“Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.” -Christopher Forrest McDowell

I live in the middle of Northwest forest. Tucked away in the midst of trees and sky and absolute silence is the singular circumstance in my life that brings sanity to all the rest. Our house is unusual, no closets in any bedrooms, only one family bathroom and no master suite. In fact the master bedroom is the smallest room in the house. Draped in deep red embroidered silk, the French doors look onto a little balcony that is our family’s nest in the trees.

This spot gives the meaning to the word sanctuary. Far from the noise and commotion of life and even fairly protected from the chaos that can erupt at a moment’s notice among the teen siblings at home, the balcony is a place to find my breath again. I can listen for my own internal rhythm out there and it slows to the pace of the birds or frogs or crickets sending their messages.

I built this refuge for myself, but it didn’t take long for the balcony to become the favored location of everyone in the family. Anyone who takes up residence there to sort through feelings or have private conversations are left alone. We all share a respect for the importance of guarding this place as a sanctuary for whoever needs it. We are all aware that everyone deserves a protected place to take care of the soul.

Sometimes the balcony fills up with the kids and all their friends when the meaning of sanctuary is more like nature’s temple. Up high at bird’s eye level, the conversation is elevated to the best in everyone. I feel privileged to listen to this new generation imagine their future and reconcile themselves to life right now. Sometimes, the height of the conversation are the sustained bursts of laughter.

Often I think to myself if everyone had a real nest to grow themselves through their lives, the world would be an entirely different place. Certainly a more positive one.