Thursday, May 30, 2013

We all need a sanctuary...where's yours?

(The farm)

There were a number of places during my youth where I sought sanctuary.  Those were ‘secret’ places where I would retreat when I felt claustrophobic. I would put on my farm hat and ***veldskoens and hastily leave the farmhouse - to head for the mountains. Sometimes the dogs would accompany me on my adventures, sometimes not.  “The bush” was my haven and offered a place to rest and for me to ponder my life.  Nowadays, I relish the treasured images of those young, innocent days.
(Waterfall: Mpumalanga)

There was one, particular spot, deep in the mountains.  It was located on the far boundary and overlooked an old, dried-up waterfall.  Although it was quite a climb, it was worth the effort.  Once there, I’d stand on my tip-toes and stare at the beautiful view across the plains of the **Lowveld . Hundreds of rows of green tomato plants, mealies, peanuts and mangoes lay before me.  It was the epitome of abundance.

Although the **Lowveld is usually dry, a transformation took place when it rained.  The small, dry stream in the ravine would morph into a babbling brook.  Everything would come to life including the mountains’ birdsong. It was beautiful!  
(Above: Debegeni Waterfall, Limpopo province)

Those were innocent times. Although I was well under ten years old, my only real vulnerability was the ever-present threat of snakes.  At times, I would flop down onto the sand-bank, stretch myself out and look deep into the blue infinite sky.  Usually I’d find a tiny shoot of grass and suck on its sweet end. I had endless time to ‘think and ponder’ about the amazing Creator of this beautiful place.   

I remember the sounds of my ‘sanctuary’ so well; the wind as it sashayed down the mountain-side; the cry of the purple-crested lourie in the valley; the timbre of the tambourine dove as it sang out its woes; the tranquility of the stream and the sound of sand and twigs being displaced under my own veldskoens.  

I’d often hold my breath, fearing that it was too loud for this setting.  This was a fragile, beautiful ecosystem and I was its guest.  The odours too were distinctive.  Sometimes there was the invasive smell of a dead animal along the path and sometimes the tangy odour of *khakibos. At those times, I was acutely aware of my own freshly washed skin and how alien it seemed in this environment. 
(Waterfall: Drakensberg)

If I think back, this place offered everything I’d ever need for my soul.  It was the epitome of the musing of the great psalmist – David - in his “Psalm 23”:

 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

(A 3 minute, nostalgic video of my childhood farm - if you are interested)

Nowadays, as an adult living in a totally different world, I still find sanctuary in the most unexpected places – a gathering of people, a book, a garden, a conversation, a kind gesture from a stranger.  Amidst the bustle of the city, there is also beauty and purpose – you just have to look for it.  These places allow me to draw close to my Maker and to resume my life’s-journey.  

Today, I say thank you to the gathering of women who became my sanctuary for a few hours. It was my first visit to this little fellowship group and I was welcomed with gentleness and encouragement.  Like the sanctuary of my childhood, I’ve returned home feeling refreshed and restored – a treasured gift in this modern day world.

What are the images which provide sanctuary for you in this busy world of ours?

Sending lotsaluv to all my readers.

***Veldskoen (or “vellie”, colloquial, veldskoene plural, alternately velskoens or velskoene plural; pronounced "FELL-skoons") are Southern African walking shoes made from tanned leather.

**Lowveld (Low grassland/bush region of South Africa)

* Khakibos (A pungent grass)


rottrover said...

Hi Caryl! Sorry we have been absent for so long. I love this post! When I was a child, even though we lived very close to Los Angeles, we lived in the hills. I, too, spent hours alone in nature - hiking, climbing, looking for animals, smelling the scents of sage. Like you, as an adult, I still need that time alone with Nature. My dogs provide me with the perfect excuse to get out and re-connect with that peace. (Unless I'm with Otto and we see a horse! BOL!!)


Laura said...

What a beautiful place to grow up! And was that the piano you were playing the Moonlight Sonata on that accompanied the beautiful images? That's my favorite piano piece; my dad was a brilliant pianist, and I usually went to sleep as a child to him playing Beethoven sonatas in the other room. Such peaceful memories! Thank you for sharing your lovely childhood with us.

I grew up in the mountains of the Northwest U.S., but I completely understand what you mean about recognizing the amazing work of the Creator in the beauty around us. Your beauty is very different from what I'm familiar with, but the feelings are exactly the same, I suspect!

sprinkles said...

OMG, what beautiful waterfalls!

NanaNor's said...

Love seeing your homeland and the farm where you grew up. When I need to be refreshed, the mountains are where I head; however for hubby he loves the ocean and I'll take that too.
Sending love your way today.

Becky Andrews said...

This is such a beautiful thing to reflect on and think about ... the first thought that came to mind was the little play house in our back yard ... way past the horses, pigs and cows!! I think I gained my love to work and find joy and satisfaction there! Thanks for that journey and loved to hear yours as well! Today it is indeed our house 4 hours away in St. George -- ahhhhh. So peaceful and calm.

Ziggy Stardust said...

Mommy would love to be in the water beneath the falls. We don't have anything that cool around us but we do have some fun cities to visit. Those are beautiful and peaceful pictures.

Loveys Sasha

WFT Nobby said...

I read this lovely, meditative post when I came home from work, and while cooking supper, I pondered your question. It won't come as a surprise to you that I often find sanctuary in the wild and lonely hills of Scotland. But a more unexpected thought occurred to me. That my place of work can also act as a place of sanctuary. For example this afternoon I was in an informal meeting with five colleagues, discussing some particular aspect of our current project. A mixtures different ages, areas of expertise, job grades, genders and nationalities, we had an open and interesting discussion, everyone's ideas were treated with respect, a young engineer felt able to state why she disagreed with her much more senior colleague without fear that he would take offence, some unconventional solutions were proposed and not ridiculed. The chairman took care to finish on time, mindful that one participant had children to pick up from school. In short, it was a good place to be. I'm not going to claim that work is always like this, but when one is facing testing times with emotionally charged family issues, there can be an immense feeling of relief to be in the 'neutral' space of a work environment with a clear goal to achieve.
So, as you say, a sanctuary can exist in many guises. I hope you continue to find the new fellowship group such a positive experience.
Cheers, Gail.

How Sam Sees It said...

The farm is so beautiful! My sanctuary is the time I get to spend with my animals, either just enjoying being in their company or taking the horses out.


Brenda said...

completely off subject, have your heard of Ray Charles, the blind golden retriever puppy? I just saw this on the news. He has a facebook page. I thought you might be interested. "Ray Charles The Golden Retriever" is the name of his facebook page.

Mrs. JP said...

First, to answer your question, I am blessed to live in my sanctuary now, here in the holler....away from all the hustle and bustle of life once we get here.
Secondly, thank you for that video. A couple of things really stood out to me. You played my all time favorite song in the Moonlight Sonata. When I am in a stressful place and only have my ipod I put that song on repeat and listen to it over and over. I've never mastered it though because I don't like playing in sharps!
The pictures of your family farm are lovely...the one that caught my eye this time was the piano. It has candle holders...squeal,,,I love it!
I love you family farm. I would love to visit it. You are right it does remind me of Psalm 23.

Dexter said...

Thank you for a calming post. What a magnificent country you live in. When I was younger, the library was always my sanctuary. It kind of still is. So quiet, surrounded by books.

Mango Momma

Mary Lou said...

When I was around seventeen years old, during an emotionally trying time in my life, we attended a church camping trip. There was this rushing river. While everybody else partook in recreational activities, I walked to that body of water. I thought deep, deep thoughts. Somehow this rushing river cleansed my heart and soul. Even today, I love to stare out at water. Oceans. Creeks. Waterfalls. Rivers. Water is so very peaceful. That is my "sanctuary". ;)
So, to answer your question. {What are the images which provide sanctuary for you in this busy world of ours?} The waterfalls!! ;-D
--Raelyn and Rose

Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie said...

I wondered if that was you playing Moonlight Sonata. Nice job Caryl! The farm video did put out calming vibes. When I was growing up we had a summer place called Hoot 'n Holler and it was my special place too. I'd play in the creek and catch polywogs and crayfish and frogs and fish in our lake. It was a piece of heaven. Dad sold it when I was 21 and it broke my heart. Believe it or not, 40 years later my brother bought it back and Patrick and I got to stay there last summer when we were in Pennsylvania. Sweet memories that I got to share with my Patrick. :)
BabyRocketDog & Hootie's mom

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I am here- feeling and reading- thank you for sharing.