My Words

Sacred Spaces

The sacred spaces of a homebody…It’s a difficult task to describe places that are sacred to me, the person who jokes about home being the only sacred space. The girl who didn’t travel well as a kid, and preferred nights alone in her own room to sleepovers with friends, regretting it every time I accepted an invite. My childhood home hasn’t been home since I was fourteen and the house we moved to after that had nothing sacred to it. I still have no connection to that dwelling where my parents live. It’s just a house.

I’m happy in my forest house now, but still struggle to describe it as feeling sacred. I haven’t quite figured out how to make it mine yet, this space in the Puget Sound, though parts of it feel right. Parts of it feel real. When I’m here, I know I’m in the place that will be home for a long time to come. Other times, I sit on my deck and stare out at the trees, the grand stretch of the Olympic Mountains and mist from the Hood Canal behind us, and think it’s still just an almost.

In thinking about this class, I thought about one place I traveled to. The vacation, as we simply called it, where I finally felt like I’d come home. Our first anniversary trip to Ireland, and specifically Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. We wandered through so many sacred places on our car ride from Dublin on the east coast to Shannon on the west, but Christ Church was the first to make me cry.

It wasn’t the holy-ness of the building, or the milling about of real-time worshipers that caught tears in my throat. It was the longevity of the building. It was the history in the stones and the pews and the tombs below that hit my heart. For hundreds of years longer than the country I’d been born in had existed as a country, this church had sat in the middle of a small but growing city, cared for and protected. Built up and torn down, rebuilt and redesigned with countless stories folded into every stone.

We wandered past the heart-shaped box (not yet stolen) and an ancient copy of the Magna Carta, into the basement there, reading names of those entombed, marveling at the gold artifacts that had been stolen and then stolen back. Candle sticks that once resided in a grave to protect them, and a cat who chased a mouse into an organ where both were mummified, all while a modern-day DVD outlining nearly 1,000 years of history played in the corner. The sight of it all together, the TV on the old-school rolling stand pushed into the stone corner along tombs of the long dead, and belonging there, nonetheless, was humbling.

Outside of the main doors was one of the original foundations that had been laid in this spot almost 1,000 years before as a Viking church. Of course, it was a Viking church that spoke to me. The Celtic and Norse stories always being the strongest in my heart. Silkenbeard – as the Viking King of Dublin was known because the Vikings loved their nicknames as much as their facial hair – could not have known then that I would come to stand silently weeping at his sacred foundation. My own newness and the newness of my roots exposed against his ancient, crumbling steps.

You did not need to be a Viking, or a Dubliner, or religious to feel the power of the grounds under your feet. You didn’t even need to step inside the doors of the church to feel the sanctity of the small, rectangular ruin. The sacredness is evident in the care and protection by lay people, continuing for centuries after a Viking King’s death, in the foreign city I felt was home. My sacred home came to me, the homebody who didn’t travel, in the cobbled streets and rolling hills of an island I spent too little time on and have spent countless hours trying to recreate.

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