Last week I visited an amazing place in Rockford, Illinois – an organization called Womanspace. Started by two forward thinking (and somewhat rebellious) Roman Catholic nuns back in 1974, their headquarters are warm and inviting, nestled near a pine forest—a quiet place away from the madding crowd with a meditation garden nearby and beyond, the most extraordinary labyrinth.
Stepping into this thoughtfully designed haven, one feels immediately as if she has come home. Meant to be a refuge, it has the spirit of a sanctuary—peaceful, calm, and oh, so welcoming. That they could imagine, way back when, that such a place would be a necessity, not just a luxury in a world changing too fast for anyone’s good, is indeed a blessing.
I had long since known that primitive tribes so revere a woman’s spirit—her intuition and instinct to be precise– that they send their women away eight times a year to such a place. The tribal fathers had a knowing that all would be well if women could be off duty and together in a natural setting, free from work to simply feel safe and contemplate what really matters.
It occurred to me that we all need sacred space—womanspace. The world so often comes crashing in on us compassionate people-pleasers that if we don’t find our own refuge we too, will crash.
I returned home moved and determined–intent on redesigning my office, making it my haven, a place with only objects and artwork of my choosing. And because I love the sound of water, I am purchasing one of those fountains that you plug in and it gurgles away all day long.
All women should have a material place within their home and a place outside—in nature—to which she can retreat. Where would that be for you and can you find a corner in your abode? Happy hunting and do indulge yourself.
Is there a place for men like this? I do not mean some “manly” retreat where guys go around beating drums and acting like cavemen. We need our spiritual healing too. Thanks.
Thank you for the a most an incredible day filled with over 300 women in one room – WOW what energy. As we drove back home to Ohio we talked all the way about the day, our weekend visiting my home IL and very special friends. Live on – March on – take no hostages – Life is amazing. Thank you for the inspiration to pursue another avenue that has been brewing in my life. A new journey to come. Thank you for your warmth and candor.
Thank you, Joan, for your time, wisdom and friendship. We at Womanspace feel so fortunate that you were willing and able to join us. The energy you helped generate is still palpable, and your positive impact on over 300 women continues to expand beyond that day. Thank you for spreading the word about the importance of having a haven from the demands of daily life. Many people in Rockford and its environs have found a place of peace here at Womanspace, and we invite others to seek us out soon.
My ideal space if I could make it happen would be a space attached to my house. I don’t think I’d want to even call it an ‘office’ but just my space.
I’d put all the things that I love in that space; only the very special objects of art, books,movies, colors, furniture and things would be allowed in that space. It would be filled with beauty and peace.
I could go there whenever I wanted and it’d be all mine. I would go there to reflect, write, read, knit and to have tea in the small kitchen. I could read out loud and not disturb anyone. I’d watch movies there in that space of mine. And, maybe even sometime spend the night as it’d be important to have it fully furnished with a small bedroom and bath.
Yes, that would be the ideal. Instead, I have an office about 6 miles from my house which yesterday my husband helped me reorganize. It will meet me tomorrow with open arms as I greet the week. Also, I seem to have spaces throughout our house that I have claimed that are full of books, movies, computers, knitting and paper.
Thank you Joan for this conversation.
As I think back to my sacred retreats, flashes flood my mind- the immense chestnut tree I climbed whenever possible as a child-despite stern warnings from my father, the mountain hollows of Nova Scotia where I fled as an adolescent over and over to search for myself amidst my sister Jeanne’s spiritual communal community, and in college, the reservoir atop the mountain I lived beneath in Western Mass. Then, after my frenzied passage into marriage and motherhood, I embarked upon my annual Girls’ Weekend Away- creating a sanctuary with my girlfriends where we nourished ourselves and each other and still do to this day. Finally, my most sacred retreat of all-the vast, majestic ocean always stands at the ready to comfort, refresh and replenish my soul. Thank you Joan for this reminder to gift ourselves, center ourselves, indulge ourselves…
Joan, You are so right when you talk about needing “our” space. When I think back over the years, I guess I have always had my space in one form or another. In high school it was a small , old cigar box, into which I put mementos, hopes, dreams and causes, like my POW bracelet , which I still have. Later it was a desk, which I had made for me in Connecticut, with lots of cubby holes and drawers that held cards, my college honors thesis, notes from my step kids and some fabric. I remember how funny I felt when after getting married again, my husband promptly filled a drawer of this desk with his paperwork- not knowing he had just violated my sacred space. It still feels a bit awkward to have his stuff in there! Today I do indeed have my own sanctuary over the garage, filled with whatever I have chosen to keep over 50+ years, , sometimes it’s complete chaos with fabric art in progress but always a haven for me. So I guess my message is, if you can’t yet have a room, start with a box. Love you my friend.. Keep writing for us.