Sanctuary.  Harbor.  Haven.  Oasis.

Even the sound and lilt the these rare words usher forth thoughts of safety, beauty, and peace.  They could also intimate a holy place or the inmost recesses and holiest place in a temple or church.  I’m not sure we entirely realize the increasing scarcity of such ideas, both physically on this earth and in our hearts.

Sanctuary… Is a word which here means a small, safe place in a troubling world. Like an oasis in a vast desert or an island in a stormy sea.
– Lemony Snicket,  A Series of Unfortunate Events

This was one of my favorite parts from this unique and touching movie.  Remembering it here makes me again also remember a quote I shared awhile ago from Wendell Berry:

There are no unsacred places, there are only sacred places and desecrated places.

I guess it seems to me that maybe nowadays sanctuaries either must be created, or preserved if they are found, and I’m talking about both physical and spiritual.  So much of our lives are now desecrated.  Here on Bainbridge I found a natural sanctuary that encompasses perhaps all of these ideas of creation, preservation of the physical and metaphysical.  It is a place found, and then equally created and preserved by a great man Prentice Bloedel and his wife Virginia.  It is a green garden-harbor called The Bloedel Reserve.

The Reserve is a place to experience the bond between people and nature. It is a place for people but not in clamorous crowds. It is a place in which to enjoy and learn from the emotional and aesthetic experience of nature the values of harmony, respect for life and tranquility. It is a place to enjoy and learn the values of eclectic design, aesthetics and ecology as the catalysts for the harmonious interaction of people and nature.
– Prentice Bloedel

There is a generally acknowledged but little understood ability of plants and landscape to evoke a wide variety of deeply felt emotions, ranging from tranquility to exhilaration.
– Prentice Bloedel

… So, over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes.
– William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale



I desperately needed this place when I took the first step down the path.  Through fields, forest, moss and glen I walked very slowly, very intently.  I listened.  I touched bark and sat on benches.  It was a sanctuary.  A holy place.  Here are some traces of my steps:



































































The final natural space of this garden oasis was interesting to me.  It was a reflection pool with no features except that it is the final resting place of Prentice and Virginia.  On the stone you can find there is Prentice’s favorite poem, called Sympathy by Emily Bronte.

There should be no despair for you
While nightly stars are burning;
While evening pours its silent dew,
And sunshine gilds the morning.
There should be no despair — though tears
May flow down like a river:
Are not the best beloved of years
Around your heart forever?

They weep, you weep, it must be so;
Winds sigh as you are sighing,
And winter sheds its grief in snow
Where Autumn’s leaves are lying:
Yet, these revive, and from their fate
Your fate cannot be parted:
Then, journey on, if not elate,
Still, NEVER broken-hearted!

Sanctuary doesn’t mean escape does it?  Sanctuary doesn’t mean that there will not be storms, trouble, loss, or fear?  No I don’t think so.  Sometimes I wish it did, but I’m not sure real escape from anything is really possible.  I think that Truth continues and remains present no matter what.  Sometimes Truth hurts, or means fear, or means change.  But there can be a harbor.  Sometimes its good to seek and find sanctuary as Prentice did.  He gave a great gift to the world by his creation and preservation of what Wendell Berry would call a sacred place.  I hope you, my dear readers find your way here some sunny, peaceful day.  …or find… or create a sanctuary of your own.

My heart needed this place.  And I am grateful.


One thought on “Sanctuary

  1. Eric, on your recommendation we stopped by on our way back to Seattle this weekend. Caroline was napping in the car so Mark stayed with her, and Sam and I hiked the lower loop by the barns and the bird sanctuary and through the Japanese garden and the reflection pond. Lovely. There’s only so much stopping and reflecting one can do with a 5 year old, but to me that was also a part of the experience and he noticed a few things I would have never picked up on. It was a pretty special afternoon for the two of us. Hoping we can go back!

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