Currently Reading: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag
Looking back over the books I've been reading lately, I start to sense a theme. Many are memoirs, many involve travel, and most lead me to more self-reflection and inspiration in my own life. After a bit of a hard winter, my perspective has shifted, brightened like the July sun, illuminating my life and my expectations by focusing not on what I want, but on who I want to be. Much of this has come from the books I have been reading, each one perfect for the inner growth spurt I feel I am having. Though very different, the books Have Mother, Will Travel by Clare and Mia Fontaine, and The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag, speak similar words to me. In one, a mother and daughter travel the world, learning lessons about themselves in the places they end up. In another, three women find refuge from pain and hopelessness in a magical home that shelters and guides them. To me, both books depict a sense of refuge, of safety- whether finding oneself amid new vistas or in a safe, magical home, the protagonists learn to breathe, examine their lives and pick up the pieces. It left me realizing how important places of refuge are, both literally and figuratively, for it is often in the quiet and the apart where we finally hear ourselves, and can listen.
The idea of a sanctuary, of a safe place apart from life, has always beckoned me. I am drawn to the silent, to the peaceful. I meander through cemeteries, I sit in darkened churches, I crave the solitude of nature. In a way, books are also my sanctuary, cathedrals in my mind in which I can be
alone but also be surrounded by myself and by the world. In Ireland, we spent almost every day exploring ancient monasteries, their ruins one with the ground and the trees and the water that envelops it. At each, a sense of rightness, of belonging, filled me. There, in the sacred and the quiet, where human creation becomes indistinguishably entwined with God's, I could hear myself more clearly than ever before. One day in particular stands out, alone with Nathan on a stretch of Inishmurray Island, the island of Molaise's monks. On a day bright with blue and scudding clouds, I stared out to the sea, listening to the waves and the wind, and thought of nothing but where I was. No worries, no plans, no thoughts beyond gratitude. My mind, for the first time, was truly mine, uncluttered and free. That island filled my bones and it sustains me still. Closing my eyes, it is still my place of refuge, for though I change, it never will.
I need those places of sanctuary, but I also need to learn to carve one out inside of myself. After reading these books, I recognize how much more I want to reflect on my perspectives, my attitudes, and my expectations, how imperative it is for me to listen to that desire for refuge and quiet. I don't have to travel to faraway lands to hear myself; I don't even have to leave my living room. Wherever I am, I want to spend
more time seeking out the quiet and stillness, listening to myself and
learning from the soft voice that can only be heard when the mind is