“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.” – Hermann Hesse

On a morning walk this week, I looked up at the sky, tilted my head and saw the sun playing hide and seek with the tree. I stopped, stood for a second, appreciating the glory of the green leaves, the arch of the trunk and the intensity of the light. One word repeated itself, sanctuary. It is a place of refuge. I thought about all of those places in my life where I sought comfort, knowing in my marrow these are the spaces where there is an indescribable contentment. Identifying those places are an important exercise.

  1. Nature is my absolute sanctuary. When I struggle, I look to the dusk-colored mountains, the cerulean sky and the bright prink bougainvilleas.
  2. My ten-year-old daughter teaches me how to love, forgive and the importance of asking questions. Sometimes (even though she is a tween) she gives me permission to wrap my arms around her – her breath pulses with a rhythm. I listen and try to memorize this particular moment, knowing this sanctuary is one filled with privilege, honor and permanency. No matter what, I will always be her mother.
  3. Oh, I cannot express how many times books have saved me. We’ve had conversations where I’ve listened. I remember reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume as a young girl and feeling less alone. I can’t name all the books that have provided refuge (there are too many), but the ones that come to mind – “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Rainer Maria Rilke, Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, “Razor’s Edge” by Somerset Maugham, “The Death of Ivan Illyich” by Leo Tolstoy and “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. Reading is its own sanctuary. I will always believe this to be true.
  4. If my childhood flashed on a highlight reel, I could readily point to several places where I can identify my safe havens. One particular memory will always rise above all of them – Sitting with my mother, father and sister at our chipped, deep brown mahogany dining table. I spent so many moments at that table, not knowing its power. Some sanctuaries you learn about in retrospect.
  5. The first moments of a morning. Looking over, seeing my husband and exchanging a single glance, I start my day with a particular ease. My husband knows where I come from. He knows the flawed and vulnerable me.
  6. Routine and sanctuary are synonymous in my life. I love the unfolding of the day that is wholly embedded in the ordinary. Paying attention is a mantra and one that I repeat daily. In midlife, I’ve learned those small things, walking through the grocery aisle, making dinner for my family, watching my daughter play tennis, eating Hot Tamale candy with my husband while viewing a movie, talking to my mom and sister and listening to the hums of everyday life – the whoosh sound of the dishwasher, the gasps from the air conditioner and the hustle of the cars on the street, are the big things that matter.
  7. My writing is where I learn to embrace my reflections, all of them, the ugly and the beautiful, the happy and the sorrowful, the solitude and the noise. It’s a sanctuary that is holy to me.

Where are your places of sanctuary and sacredness?