I kept trying to write about other things yesterday, and I kept changing my mind, ending up with nothing at all. So finally I admitted what I already knew – what I really wanted to write about was sanctuary, but I wasn’t sure how. I am not sure that I really know what it is that I mean by “sanctuary”, so how can I write about it?

Yet I feel it, we all feel it. I visit sanctuaries for rescued animals, and I would guess that the majority of the pictures I have taken are from those sanctuaries. We find it for ourselves in the friendships that nurture and sustain us, in the roar of the ocean and the peace of a mountain meadow. We find it in our homes; in our kitchens if we like to cook, in our beds if we like to sleep, and even if we don’t. 😉

So maybe the point is that sanctuary can’t be pinned down, and shouldn’t be pinned down. It shouldn’t be a narrow definition, it needs to be flexible, so it can be what and where we need it when we need it.

It is something we can feel, though. The animal sanctuaries are just barns and fences and fields. What makes them a sanctuary is the conviction of the people running the sanctuary and of the volunteers that these animals are important, their lives and needs are important, and we will protect them from the rest of the world.

When we get support from our friends, we feel that same safety. When we sit in our places of peace, inside ourselves or out in the world, we can feel what sanctuary means to us in that moment.

treesAnd, finally, I understand why I kept talking to my therapist about my frustrations in keeping my condo clean. I want my home to be a sanctuary, which for me requires a sort of feng shui clutterless place. Light, space, air. That’s what I need. And some drapes, since my weird neighbor sits outside to read and can see into my living room when he does.

Yet, despite having moved into my new home in late February, my home looks unfinished. I painted one wall orange and I think I like it. I did that much only because a friend was there to prod me into following through with the decision I’d essentially already made. I want to do a raised bed on the patio, but I’ve yet to follow through on that. I have almost no storage in my condo, so I need to actually get some furniture so that what stuff I have and am keeping will have a place to live. I need to follow through on selling the room full of stuff I’ve decided I will live without. A desk would be helpful. Shelves for my many (and ever increasing) cookbooks. So far, I’ve unpacked my stuff, but I still have the feeling of temporariness, of not wanting to settle in too much because chances are I’ll leave in a couple years. What I’m finally starting to believe is that regardless of whether I move in a couple years, or next month, or in thirty years, I deserve to feel settled for whatever time I do live here.

So it is the conflict in me – the desire to make my place a sanctuary butting up against my inertia. My therapist said to picture my place the way I want it to be, and I’m trying. It is hard for me to even commit to a picture in my mind, as absurd at that sounds. I’m getting there though. I want my sanctuary, in this case a physical place, my home base, my home.

I think I’ve always struggled with this, though I’d gotten better about it. I do feel like my apartment in Denver was pretty close. But then I started stirring things up. I accepted a job across the country. The timing went haywire. I moved out of my apartment, but still had a month to bridge in Denver. Most of my stuff was in storage, and I lived at a friend’s cabin in the mountains. When I moved, finding a place to live was cut throat, and I accepted a place with a six month lease and option to kick me out (it was actually for sale the whole time), and left almost all of my stuff in storage. When I bought my condo at the end of that lease, I moved all my stuff from storage, but somehow I still haven’t really settled in. The few pictures on the wall are there only because there were already nails waiting to be adorned.

I can change this, it is fully within my control. Somehow that doesn’t make it easy! But then, sanctuary almost always takes some effort. Getting to the remote mountain meadow will require a good hike, developing sanctuary within a friendship requires that we give sanctuary in return. So it is fitting that making my home a sanctuary space will take some effort as well.

cinder on couch