Creating a Sanctuary

Where plants thrive, all other forms thrive, including humans.

- Rosemary Gladstar

It’s strenuous work but I’ve started to remove sections of my grass lawn with the intention of creating a small sanctuary for native plants, birds, insects, and whoever wants to spend time thriving here like friends and family.

Renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar defines sanctuary, “as a place of refuge, of protection and safety, and a place where one can feel at peace.” She says that when we create botanical sanctuaries, we are creating a safe haven.

The intention to create a sanctuary begins with the recognition that the land, plants, trees, water, air, and light, are all sacred. Everything is sacred including the oasis of our balcony, our neighbors’ yards, the trees at the local park, and all the nearby trails that snake over hills and mountains and past waterways.

We are sacred too. Of course, indigenous people know this and have known this for millenia, but it’s taking the rest of us a bit longer to remember it.

Thinking we are separate from nature is an outdated belief. At one time, those who yearned for “progress” believed that man was superior to nature and so they devised all sorts of ways to dominate the wild spaces like deforestation, damming of rivers, and monoculture agriculture. These acts have been highly destructive and we’ve lost a great deal. The state of the world makes me think of a scene in the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Whilst in the midst of a seemingly unworkable predicament, George Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill delivers the perfect understatement to his fellow fugitives, “Damn, we’re in a tight spot!”

We are also in a tight spot, and it’s easy to get discouraged about all the ecological loss, but what Rosemary Gladstar is offering us is powerful. Even in its small scale approach, creating a sanctuary offers beneficial effects for the environment and our own physical, mental, and spiritual health.