In December 2008, I published the first post to my blog. At the time, I was living in a large apartment building in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood of Boston :
Living in the midst of the city, I often dream of a cottage at the foot of a mountain with herbs in the garden, a cat in the window, tea kettle on the hearth, and a much-loved friend coming for a visit. This vision includes handwritten cards on Crane stationery (fountain pen, of course), delicious home-cooked food, close community, and spacious time where relationships can deepen and love can find a restful, quiet intimacy I rarely experience in the age of iPods.
The dream of cottage life can either be put off to some distant day that may never arrive, or it can be lived out in a land of cell phones, emails, subways, and where trees rent space from concrete. The source of this vision eludes me, but its magic returns again and again to remind me of what is most important, to ask the question: How might I live the ‘cottage life’ now, today?
My hope then was to build a contemplative sanctuary on the internet, where I could write about my attempts to practice a life of paying attention to God in the urban world, looking for the beauty in daily life, simple hospitality, and deep community. At the time, I called it a “cottage life,” with the cottage being the symbolic home of simple, sustainable practices–creating a sanctuary space both for me personally and for all who crossed my threshold.
Now, having joyfully found and moved into a physical incarnation of the contemplative cottage, I’d like to share some reflections on these practices for cultivating sanctuary, one for each day of October. Many of these practices have been joyfully part of my life for years, even decades. Others are still practices-in-practice, as I struggle to live contemplatively: disciplines I keep coming back to, no matter how many times I fail, and see fruit even in my failures.
Because these practices are personal–ones that have found a place in the contemplative life I feel God has called me to live in my particular situation, you may find some resonate with your own life, others intriguing, and some downright impossible. My only hope in sharing them is to provide possibilities–like some many writers and bloggers have for me–not prescriptions.
Even sometimes a completely impossible practice invokes a powerful longing for what it represents. Paying attention to the longing and laying it before God in prayer is the key, not so much the mechanics of the practice. I have no doubt there are an infinite number of practices, done with attention and intention, that can nurture the vision of life God has called each one of us to live.
So, I hope you will join me these next 31 days, and that in the short daily posts, you will find inspiration to craft your own practices for cultivating sanctuary, in your own life and situation.
And, as always, wherever you are, I invite you to journey with me in attending deeply to life: looking for beauty, practicing peace, and gazing with love.
Christ’s grace and peace,