Gimme Shelter

It’s been a rough few years, hasn’t it? 

Some days I’m fine, going about my simple life, writing, hanging out in the garden, watching the birds, or playing with the grandkids.

A moment later I’m a hot emotional mess, angry, grieving, or just stressed. There’s so much of everything: confusion, anxiety, skin worn thin. There’s so much calling for my attention, and so much to do. It can be exhausting, hard to get a grip, and a lot to wrap my mind around.

Picture of peace

Picture of peace

As I walk through the neighborhood I’m drawn to this one front yard that’s a picture of peace, so charming. Bright red and yellow chairs fan out on a swath of cool green lawn lined with flowering vines in the shade of spreading maple trees. I imagine sitting in this mini-oasis, breathing in the colors, the cool, the quiet, and I’m soothed.

As I continue walking I notice another sitting area, and then another, and it’s like the Baader-Meinhof syndrome all over again. There are cozy havens everywhere I walk, many of them newly arranged. I imagine what each creator had in mind, what it feels like to sit there, and consider how all the changes around us compel us to make and use these new spaces.

It’s been almost four months of lockdown. I’m isolated from friends and family, occupying myself with cleaning off shelves, rearranging furniture, sprucing up the garden, meditating, reading, walking walking walking (perhaps I’m the only one not baking bread), and wondering what new hobby to take up. The peace and quiet is a blessing for me, but I also feel stuck, confused by the virus, charged up over the violent political climate, and it can be challenging and disheartening.

Hoping for conversation

Hoping for conversation

It’s no wonder these sleepy little refuges have popped up everywhere I look. Converting any nook or corner into a shelter from the storm makes sense in these times. It’s more necessary than ever to find some quiet contemplation or conversation, and a moment of calm. We need a retreat where we can stop for a minute, enjoy ourselves, contemplate nature, or watch the world as it parades by the front door – maybe even snag some conversation with an equally isolated passerby.

Whatever works for you!

These little sanctuaries vary. Some are thought out with an eye to comfort, or take advantage of nearby natural beauty. Others have the feel of last minute inspiration or perhaps desperation, a plastic chair or an old couch thrown down any which way. Not everyone has the same eye for aesthetics. The point is to have a place outdoors that feels safe or comfortable, a place where you can talk with someone, or a place to be alone and far from the noise.

Yes, everyone needs a place that’s just for them.

I’m sitting in one of those right now, in my yard. The now familiar song sparrows entertain me with their antics and song, while the bees and hummingbirds dip and dive among the red and purple fuchsias. Scrub jays and flickers hunt for ripening blueberries and raspberries, all offering an alternate view of the world, one that never fails to soothe my racing mind.

A refuge creates a place of healing or a step back from the struggle. It helps you find the space between the sounds, the pause before the next note, the breath between actions.

What does your refuge look like, and what do you notice from there?

bench for all

Anyone who cares to can sit on this built-in street corner bench. There’s even a book waiting for the next passerby called, We Make the Road by Walking.

Of course if you’re near the river…

Daniel Cacouault: Reader, twentieth century

Daniel Cacouault: Reader, twentieth century

“I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

12 thoughts on “Gimme Shelter

  1. Thank you for this beautiful piece. We are so enjoying our cozy haven in our little backyard! I haven’t seen so many on my walks in Mtn. View, I guess people are sticking with their backyards like us.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ll be interested in hearing whether you start to notice them. We have 2 in back and 1 in front, each with it’s own advantages and flavor.
    Thanks for reading!


  3. Beautiful and so peaceful. I have several havens scattered around my garden, too. Most are private and the ones I like most, however my husband and I have taken to sitting on the front porch swing in the evenings. It’s fun to talk and wave at neighbors, passersby, and families as they stroll past on the sidewalk. I love the photos, especially the doors. I also enjoy the poetry of the Staffords. Be well!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Nancy,

    Loved the descriptive images as well as the variety of pictures of places of respite and safe harbor! During these ever changing times one must have that special place, chair, vista, or secret hideaway to renew one’s heart and touch one’s soul …a favorite Earth spot!

    Liked by 1 person

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