

So I carved out my own solitary time this evening, after a full and busy day. No wonder I have created a backyard garden. With its wooden privacy fence and designated sections it very much has the feel of a secret garden, a concept I’ve loved since childhood, when I read the book by the same name. 

My time puttering around the garden was well spent, lugging the large container with the potted star jasmine to the bistro table on the brickio. The plant, which smells marvelous, was given to me at Bob’s funeral by his friend Jean. I’ll winter it indoors and transplant to the garden next spring. I’m still considering where to plant the beautiful hydrangea  that Greg’s cousins gave, as a memorial to their Uncle Bob. The hydrangea only requires morning sunlight. It will find a permanent spot near the front of the house. 

After weeding and watering and dividing the patch of Lamb’s Ear, I lit tea light candles on the bistro table and started a small fire in the fire pit. This….this is what I had been longing for all day. Darkness fell as I sat quietly, staring into the merrily crackling fire. Peace descended over me, with the twilight. Deep inhalations and slow exhalations released the day’s busyness and swirling thoughts and weariness. I didn’t  want to carry anything over into the next day. 

As the fire died to embers, I stretched and stood, content and relaxed. The dark, silent night hid me as completely as the leafy branches of my favorite childhood tree. It wasn’t as much fun though as scampering up a tree and crawling onto the roof. I eyed the top of the house speculatively as I walked toward the back door. If you ever stop by and can’t find me…look up!