There are places where you experience a sense of peace and well being.
They’re different for each of us. And, of course, they change with time. When we moved to downtown Colorado Springs, when the kids were little, I used to love walking down from our apartment in Cache la Poudre to Acacia park. When we moved in Colorado Springs had barely recovered from being foreclosure capital of America. There were a lot of establishments that were closed, and a lot that were occupied by… well, lower-rent businesses than they would otherwise be.
So, it was a “small town America” experience. Heck, when students were on vacation and it wasn’t the height of tourist season, the place seemed like a ghost town. And I liked it. There were three bookstores (two used), a library and a park all within walking distance. I’d pop the baby in the carriage and go. Summer or winter, I could see people, maybe grab books (usually from the free bookshelf outside the store, which is how I spent the nineties reading really bad gothic romances and out of date medical compendiums.) As the kid got older, I’d get us hotdogs. Or malted milk.
It was a sacred place, and a sacred time. A thing I did that fed that place in me that needs…. sanctuary. A place where I feel safe and happy.
It has changed. I have changed. And of course, neither son fits in a carriage. And if he did, I wouldn’t be able to push it. 😉
There were other places where I used to feed what we’ll call for lack of a better term, my soul.
In our house in Manitou Springs, where the kids were little, I learned to get up before they did. About two hours before they did. Why? So I could get some writing in before they started running screaming through the house.
That meant I was up often when the first whisps of sunrise pinked the horizon. I loved, when it was not too cold, to go out and sit on the wall of the porch (the outer wall. It was broad enough for me to sit, with my back against one of the columns) and watch the sun rise, while drinking my coffee.
Well, we don’t live there, and the owners after us turned it into a meth house, then it became cheap apartments. So — even if I went back, it wouldn’t work.
There was always Pete’s Kitchen, on Colfax. It’s just a greasy spoon. Thing is, I LIKE greasy spoons. When we started going there, in the early nineties, honestly, it was borderline dangerous. Only the fact they gave free meals to the police kept it more or less safe.
We started going there when one of the kids was walked in by the hand, the other carried in a car-seat carrier. We’d go there when on weekend vacation in Denver, but also when we went to the airport in Denver. It was a ceremony to go there last thing before the airport, then first thing in the morning.
It was changing even before the shutdown. It was becoming less…. magical? Nothing wrong with it, but the feeling of being a special place was fading. I don’t know why. Oh, it was still a fun place to go, late at night, with older son, to sit over a narrow table, drinking endless cups of coffee and plotting novels.
But son is otherwise occupied, and well…. now it closes at nine.
The DMNS used to be special to me. When I was feeling tied down in daily stuff, I would do the walk through the hall of life, leading from first organisms to dinosaurs, and marvel at the irrelevance of my concerns. Lately they’ve gotten — more than — a bit silly, but I could still enjoy it, only you know, masks, and I have asthma.
But the thing about sacred places is that they don’t need to be “real” places.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are places in my head, dreams and stories I dreamed so long and so clearly that — like some external places — they have the power to renew me.
One of those is the first world I created. Another isn’t even a world.
When I was very little — and very sickly — I spent entire weeks in bed (the best way to understand this is to know that though there were antibiotics, Portuguese culture hadn’t internalized that fact.) Mostly alone, because of fear of contagion. I often say I learned to read in self defense.
But before I knew how to read, I used to build entire cities out of lego, and imagine the people living in them.
If I was really sick, I just concentrated on this little wooden house in the shape of a mushroom that mom had on her bedside table. I think it was supposed to be a jewelry box? But it was a mushroom, with a painted door and a painted window. I imagined an entire. populous family living there. It was… soothing. (And no one knows what happened to that box. I’ve asked.)
Through a really bad time in my life, I took these little (about half inch at most) plastic dogs that came in detergent boxes (which in Portugal at the time were like cereal boxes here. They had toys, which caused kids to entice mom to buy it, rather than make her own soap as she always had. Only the toys were really crappy. These were figurines of dog breeds) and which grandma had collected.
I’d build houses for them out of twigs and leaves. Vast complex, multi-building … villages? And then the dogs had lives and adventures. And for the time I was playing with them, it was real, and I wasn’t in my own, complicated life.
Is it escapism? Running away?
Sure. But you can’t grow or even — just — heal, while you’re under constant hammer blows.
Everyone needs sanctuary now and then. A place; a time that’s somehow sacred (distinct from the real sacred places of religion.n, of course. That’s different. More serious, for one.) A place to stop, draw breath, relax. Fill your proper outlines.
I do know that in my future there will other places, probably in completely different cities. Places where I will draw strength or feel enchantment.
Right now? Not so much of that. And yet I need it, because things are going to get quite a lot worse before they get better.
So I’m trying. Maybe I’ll learn.
There’s this little house shaped like a mushroom, deep in the middle of the forest. If I open the door, there will be a fireplace lit, and a table set for tea, and three chairs, on one of which a fat orange cat sleeps.
Won’t you take the other chair? There will always be time to go back to the real life and fight the real battles.
For now, though, let’s escape reality and its terrors, and have a cup of sweet tea and dream.