Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”
Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.
Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.
The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.
This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.
The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.
Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.
There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.