I’ve been setting up a peaceful space in my side garden to write in. I have my old mesh metal table and chairs there, just got a sunbrella so I can be out there when it’s bright, and I’ve planted up one bed and started the arduous task of weeding the space which is – ALL WEEDS. Having a place to write that’s all mine and in the garden has turned out to be exactly what I needed. A place for calm reflection, for writing fiction, journals, and to write more posts for this website. Writing in my garden means I’m also getting up to weed for little breaks. It means I’m already out there so I check on my plants and do a little spur of the moment pruning.
Writing and gardening are two of my best self care activities so my general perspective has been improving. I’ve also been on a news fast which helps a great deal because the world is on fire with no sign of abatement.
It’s not always possible to create a space like this, as I’m lucky enough to be able to do. Some of you might live in an apartment, for example. If it’s large enough you can create a little corner of tranquility for yourself. But even if your space is extremely limited, you can find spaces that make you feel peaceful and that improve your mood and/or perspective. Once upon a time I lived in a studio apartment with a roommate in San Francisco, then I lived in another studio apartment with a different roommate. There was no where to hide. No where to retreat to for peace and quiet. So I found a number of locations near my apartment that I loved to sit quietly in by myself (and a thousand strangers) to recharge and breathe more deeply, or sometimes calm down from a rage.
My favorite peaceful place was to sit in the pews of Grace Cathedral. I’m not religious. I don’t actually like religion. But one thing I LOVE are cathedrals and old religious art and music. I love the hush of cathedrals and the sky-high cielings. I love the stained glass and the marble floors. I love the alcoves and candles and the residue of thousands of people’s most intimate prayers and hopes stuck to the walls. I would sit there for an hour just breathing and letting go and being alone and it was incredibly peaceful.
I also used to spend a lot of time sitting in the little park across the street from Grace Cathedral that my friend Carrie and I dubbed “Heaven”. Old Chinese people met there to practice Tai Chi and I loved to watch them. Is there anything so beautiful as watching a bunch of old people moving as gracefully as herons through quiet marshes? Mom’s with babies in strollers and rowdy children would stop there on walks and hang out. Ruffians and homeless people hung out there too. Some people ate their bagged lunches there on breaks from work. I loved watching all the people come and go.
But my favorite hideaway spot of all was a little park off of Grant Street in China Town with a big metal statue in it. No one I knew would ever bump into me there. Hardly any tourists ever stopped there either. It was a favorite spot of mine to write in my notebooks, steam with anger (and then relax as the environment drained it all away), and plot my dreams. I also worked on different styles of alphabets that eventually morphed into my real handwriting that I still use today.
If you don’t already have somewhere to go to feel peaceful in, start looking for one.
If you already have one, I entreat you not to forget to spend time in it as often as possible.