Sacred Place

written by

Drausin Wulsin

posted on

March 17, 2024

Sacred Place


It is a privilege to know a sacred place, as I feel I do.

In some ways, it seems sacred places are supposed to be scarce and remote, like Stonehenge, Chartres Cathedral, the Taj Mahal, or abandoned Pueblo dwellings. Large landscapes, like the desert, ocean, or mountain ranges feel imbued with the divine. Alaska, the Amazon, and the Serengeti invite a sense of awe. One travels to such places, in pilgrimage. And sometimes such places reorganize the pilgrim's sense of order, inviting disorder or change, that can be both painful and uplifting. 

On the other hand, a sacred place can stand inconspicuously nearby, serving daily use. One wonders if a homeless shelter doesn't become a haven for those it serves. Temples, churches, and mosques are obviously sacred to many. A window of light in a prison might mean the difference between life and death for a person. A local school with a gifted teacher can uplift the eager from despair to delight, no matter the streetscape on the outside. 

A sacred place honors the beholder; it is where one feels recognized and validated. One might feel a sense of worship towards and sacrifice for such. It can be a place of reverence and recognition of both the self and greater forces.

It is also a place that invokes gratitude and humility. It withers under expectation and entitlement. 

A simple place of meditation can offer similar experience. This might include one's bed, a favorite chair, or a writing desk. A studio for an artist is no doubt sacred, for it is a place of safety that generates creativity. A sense of safety may be integral to much that seems sacred.

Though, when gazing upon Niagara Falls, one is certainly awed, while feeling vulnerable to the immense display of power. When there once, I remember reflecting, if one had to, this would be the place to end one's life, in a canoe going over the falls... That could be a sacred act in a sacred place, disquieting as it would be.

A sacred place can also be where one randomly encounters something unusual. It is not the place at all, at first glance, but the experience realized that consecrates the ground. Being moved by sounds one notices while passing through, such as the music of spring peepers in the wetlands above might inspire awe.

Or detecting a particular birdsong, or realizing a particular inspiration or vision in a locale might make that place sacred to the beholder.

Symphony halls certainly feel sacred, not only because of their elegant decor but far more because of the celestial music inevitably generated beneath their roofs. The same is true of art museums. It is astounding to feel the talent and creative treasure collected in their hallways. 

Some people have developed the capacity to meditate wherever they are. They are not constricted by place. They can find a celestial spot within themselves and from there go into the universe. That may be the most sacred place of all, as it knows no limits.

Below is a picture of a section of woods blanketed with Pine Ground, a rare native ground cover that is green all winter. Whenever I pass by this area, I want to stop and feel its gentle persistence, expressing itself noiselessly. That spot feels sacred, in its humble way. 

An aspect of sacred places is that though many such places are mighty, they are usually quite fragile. They require safekeeping. Those who will do violence to them steal their magic, which can be hard to recover. Invading a sacred place with mischief comes at a high price, reflecting lack of self-regard. All are affected, some grievously. It is bad medicine to desecrate a sacred place. Full recovery from such is a long time in coming.

Our western culture has never considered nature to be sacred. And we are paying a terrible price for that disregard. The bad medicine imposed by climate change may well be more than we can absorb. If we are to make it through climate peril, we will have to change our regard for the natural world. In so doing, we might, in fact, enhance our regard for ourselves. Adopting an ethic of love pursuant to a one of antagonism could be redemptive.

Emily Dickinson's sacred place was her home and garden:
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church -
I keep it, staying at Home -
With a Bobolink for a Chorister -
And an Orchard, for a Dome -

We recall the story of the woman weeding her garden, who is asked what she would do if she learned the world would come to an end tomorrow. She replies, "I would weed my garden..." She is satisfied with her sacred place, seeking no other horizon. She is committed to its work, the daily weeding, the associated tedium, which invokes grandeur for her. She is its guardian, and that is a high calling.

One of our projects of the past month was to count the deer population on our property. Gary's drone has an infrared sensor on it that detects heat. It can fly several hundred feet in the air, and perceive the heat of a live animal. One then highlights the red blob that shows up on the screen to focus in and find a doe, in full detail, lying in the cover of ragweed, chewing her cud and slowly moving her head from side to side. And beside her will often be a yearling or two. Gary flew over most of our property and found 99 deer total: 42 mature does, 41 yearlings, 11 young bucks, and 5 bucks, three plus years of age. This amounts to about 10 deer per acre. But half our acreage is pasture or newly planted trees. Gary says 14 deer per acre would be more normal, but does that include open fields? This interesting data provides a good baseline, which we will keep monitoring. 

The past two weeks, the team has been planting livestakes of willows and 3500 small saplings on our peeled-back stream banks. A year ago we were planting 44,000 trees, populating Phase III. The ragweed in Phase II is considerably less than in III, as that ground has become hydrated. We expect the same to happen in Phase III, and will soon be inserting plugs in streams to facilitate hydration.

One of the enchanting aspects of woods in the winter is being able to observe patient beech saplings with their silken leaves still attached. Beech trees are very slow growing, and typically wait in the shade of larger oaks and maples until they come down and provide light for the beech to flourish. In the meantime, the beeches hide themselves with dignity, awaiting opportunity. In the winter, they stand out and are rewarding to detect. They stand in perfect poise like a twirling ballerina.

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a visit from a friend from high school whom I had not seen in 50 years. It was a privilege to receive Jim and his colleague, Bill, who were interested in observing our story more closely. They drove up from Nashville. Susan prepared Beef Bourguignon, baked apples, polenta, salad, and carrot cake. We had a wonderful time together. 

We are almost ready to publish the second volume of A Farmer's Almanac. Within weeks, it will be available on Amazon. In the meantime, volume I is listed and we have in fact sold 8 copies this year! If you would be interested in helping us with those sales by offering a brief review, we would be grateful. We have one beautiful review so far (which makes me cry), but could use more for those inclined. I hope this extensive link below will deliver you there expeditiously. you can see, I haven't fully figured out how to activate our next website. This reflects a conspiracy, of sorts, against the aging, but we will prevail sooner or later...

May each of us know the sacred in our journey forward.

Drausin & Susan

More from the blog

Big Muddy

Here is the Lower Mississippi River, 45 feet below normal pool. Over Thanksgiving, Susan and I shoehorned ourselves onto a cruise ship to learn about the lower Mississippi and its bayou. We started in Memphis and ended up in New Orleans, with stops along the way to explore river towns. This river is the third longest on the planet, providing drainage to 40% of North America. It has historically deposited silt yearly in its floodplains, producing topsoil 120 feet deep, making these soils some of the richest in the world. Vast wetland forests grew beside its banks, of cypress, oaks, and sycamores, populated by a rich array of black bears, deer, bobcats, alligators, and aquatic life. This was the legendary bayou.

Streams & Souls

Streams and souls seem to share character. They are life-giving, they are coveted, they can be impeded, they can be channelized, they can be overwhelmed, they flood, they dry up, they flow downhill, they are a force of both change and constancy, they lie at the center of a community, they will not be denied, and because of this great complexity, they attract periodic resistance. So, it seems that streams may serve as a metaphor for the journey of the soul.


Biodiversity depends on the neighbors. We feel like we live on islands, at times, but even islands are connected by surrounding rings of activity. Every organism that travels through our wetlands is in transit. Some stay longer than others, but all are in motion. They came from somewhere and are going somewhere. In the meantime, they stop for respite and nurture, adding to the richness of the ecosystem.