Looking for and wanting to be sanctuary this year, I wonder why beauty keeps popping up in my awareness. There is nothing inherent in beauty that keeps anyone safe! Yet it so many forms it signals shelter, respite, comfort, shelter.
The roses are all cut back for the winter, the rains have come steadily, insistently, watering the very dry land intermittently for two weeks, and we hope and pray that the aquifers are filling up, and that things will bloom, not just today but in the months to come. I walk out to the bare stems of the rose bushes, and there is the first Sutter’s Gold rose of this year, my beloved and cherished favorite, given to me by a soul sister over 20 years ago. It struggles in contrast to the younger, showier plants who will bloom sometime soon. But it was a heart gift–completely unexpected–that reminds me of Spirit, of loving friendship, and of hope.
Beauty gives hope…that there is more than bleakness, crassness, despair.
Matthew Fox says: Beauty saves.Beauty heals. Beauty motivates. Beauty unites. Beauty returns us to our origins, and here lies the ultimate act of saving, of healing, of overcoming dualism. Beauty allows us to forget the pain and dwell in the joy. (cited in Spiritual RX, Brussat,, 37)
There is a sanctuary in beauty that shelters, even if it is just for a fleeting moment, for one brief shining moment. My heart leaps up as I look at the bud of my Sutter’s Gold rose, even though I know that it will bloom, blossom and fade in an arc of precious few days. I take hope in knowing that as the rose demonstrates, there are no final defeats, there are wonderful surprises, and that the Holy One never lets us go.
So as I seek to be sanctuary, I seek, gather and create beauty where I am. It glows in my front garden. It shines in the faces in photos of my beloved ones, hanging on the wall. It shimmers in pieces of art gathered from travels thither and yon. It illumines the faces of those who enter our house for conversation or nourishment, and leaves an after glow when they depart. I find myself moved in gratitude that beauty amplifies the scent of comfort and joy. I listen to the prophet Isaiah who challenges the faithful to “give to them (the marginal and hopeless) beauty for ashes, and oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit,” (Isa.61:3) it is an act of resistance to provide Beauty in this world that God has created.
Marge Piercy’s poem concludes:
I picked the Sutter’s Gold to remind me/ I may love myself a little/ even when my work is done/ that many things are beautiful besides art,/ that if a rosebush can sit in the frozen/ earth enduring a dormant season,/ maybe I can learn to work without/ anxiety running its ripsaw in my throat/ to bear those peculiar flowers/ which carry in their centers/ both birth and death, let go/ and live on. (The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing)
For me there is sanctuary in beauty…hope. I savor it, and intend to share it.