Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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How to Build a Sanctuary

I answered the phone. It was my brother-in-law. He opened the conversation with "Your country has gone mad." Which I know.He's absolutely right.  And he has seen some crazy in his day in Northern Ireland during the thirty years of The Troubles.  So how to not add to the sum total of crazy these days? The words sanctuary and refuge keep resonating with me.  We speak of asylum seekers and refugees. Sanctuary is a safe haven, which in ancient times could be claimed in sacred space by those who were hunted. In this cultural climate of fear, where do you build a place of safety for yourself and for others? How can you build a sanctuary, which is also synonymous with a reserve, although in that sense it is used when talking about protecting nature or animals.


Where I am taking sanctuary in these tumultuous times is in a daily poetry writing practice. I write one and post it on my personal blog. It amounts to a spiritual practice because poetry is about connection. In a world that is thriving on division, it is helping build connection into my neural network.  I do understand the seductiveness of escapism. But that is also a deep disconnectedness. Sometimes a temporary withdrawal is absolutely necessary, but that is prompted by the realisation that you need to psychically survive and a little 'Time Out' is the prescription, if not the cure. Sanctuary, as a concept, suggests itself to me as a way to remain engaged, while also being mindful of needing a place of safety in deeply toubled times.

So I offer you this poem. May it inspire to think more deeply about sanctuary and refuge and places of safety.


How to Build a Sanctuary


Begin by holding a space.

Even the palm of your hand will do.

Fix your still point in any place.

It doesn’t require anything fancy.

A listening ear can make do.


While the will and the do make things happen,

let love always be the first motion,

your brick and mortar and endless ocean.

You don’t need anything fancy

to build yourself a sanctuary.


Some sanctuaries are spacious,

full of smells and bells and candlelight.

Others are secret woodland dens, safe

only to approach in the dead of night.

Be imaginative when it comes to creating havens.


What and where and who feels safe?

That is the great perplexing question

with the world become a Crazy Train place.

Let me hazard a random suggestion:

knit a blanket, grab a towel, always go packing


a toothbrush,  spare batteries and a flashlight.

Have the escape bag at the ready,

slid underneath your neatly made bed.

No one is immune to feeling edgy,

wishing that you had long ago fled.


When you set out, look out for the old woman feeding pigeons

standing stock still in the city square.

The one that the crowd mills and parts around

as they go about bowed with their cares.

Follow her, going against the streaming horde.



Watch where she stops. Mark that space.

She'll  knock at some random door or rattle a window.

It could be a soup kitchen, barbers, or antiquarian bookshop.

Hark her signal for this safest of houses, because

sanctuaries aren’t necessarily built at fancy addresses.

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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