Photo: My work area is starting to turn into a collection of sacred artifacts. A teddy bear with Maryland stitched on its belly. An eight-pointed wheel handmade by a member of my writing group. A photo of my great-grandmother when she was younger. A hand-painted card by my sister. The newest addition is a hand-cut bunch of lavender, my favorite scent, which is making the office smell wondrous. Each of these things, small in stature, but intimate in nature, are the talismans for my writing journey. Seemingly tiny things are often the spark for the hugely profound.
I got my Ikea catalog and my Ploughshares rejection at the same time. Most unfortunate timing. Sad mama writer, for sure. I was thumbing through the glossy pages in search for some inspiration (and doing the math in my head) when my phone did it’s little jingle. Another form letter, unfortunately. Very frustrating. Unlike other rejections, though, I’m not all broken up about it. I know that I’ve written a publishable story and I must to keep looking for a home for it. Matter of fact, I think I know where I’m sending it next.
In the meantime, there is plenty of writing to do and The Husband and I are thinking about our last summer projects for August so that we can gear up for our Autumn improvements. Thus, the Ikea catalog. I pretty much want to put a hanging plant pot in every window of the house like a maniac. It’s fun to dream, anyway.
I’ve always thought of home as a sanctuary. I know that this isn’t a unique thought. There is power in physical dominion, and comfort in the feeling that you and only you lay claim to some space somewhere. The things that we have done to this house in the last year and a half have less to do with equity and resale value, and way more to do with our strong feeling of reverence for our home. This is our place. It is what we make of it.
My Quiet Thoughts this week have been about an expansion of my idea of what “sanctuary” is. I’m thinking less about the physical manifestation of home and hearth, and more about the who and the how of invitation into the sanctuary of my life and company. I’m learning that “sanctuary” is less about the building that stands and more about the little things that go in and out of it.
I spent every day of this week on a playdate of some kind. It was as much about having the boys spend time with other kids as it was an opportunity for me to hang out with adults that I don’t always get a chance to. The biggest blessing of summer is that schedules relax and otherwise unavailable people become available. As I sat and shared and laughed and listened, I felt a sense of community and welcome that I haven’t felt in a long while. It came through great stories: some intimate and others painful, but each complex and beautiful, many with a lot of joy and laughter. What I appreciated, as I was listening and asking questions, and being rewarded with incredible answers, is that each story and shared laugh pushed the door a little wider. We adults found ourselves open and equal. How rare it has been to be that way lately. Everything about my experience here has been about dichotomy.
On the back deck of a lovely home, a beach blanket by our favorite pond, on a candle-lit porch on a cozy street, and in a softly lit church office, people chose to share a sincere moment with me this week. And they allowed me to share a few of my own. In our ways, we shared a bit of our sanctuaries, opening the doors of our toils, our challenges, our loneliness, and yes, a lot of our joy. By choosing vulnerability rather than attempting to show power or coolness or whatever we usually do, every person I spent time with this week expanded a bit of my sanctuary and warmed my heart in the process. I didn’t feel invisible this week. I didn’t feel unheard this week. I was, this week, Kyra: full in my humanity, my intellect fully appreciated, my story fully heard.
For many of you, the experience of equal sharing is not a profound thing. This is what we humans are designed to do, after all. But long-time readers, who have been with me through the fits and starts of my relationships since having children, will recall that my experience in New England has been marked by incredibly shallow, unequal, overly formal, or non-existent connections. People are unwilling to share here, or they give only the most minimal amount, or they talk without ever listening. For the most part, I’ve found that people are insincere and detached here… fiercely loyal to those who they know and have always known, seeking comfort in a stringent set of commonalities. Moving to MetroWest has only amplified my feelings, as I moved away from the few connections that I had made in the city, and have had to start all over again. People here are established in tight cliques. I feel like I’m always a step behind, at the bottom of the demographic, or on the fringes of any given group.
To be clear, my week of sincere connection doesn’t fix any of my problems. I’m just saying that this week, I felt more community and connection in MetroWest than I ever have before. It comes through the small gestures: the generous welcome and the open door, flowers in a mason jar, a loaf of still-warm bread, a story about this crazy life we’re all trying to live. These expand the sanctuary, making it less of an island and more of a sprawling, glorious temple. The four walls of my farmhouse are only a small part of it.
Brick by brick, I’m making my way.
Is your sanctuary an island, Dear Reader? Mine still is. I’m not perfect. With more weeks like this, though, who knows what can happen?
A good hug helps, and I wish one for you, Dear Reader. Even on these hot, sticky summer days, I wish you a long hug and a tight squeeze. I wish you a seat at an unknown table, a cold drink poured into a pretty glass and a welcoming smile that’s quick with a joke. I wish you a chance to share a natural wonder, like a look at our glorious moon, with a friend near or far (Have you noticed the moon lately? The size, shape and color of it have been spectacular this week!). I wish you an intimate moment, just for you and another: that look that only they give that makes you fall out in a belly laugh, a squeeze of a hand at a tender moment, a kiss on the forehead after a long day, or a favorite thing presented with quiet, loving care. I wish you beautiful vegetables that still smell of the sweet soil they were freshly picked from, bonus if that soil so happens to be yours! Finally, by candlelight, I wish you a story, shared with sincerity, welcome and friendship. I wish you a reminder that your toils are known, your time appreciated and your happiness the sole desire and motivation of someone, somewhere. Because you are loved and you are worthy of that love. More than you can ever really know.
Until Monday, Dear Reader, take good care.
(And if you happen to know the Ikea Fairy, will you please send him/her my way? There is some stuff I’d really like to have dropped off! Thanks! 🙂 )