Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

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.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

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.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

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.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

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.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

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.

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St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

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.

DIY autumn body wash: Inspire; Release!

Grape leaves turning
Grape leaves turning

The following is a fall aromatherapy body wash based on Chinese elemental theory.

The season is: autumn. Time to let go of the old, and take in the new. The direction of this time of year is downward- a quiet movement back into the earth to push nutrients into the soil for next spring.

The physical aspects include: lungs, colon, body hair, and skin. The lungs inspire, the colon purges.

The emotions include: grief, loss. To stay in balance regarding grief, we need to allow for the recognition of it, and the care of how it passes through us. If not, we may not actually grieve, which can cause it to get stuck, unprocessed, and eventually become a heavy burden following us everywhere.

Apples paying it forward
Apples paying it forward

If we unburden ourselves, we can find and connect with new inspiration.

Shed the old, make room for the new

During this season, nature leads us into the cycle of creating and letting go. Trees don’t cling to their leaves because they might need them next year. They let them all drop. If held onto, the decayed leaves can pollute and effectively block the entry of anything new.

When the lungs are healthy, we not only breathe better, we can absorb new experiences, ideas, and be more open to inspiration.

Positive aspects of this season: generosity, integrity, self-respect, and personal value. Focus on and bring about these positive traits during this season. Self-care creates awareness and discernment in what you breathe, both physically and mentally.

It was a good summer!
It was a good summer!

A few essential oils for this season:

Eucalyptus
Rosemary
Geranium
Sage
Mint

These all perk up the lungs.

Lungs inspire literally and figuratively. They bring in air and ideas. In Chinese medical theory, the lung is paired with the large intestine, or colon. The colon purges what is no longer needed.

Together, they have a team approach toward balance. Disperse with the old, welcome the new.

DIY autumn body wash

1 cup Dr. Bronners unscented liquid soap
1 cup water
3 T. coconut oil, fractionated
10-15 drops essential oil

During this season, ask yourself:

What inspires you?

What do you want to let go?