Sanctuary – A Desert Wisdom Card


Garden Sanctuary ©2013 Bo Mackison

 Our spiritual energy needs to be renewed each day. Our soul needs to be uplifted, and our wounded or tired spirit needs periodic regeneration. Finding sanctuary in a lovely and peaceful garden setting – one that seems to enfold the soul in magic, celebration, art, curiosity, and contemplation – can do the job. ~ Christopher McDowell

A sanctuary is a sacred space.

The word sanctuary comes from the Latin word sanctum which means a place of sacrosanct privacy. When we create the space especially for our personal use, we give ourselves permission to take time from our hectic day and retreat into the quiet, to enter a place of slowing down, a rejuvenating space for body, mind, and soul.

A garden sanctuary can take many forms.

It can be a space with a strolling path, flowers, shade trees, a bench; a chair next to a tree or garden plot; a balcony with a flower box; even a potted plant near a window in your home. In the desert, a garden sanctuary can be as simple as a shaded space offering protection from the sun with a view of ground hugging succulents or the raw beauty of the desert colors.

My garden sanctuary is an arroyo, rocky and dry, with prickly pear cacti, chain fruit cholla, and palo verde trees.

At dawn and dusk the trees shimmer with birds – orioles, cactus wrens, hummingbirds, cardinals. Road runners and quail hurry along the edge of the arroyo a few paces from where I sit. There, I reclaim my spirit surrounded by the sacred.

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.
~ Herman Hesse

SANCTUARY offers these suggestions for contemplation:

  • Combine a quiet space and nature and you create a sanctuary garden. A place where the busyness of the world can spin without you. A place for contemplation of the simple things, of the beauty of life. A place to renew your energy. A place to practice reverence and gratitude. Can a place be all those things? Make it your intention. Embrace the sacredness of you and your space, and your sanctuary will be the retreat you envision.
  • Thomas Moore writes in his book, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, “Entering a garden is like passing through a mystical gate. Things are not the same on the other side.” Visualize your passage through a garden gate, perhaps after a busy or stress-filled day. What do you see in your mind’s eye that is soothing, uplifting, rejuvenating, or inspirational?
  • Begin a sanctuary practice with a ritual to mark the transition from frenetic activity to reverential pause. The ritual can be simple – preparing and enjoying a cup of aromatic herbal tea, repeating a favorite mantra, holding a smooth stone. Choose something meaningful to you.
  • Create a simple book, a few pieces of paper folded together is sufficient, and make notations on your relationship with your sanctuary time weekly for several months. Limit yourself to one or two sentences. Notice how your story unfolds. Notice how your words reflect sanctuary. You are your garden’s story keeper, the container of your sanctuary.


About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    captivating photo. garden gates/doors/openings are always magical.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      There’s something about the possibility, walking through a doorway. And I can think of few places I’d rather visit than a garden…

  2. You are your garden’s story-keeper. I think I’ll carry that with me today. Such a beautiful practice – this one of creating sanctuary.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Creating sanctuary — I am fascinated by the idea. Of course, One can create sanctuary most anywhere, in the mind, in a quiet space, but I’ve always been partial to garden spaces.

  3. This is a gorgeous image! Peaceful. Beautiful. Inviting. The green surrounding the doorway makes a gorgeous frame through which we glimpse the garden. I like how the brown trunks of the vines seem to match the brown of the rustic. door.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Of the many gardens I have visited, the many secret spaces I have discovered — this is my all time favorite portal.

  4. Thank you for the beauty and inspiration to create a sacred space on my balcony.

  5. I love the way the vines have tangled their way through the door Bo. Doorways like this are so inviting and I can’t imagine any lovelier place to have a sanctuary than in a peaceful garden. 🙂

  6. I love the image with this one, Bo. I would love to walk through that doorway and have a few moments of peace in a garden sanctuary.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Sometimes I use this photograph and meditate on the peacefulness beyond the door, filling the air, surrounding me…

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