Summer sanctuary

We are all hungry for this other silence…. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.” — Rachel Naomi Remen

SanctuarySummer’s first week rolled in on a brutal heat wave in more ways than one. For starters, last Tuesday I visited the Rochester Skin Cancer Center to have a basal cell skin cancer removed from my cheek.

Prior to my appointment, I’d read about the Mohs method, which, thankfully, incorporates plastic surgery immediately following the cancer removal. So I knew what to expect from the procedure itself. But I didn’t expect to come home with a black eye, a painfully swollen cheek, and three inches of black stitches that made me look like the Bride of Frankenstein. I’ll be writing more about this sobering experience in an upcoming magazine column — so I won’t elaborate here.

For now, let’s just say that I’ve been spending the week in recovery, following the doctor’s orders to sit quietly with an icepack on my face until the sutures are removed. With the exception of visiting my mother — who’s now back in the hospital for more surgery — I’ve stayed close to home. (I really don’t want to frighten my neighbors or re-explain to curious bystanders why I’m sporting a shiner and a giant bandage.)

Luckily, I’d anticipated this “recovery time” earlier in the spring. With that in mind, I worked twice as hard and fast to get my backyard garden — my sanctuary — whipped into shape, paying special attention to favorite areas where I could retreat with a book, a newspaper, or my journal.

garden2With a nod to Asian ambiance, our “tea house” (as we call it) is my favorite outdoor retreat. It’s perched near the back of our property, facing my beloved Zen garden and overlooking the swimming pool. The metal gazebo-like structure provides overhead protection from the sun without blocking the views of the garden. This tiny outdoor room is furnished with two cushioned patio chairs, a love seat, and a coffee table. Nothing more.

Thanks to my husband’s electrical wizardry, the tea house glows at night with several strands of dragonfly twinkle lights. This is nothing short of magical, especially when you’re sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio after a long day at the hospital. Best of all, you can’t hear the phone ringing inside the house.

DetailSanctuary“Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we often try to muffle its demands in distraction,” wrote Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “What matters is that one be, for a time, inwardly attentive.”

I’m convinced that it’s so much easier to be “inwardly attentive” when you have the perfect spot to retreat — a soul-soothing place where you can nurse your wounds in peace or escape the chatter and clutter of the outside world. Where is yours?

11 thoughts on “Summer sanctuary

  1. So very sorry to hear about your surgery. That doesn’t sound the least bit fun, even when you do plan for it. I hope you have a full and complete recovery and I’ll be watching for your upcoming article.

    And best wishes for your mom and her surgery as well. I hope it’s an easy one for her.

    Your garden is just beautiful and your hard work definitely paid off. May you have any enjoyable house of relaxation in that beautiful space.

    Hang in there and feel good.

  2. Ouch! I had a squamous cell cancer removed from my back a few months ago and it still feels “pinchy.” Hope your cheek heals quickly.
    Your yard sounds like an incredible
    and perfect place to recoup!

    • Sandra, I am sorry to hear about your back. I don’t know if you had the MOHS procedure, but I hear it can take weeks or months before you get the feeling back. Hopefully, you are cancer-free… Take care and thanks for your note.

  3. Cindy,
    I was sorry to hear about your surgery. I hope you can rest and restore as you recover. I will pray for peaceful days for you and for your mother.

  4. Cindy,
    I hope this message finds you feeling better. Our prayers are being sent your way for a fast and full recovery from your recent surgery. We are also including your Mom in our prayers, hoping her surgery goes well.
    Your Summer Sanctuary is so beautiful. All I can say is WOW! What a setting to sit and relax in, allowing God’s work in your healing to take place.

  5. Thanks so much, Bob — I am feeling better this weekend, still taking it easy, working on a new deadline. My mother is back in the hospital, as noted, so that keeps me busy too. All best to you!

  6. I love your yard Cindy. You could offer it as a time share, in hourly increments. 🙂
    Sorry to hear about your surgery. I’ve heard of so many people having this done recently and I can say, the scars are pretty minimal from what I’ve seen.
    I myself had a couple of black eyes and some a few nasty scratches, including one through my left eyebrow that required five stitches. The result of my cat freaking out in the presence of a large dog.
    I had plans to meet friends that week and rather than hide at home, as I might have, I decided to go out and keep my plans. I can tell you I got some funny stares.
    I’m going to be writing some more, getting back into the swing of it, and I think of all these things as “material”.

  7. Your garden is a true sanctuary. I am finding myself inside due to days and days of rain, so my “escape” is at the sewing machine. Hope your recovery from surgery is going well ~

  8. Thanks for your comments, Sharon and Ellen. As for the scars after surgery — as noted, I am writing about the experience for an upcoming column. It is an experience worth sharing.

    I looked as if I had been in a car accident for several days immediately following the surgery. Black eye, hugely swollen cheek, and a large bandage on half of my face. It hurt to talk, chew, laugh, and smile for a few days (not fun). I had to go to see my mother in the ER at Beaumont two days after the surgery, and my appearance terrified her. With her dementia, it was hard to explain what had happened to me.

    A week later, I was out and about with friends, out to dinner, and sharing the “story” of what happened and why I have the new scar. It is fading gradually — thanks to a good plastic surgeon.

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