Tuesday, September 05, 2006


One of the most truly beautiful words in the English language, to me, is "sanctuary." I ran across a quote recently from artist Philip Guston:

"As a boy I would hide in the closet when the older brothers and sisters came with their families to mama's apartment for the Sunday afternoon dinner visit. I felt safe. Hearing their talk about illnesses, marriages, and the problems of making a living, I felt my remoteness in the closet with the single light bulb. I read and drew in this private box. Some Sundays I even painted. I had given my dear Mama passionate instructions to lie.... 'Where is Philip?' I could hear them.... 'Oh, he is away, with friends'....I was happy in my sanctuary. After a lifetime, I still have never been able to escape....It is still a struggle to be hidden and feel strange--my favorite mood."

I strongly relate to what Guston said. I never shut myself in a closet, except once when a girlfriend and I hid in my closet and practiced kissing by using the backs of our hands; but as a child I used to shut myself in my room for hours, and when my mother had company I could hear them saying, "Where's Theresa?" My mother made excuses for me, like Guston's did for him. She'd tell them I was reading or doing important school work. I loved peeling myself away from human contact in this way and having time to think, to draw pictures, to paint, to read, to dawdle.

I still do this. I love how Guston says his favorite mood is feeling "strange." I never thought of feeling strange as being a mood, but I guess it is. I also like the feeling of being strange, or apart.

I like the feeling of being alone, of having a sanctuary against the outside world.


ggw07 said...

Probably the most potent desire for a painter, an image-maker, is to see it. To see what the mind can think and imagine, to realize it for oneself, through oneself, as concretely as possible.
Philip Guston
Yes- this is the process-

Erin said...


I greatly enjoyed reading "The World Is Waiting" by Eli Siegel. I felt particularly touched by the line "Afternoons have to do with the whole world". Afternoons have always been special to me--they're the time of day pregnant with possibility, with sunlight. They really do have to do with the whole world!

I also enjoyed your "Sanctuary" post. I sometimes feel hidden and strange, but I rarely like the feeling. Perhaps I haven't yet learned to embrace it.

Thank you (as always!) for sharing.


Anonymous said...

How nice to discover that you and other artists have hidden away in a sanctuary of sorts. As a teen, I used to hide in a lean-to I'd made out of sticks in the woods. There, for hours, I'd lay against the dark full earth and read, undisturbed. Teagrapple.

Cynthia said...

I think we all need a sanctuary, a safe place, a haven from the things that threaten us. To be bold and take risks in my writing, I have to feel very secure in my life.

Vicky said...

I heard an interview today on NPR's Fresh Air with Jonathan Frantzen. He has written a memoir called "The Discomfort Zone." He talked about living in a discomfort zone. He gave the example of how he enjoys and looks forward to gatherings of people, but after half an hour or so, he finds himself looking at his watch, longing to be alone or in the company of just one other. He said that a writer has to feel comfortable with solitude, because he or she has to spend so much time alone.

I look forward to and enjoy gatherings too, and then suddenly there comes the moment when I've had enough. I feel a snap, and know that the time is upon me. Almost immediately, I make my excuses and get the hell out. Then I can breathe again.

Love, Vicky

Wenda said...

Theresa, I'm just returning from a while away from my computer and I just want to say how refreshed and reconnected I am beginning to feel after catching up on your blog. Sanctuary. I love the word and the concept, too.

beths front porch said...

Last night I read this: for those who seek approval, there is no sanctuary. I liked that. I want my sanctuary to be anywhere. I want it to be in my head. Can it be a state of mind, or inner peace?

emmapeelDallas said...

I think I like living by myself, because my house has become my sanctuary. When I was little, I used to crawl under the table and hide there before all my aunts and uncles came over. I heard some amazing family stories from under there, and I don't remember ever being discovered. It was great.




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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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