From inside my study, one wall book-lined, the other holding a large mirror that makes the room appear bigger, I sit on the loveseat, listening to Strauss and the waterfall powered by a tiny electric pump. When I’m home, I turn it on, the sound of water like a heart beat in this house, a tangible reminder of what usually is invisible, at least to waking life—water for me representing the unconscious and all that lives there.
I come to this sanctuary at the center of the house, separated from the master bedroom by French doors, to be alone, as much as one can be alone in a shared space. Images that trigger happy memories or just please me fill the walls and shelves: a canal in Venice, that watery city I love; a blackened white porcelain female figure holding a dove aloft that my sister had given me (it survived my house fire of many years ago); a print of an Emily Carr painting, the night and forest appearing eerie and alive; twisted pieces of driftwood; a small rock I took from the Acropolis; and a picture of my sister and me outside the remains of our barn on the Langdon farm in Canada where I spent my childhood years.
My husband jokingly accuses me of conducting secret rites in our study after he goes to sleep, lighting candles, doing “witchy” things. To him, a Freudian analyst and an English professor, I’m sure that much of what I do with dreams and in Jungian analysis appears esoteric. Strange. Mystifying.
For me this room acts as a conduit to my deeper self. My laptop is in here where I record my dreams, store my journals, and write. I also have a table set up with watercolors and other art materials, ready to collect colors and shapes from the unconscious that choose to surface in this way.
Do others have this kind of sanctuary in their homes? It seems essential in order to tolerate the external world’s craziness, especially now when so much destruction is happening everywhere, from the horrors of opioid addiction to the environmental crisis and Putin’s attempts to destroy Ukraine.
At the moment, I’m enjoying another sanctuary. I’m sitting on the deck of a vacation rental at Sea Ranch, a seaside community on California’s Mendocino coast. I occasionally hear the rush of cars passing, yet it’s difficult to notice anything but the sound of ocean waves crashing nearby. This area is a true haven for those of us who live in urban areas and periodically need to be refreshed.
At least at home I have our study which functions as a kind of cave I can retreat to.