I remember as a young boy of age 8 or 9, the thrill of building a “fort.” One fort, in particular, stands out in my mind. I grew up in a small town in south-central Minnesota which had five lakes within the city limits. The lakes were a chain, all connected by a series of natural channels surrounded by swampland filled with cattails and tall, dense marsh grass. Besides the marsh grass, there were clumps of thick brush, willow trees, and a variety of other growing things that provided wonderful building materials for a fort. In the middle of this marvelous ecosystem, my best friend and I built our hideaway.
The fort looked much like the thatched huts I used to see in old issues of National Geographic, or at exhibits in natural science museums depicting the dwelling of some native Americans or pre-civilization cultures. Whether primitive, instinctual, ancestral urges guided our construction, I do not know. What I know is we made the perfect fort! The frame was of willow branches—bent, twisted, and tied with vines to form a dome-shaped structure. Then we wove the long, slender, gray-brown marsh grass in and out of the framing branches until we had a nearly waterproof, well-camoflauged dwelling inside of which we stayed warm through late autumn and cool during midsummer. The fort was our base of operations from which we stealthily set out with our BB guns to stalk frogs, prowl for sparrows, and be on the lookout for any unwanted intruders. To my knowledge, no one discovered our fort. It remained forever our secret.
What I remember most about the fort is the way I felt when I was in it. It was cozy. The floor was dry and soft. The two of us could sit cross-legged and be comfortable. When I was in that fort, I felt safe, secure, relaxed, unassailable, and even a little smug! I felt free to be myself. To daydream. To ponder and plan. To remember and to yearn. I was deliciously free from the watchful eyes of grownups. That little hideaway was my escape, my refuge, my sanctuary. And time stood still.
What about you? Have you made a hideaway for yourself? A place you can go to be alone with your thoughts? A haven where you renew and replenish yourself? A refuge from the demands of an ever more intrusive outside world? Maybe your hideaway is a room full of sewing materials, covering the floor and furniture, virtually surrounding you. Maybe it is a comfortable chair in the corner of a room with a small table nearby upon which sets a good book and a glass of wine. Maybe your fort is a small space in the garage, filled with tools and the aroma of newly worked pine or cedar. Or maybe yours is a locked bathroom with a full tub of hot, sudsy, scented water beckoning you to immerse and soak yourself for five minutes of peace.
If you do not have a hideaway, make one. Make a sacred space for yourself. Locate and organize an environment that is a perfect fit for you–one that envelops you, shields you, relaxes you, centers you, restores, and nourishes you. Once you have your hideaway, go there often. Maybe you will stay only a few minutes, and other times much longer. If you can, linger there long enough to allow the truths of your life into your awareness. Listen. Prepare. Amend. Aspire. When you leave your haven, plunge back into the fullness of your life, but always be ready to return as soon as possible!