By Kathryn Haueisen—

I’m embarrassed about how many times I’ve changed my address. Sometimes I’ve moved within the same zip code or to a nearby one. Many times, I have moved far enough that I’ve had to change pretty much every detail of daily life. Whenever that happens, I search for two places I can use for sacred space—one indoors, one outdoors.

Mostly I look for places where I won’t be expected to engage in conversation with others, places where it is quiet enough to read, journal and meditate without too many distractions. My favorite places are parks where I can be surrounded by nature. Walking trails are wonderful, but if a park doesn’t offer one, a picnic table in the sun or shade, depending on the air temperature, will do nicely. If that isn’t an option, I will park my car where I can observe nature. For a few minutes, my car is converted into a sanctuary.

For several years, my Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine consisted of leaving the house an hour before my water aerobics class at the local YMCA. I parked nearby, in the lot of a small hotel. Two sides of this parking lot faced undeveloped land, where I often found cattle resting or grazing. I would position my car under trees planted along the fence that separated the animals from the parking lot, get out my devotional materials and journal. On several occasions, a bright red cardinal visited me, perching on the passenger side-view mirror. This feathered companion would sit for several minutes, peering inside my car. Those visits always felt like a sacred welcome mat.

I had been doing this for several years when one day the hotel security guard approached to ask what I was doing. He looked confused, perhaps unsure why an older woman would sit there in a parked car so early in the morning. I explained that I was waiting until it was time to go to my class at the Y. After a long pause, he told me I couldn’t park there unless I was going into the hotel. Previously, I had tried sitting in my car at the Y parking lot, but there were too many distractions. So, I gave up that routine and eventually changed pools.

The Rev. Kathryn Haueisen is a retired pastor who spends her time traveling, reading, writing and volunteering.

This excerpted article appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.