A place of refuge or safety
A nature preserve
A sacred place
The innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church
I am once again on Peaks Island.
It is a place where I wake to the caws of crows as they trail after the trash truck.
It is a place where bird sightings – snowy owls, guillemot, night herons, downy woodpeckers –are shared via the Nextdoor listserv https://peaksisland.nextdoor.com/news_feed/.
It is a place where the eider ducks are busy protecting their babies from the newly arrived eagles. The adults form fortresses with their bodies as they shepherd their babies to and fro. https://youtu.be/2rlHaF4vq1g
It is a place when in 1946, the Davies sisters bequeathed their property to the “preservation and development of the wild beauty of the estate and the attraction, propagation and preservation of song birds.”
Sanctuary – A place of refuge or safety.
I am staying in what was formerly called the Lemon Cottage. Scheduled for demolition in 2001, my landlords – avid architectural preservationists – purchased, dismantled, relocated and rebuilt the circa 1860 style cottage – minus its kitchen and bathroom. Due to the fact they had not numbered the boards, there were a few leftover pieces post reconstruction. The cottage now serves as a woodshop, boathouse, and my “nest.”
Surrounded by trees, the Nest is ‘feathered’ with side-of-the-road furniture. In exchange for the use of the Nest, I open their cottage at the beginning of the summer. There is a 2-page list of “to do’s” – posted on Leonard (the refrigerator) including but not limited to:
Turn on the water (requires crawling under a building,) arrange for electric (flip circuits), remove tarps, charge the car battery and test brakes, remove shutters, rake leaves—take leaves to the compost bins at the community garden.
Spray for ants, vacuum up bodies; look for rodent evidence (don’t vacuum up their bodies), unpack EVERYTHING stored in plastic bags, discard dryer sheets used to deter rodents (sometimes effective.)
As I unwrap their art, I recognize works created by many of the island artists. My hosts support of all forms of art – paintings, ceramics, clothing – even my community-based work Welcoming the Stranger.
This year, I am adding sculpture to their collection. In 1998 I built labyrinths throughout Maryland. https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/02/
Here I can focus on being a naturalist, an artist, a writer. (And a cottage concierge.)
Here I can give myself permission to not worry.
Here I rest until I am renewed.
Here I am supported by friends.
It is a sanctuary built on kindness.
Sanctuary: A nature preserve
I have a bucket list. I no longer wish to visit creations produced by humans but want to experience creations that existed before humans. Each adventure requires travel and specific timing:
- Witness the monarch migration in California;
- Experience the aurora borealis in Iceland (with a few active volcanoes and hot springs thrown in); and
- Kayak with humpback whales in Tongo.
There are two ‘families’ of butterflies. Those east of the Rockies migrate to Mexico; those west of the Rockies stay in California and occupy towns along the Monterey coast from October to February. http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-migration.html
For my February birthday, my sister and I ‘migrated’ to the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California. Since the 1930’s, Pacific Grove has been Butterfly Town USA.
It is easier to locate a coffee shop in Pacific Grove than to witness monarchs flying. For butterflies to fly, it must be sunny, 60 degrees or above and NOT raining. 2017 has been the wettest winter in 122 years along the Monterey peninsula (and elsewhere in California.)
According to the docent, sightings were down dramatically. No one is exactly sure why. The butterfly is now a ‘climate refugee.’
There are 5 stages from egg to adult monarch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocWgSgMGxOc
Milkweed is critical to the process. It is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs and is the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.
The plant decreased 21 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2013. Scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging people to grow milkweed in their own yards and gardens – to create Monarch Waystations – pesticide free zones – sanctuaries.
The community gardens at both the Pipe Creek Meeting house in Maryland and on Peaks Island are home to pollinator plants and native milkweed. (And we compost.)
Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety.
Linda Rabben in her book: Give Refuge to the Stranger traces the history of sanctuary since ancient times. She believes altruism – in primates and other animals – is at its foundation. The historical roots of the movement derive from the right of sanctuary in medieval law and Jewish and Christian social teachings.
“ ….Human beings may have given refuge to strangers for 100,000 years or more. So many societies around the world practice or have practiced it that it can be considered a human universal, a characteristic of our species as a whole.”
The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. The movement was a response to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.
At its peak, Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations in the United States which, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing shelter, protection, material goods and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved.
Several prominent Sanctuary figures were arrested and put on trial in the mid 1980s, including its two “founders”: Rev. John Fife – Southside Presbyterian Church and Jim Corbett – a Quaker.
Today, Reverend Fife continues the work of welcoming strangers to Tucson.
Sanctuary: A sacred place
The word sanctuary comes from the Latin word for sacred place.
Tucson is located about 100 miles from the border with Mexico. It is surrounded by the Santa Catalina, Rincon, and Santa Rita mountain ranges.
It is a city that welcomes strangers.
I met Mary Koopman on the Peaks Island ferry. On our ride to Portland, we had a conversation about death and dying. She is a nurse specializing in hospice care. We have kept in touch over the years as our lives evolved. She moved to Tucson, was ordained as a Buddhist priest and established the Sky Island Zen sangha. She volunteers with a refugee resettlement program. (On my first day visiting her, we transported donated furniture to a newly arrived refugee family.)
She believes Tucson may be a place to install Abraham’s Tent and pursue another exhibition of Welcoming the Stranger. https://www.facebook.com/welcomingthestrangerart
Once again, I research possible venues, make appointments and follow leads. I travel to Tucson.
I visit the Warehouse Arts Management Organization Gallery – housed in a 4000 sq ft historic warehouse in downtown Tucson. It has been a catalyst in the renaissance of the downtown arts district. It could house the exhibit and provide space for additional events.I meet with gallery curators and advocacy organization directors including The Jewish Historical Museum of Tucson, Jewish Community Center, YWCA.
All make time to talk with me.
All are underfunded.
Sanctuary: the innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church From Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy.’
My last day in Tucson, I attended the Religious Society of Friends meeting. http://pima.quaker.org
Quakers sit in silence and listen for that still, small voice within for guidance. It was a warm spring day. The windows were open. The curtains fluttered in the breeze.
The hour passed in complete silence.
At the potluck lunch, I spoke about Welcoming the Stranger and my ‘call’ to create the work. I provided hand outs on the history of the project, what was needed to mount the show and how unclear I was about whether to exhibit in Tucson.
Someone suggested a book in the meeting’s library: Callings – Finding and Following an Authentic Life 1998 by Gregg Levoy.
As I flipped through the pages – a phrase caught my eye:
Saying No to a Calling.
In 2015, Welcoming the Stranger was exhibited at the Maine Jewish Museum and examined the history of immigration in Maine and immigration today.
In 2016, Guilford College, a Quaker school and home of Every Campus A Refuge, sponsored its installation in the City of Greensboro, NC – an official sanctuary city.
To exhibit Welcoming the Stranger in Tucson, I would have to proceed without secured financial support or a sponsor.
A clearness committee is a group of Friends (Quakers) appointed to help a member of the meeting find clarity around a leading. A clearness committee’s job is to help the person discover whether there is clarity to move forward with a matter, wait, or take other action.
As I write this blog entry, the United States government is considering legislation to cut federal funding to all cities that declare themselves ‘sanctuary cities. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/02/us/sanctuary-cities.html action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article
How did medieval societies decide to pursue the rule of law rather than allow mob rule?
How did the members of the Sanctuary Movement decide that their spiritual beliefs superceded the law of the land?
How does a city and its people decide to remain a sanctuary city rather than receive federal funds?
How does an artist choose between following a calling or letting it go?
I continue to listen for the still, small voice within.
Welcoming the Stranger is a 501 3c organization. If you would like to make a donation, make check payable to the Welcoming the Stranger Fund and send to:
Community Foundation of Carroll County
355 Clifton Blvd # 313
Westminster MD 21157
Or donate directly with Pay Pal: