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Thinking we are separate from nature is an outdated belief.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.
My hunch is that you’ve already developed some sort of sanctuary like a tiny herb garden, a patch of wildflowers, or a generous fruit tree, but what if all eight billion of us (minus newborn babies, of course, because they are still building muscle strength) nurtured botanical sanctuaries as acts of peace and refuge toward encouraging a thriving planet?
It doesn’t take much and you can keep it simple.
Try this exercise: sit in your outdoor space for 5-minutes each day and do absolutely nothing except observe your environment. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t bring a book with you. No journaling allowed. Just sit. Then ask yourself, is this a sanctuary? If it doesn’t feel like one then be curious about what you can add. Maybe the answer doesn’t come right away. You might have to sit quietly for a few days to listen to what the land wants. And maybe the changes will take a while because you’ve got a lot of work or health challenges or a fixed income that doesn’t give you any room to move. That’s ok – take your time – Mother Nature is patient, especially when she senses your heart’s intention. She will support you in your creative endeavors and you will see, like I have, that our wild kin will respond over time. They will thrive because of your offerings and you will feel extraordinary gratitude for being part of the sacred haven.