Sanctuary from Me

It was innocuous enough, I showed up the first session of another writing class with a fat pen to go blah . . . blah . . . blah . . . at our writing prompt. This would be the only prompt in the term that I had to address without much reflection. On future prompts, I would have a week to mull, meditate, and otherwise muddy or clarify my thoughts as I laid down memories on paper.

We were given choices of prompts (the teachers in adult education classes seem to go out of their way to be accommodating). I picked one, “How do you define sanctuary?” and grabbed my padded pen to let the words fly.

Sometimes I get a melancholy when I look back and words flow in an incoherent jumble. In an earlier session my hand-written thoughts were too primal or scattered to share and I remained quite when it came time to read what I wrote to the class. However, this day I read my response (with some of the rambling removed):

“A sanctuary for me is a place up high with not much at my back. A place where I can look below and be absorbed by the view and not worry about my place in the landscape. A place where my only responsibility is to drink in the view or solitude. On top of Dallas Mountain, hunkered down in the wind of Hardy Ridge, enveloped by the solitude up on Silver Star in winter. Places where I can view the grandeur in the distance and only be absorbed by the beauty.

“In the past, it was a rare occasion that I could savor the moment in hiking with Michael and I guess that was pretty much the problem in hiking with him. There was no sanctuary in matching his pace and keeping up with his dreams. No retreat to my own step, no marching to my own heart, no insisting on savoring my own visual feasts if he wanted to move on.

“As I write this I wonder if the hills would now be my sanctuary if he could still climb them? Would the mountains still sooth me if I climbed them with him? Maybe I would remain inspired, but the peaks would not be my sanctuary.”

Then more words dribbled out onto the paper to punctuate my point about the mostly gutless “shut up and put up” approach I’d often taken with Michael when we were younger, and then I was rambling with a pen. Again.

These days, when I’m hiking or in the mountains, the focus is only on what I get to relish and enjoy. If I glimpse activity down in the distance, the humans seem so insignificant. I seem insignificant. And if I’m but a tiny blip on a grand landscape, the heartaches or screwups that I hold fade to nothingness.

There is no better sanctuary than a panorama that overwhelms all else. Thank God I can still pound my way up a mountain to be enveloped by the grandness of its soul.