Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 6th 2020

Thank you to the mix of 45 returning and new participants representing a variety of countries, states, cities and medical/creative disciplines who converged for today’s workshop!

Our text was: “He Has Lived in Many Houses” by Thomas Lux, posted below. After a 10-second centering pause, we listened to two volunteers read this 1996 Thomas Lux poem about being someplace but seeking another, being home regardless of geography, and adapting to one’s surroundings. Participants then considered three questions: “What did you see in the poem? What did you hear in the poem? What did the poem smell like?” In the rich discussion, participants commented on how home is a point of reference, one that can be sacred and personal, and part of both travel and the traveler: an anchor, a sanctuary, an inner space. Participants spoke about the uniqueness of home, and noted the emotional foundation and sacredness intrinsic to the word “home” that may not necessarily be present in the same way with the word “house.” They were struck by the swaying rhythm of the poem, and highlighted how by starting each line with a small preposition, there was an ebb and flow to its rhythmicity. They were struck by the presence of a daily routine, a cycle, and the transition from past, present, and future tenses during the search for home. Briny shores, a fishing village and rust were among the olfactory associations made.

Our prompt was: Write about a sanctuary. Our four-minute prompt inspired writings linked to childhood (“a bestowed sanctuary”), intergenerational voices and tone, an appreciation for a sanctuary that “doesn’t talk back” and a construction of reality of map vs. mind. Participants wrote about how although there may be a journey to find home, home is not the final destination, as it is re-constructed along the journey of life. It moves, evolves, and is shaped by both internal and external forces. It is also both internal and external to the person who inhabits it, perhaps a physical exterior providing protection and safety while remaining internal, intrinsic, sacred to the heart of the inhabitant. On the other hand, we wondered whether what sanctuary is possible in a precarious world, and whether recognizing that childhood is a sanctuary means that the sanctuary’s protection has been broken. Participants were also inspired by the smells in the poem and incorporated sensory experience into their own work.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured. If you chose to draw, your are welcome to share as well, simply email your visual file to narrativemedicine@columbia.edu and we will add and credit it to the post here.

Please join us for our next session: Thursday, May 7th at 7pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

He Has Lived in Many Houses
by Thomas Lux

furnished rooms, flats, a hayloft,
a tent, motels, under a table,
under an overturned rowboat, in a villa (briefly) but not,
as yet, a yurt. In these places
he has slept, eaten,
put his forehead to the window glass,
looking out. He's in a stilt-house now,
the water passing beneath him half the day;
the other half it's mud. The tides
do this: they come, they go,
while he sleeps, eats, puts his forehead
to the window glass.
He's moving soon: his trailer to a trailer park,
or to the priory to live among the penitents
but in his own cell,
with wheels, to take him, when it's time
to go, to: boathouse, houseboat
with a little motor, putt-putt,
to take him across the sea
or down the river
where at night, anchored by a sandbar
at the bend,
he will eat, sleep, and press his eyelids
to the window
of the pilothouse
until the anchor-hauling hour
when he'll embark again
toward his sanctuary, harborage, saltbox,
home.


Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, January 1992

11 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 6th 2020

  1. Sanctuary

    A glade in a forest
    guarded by tall pines
    soughing abovehead.

    Resin and bark and loam
    fecund forest floor
    decaying, giving life.

    Woodpecker knocking
    then zigging across the air
    wings flashing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A sanctuary~~~

    I move along the trail bounded by luxurious ferns and the sweet smell of wildflowers bursting everywhere.
    I walk to escape the fragility of the world around me,
    the combativeness of its inhabitants.

    Here surrounded by the bubbling stream beside me, I feel at peace.
    I listen to robin red-breast chirping above me defending his nest
    and the Carolina wren loudly expressing his disdain of passerbys.

    The air is clean and alive, its moistness and richness filtering into my body.
    I inhale deeply, inhaling in peace and tranquility that is to be carried with me.
    I am home here, I am free here.

    A sanctuary for body and mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ellen P.

    I love the idea of a sanctuary — a safe space, a shelter of some beauty, real or imagined.
    I think the best and safest sanctuary is one you have inside, wherever you may be.
    The trick is to nurture it, access it, keep it close and constant and sacred.
    Yours, yours alone.
    Mine, mine alone.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      Such a great reminder of the importance of self care and nurturing. ” Yours , yours alone”. It made me ponder about the very notion of sanctuary. Is it something that everyone has? Or is it a privilege and luxury. Can we help others create and imagine their sanctuary?

      Like

  4. Dr Yewande Okuleye

    After rain, I feel sweet sanctuary.
    Earth, rests.
    Time, resets.

    Time, to sit.
    Ischial tuberosity, has such a lovely ring. Doesn’t it?
    Sit bone, finds its fingerprint in the snow.
    Serene.
    Still.
    Listen.
    It is, all, so quiet

    I n h a le.
    Six – Five – Four – Three – Two – One.
    Observe the molecules of love, shimmer, and sway through your lungs.
    Be still.
    Listen.
    It is, all, so quiet.

    E x h a le
    Seven -Six -Five -Four –Three -Two – One.
    Feel the weight of fear and oppression, evaporate from every pore of your being.
    Be thankful.
    Be still.
    Listen.
    It is, all, so, so, quiet.

    Bitter immunity.

    Liked by 1 person

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