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 2023 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.