Sanctuary: A sacred place, a safe haven. Nantucket.
C.S. Lewis wrote a lot about joy—even a book, Surprised by Joy. Another of his books is A Grief Observed, a classic on grief that remains on best-seller lists 54 years after Lewis wrote it. His books were the most helpful material I read after Lev died, and I have given much thought since 2009 to the meaning of joy. Lewis thought that while joy is an ecstatic moment, it also has components of memory and anticipation. We know when we have experienced joy. We remember it, and we want to experience it again. So it is for me with Nantucket. I live year-round with reminders of Nantucket: the “wallpaper” on my computer screen, a postcard propped on my desk, a small oil painting of the harbor with the steeple of First Congregational Church in the background. I wrote about it last September when I packed my bags to leave. Now I reflect on those words again as I prepare to return to this place I consider my soul’s home:
In my new role as widow, I first found a joy that lasted more than a moment when I visited Nantucket in 2013. I discovered a serene, tranquil beauty here that caused my spirit to soar and led me to re-evaluate and ultimately re-purpose my life. I came back to this remote island a year later to see whether it was real or whether I had imagined it all. In the interim, I had two flashes of exuberant joy beyond the simple pleasures of time with family and close friends, beyond feasting on great music or losing myself in a great book.
My unrestrained joy in Nantucket was a different kind of joy that flowed from the peace I found there. I lay aside all my worries and fears. I lived in the present, embracing every day, finding happiness in the days I was alone as surely as in the days when I was joined by family and friends. Eighteen days after arrival—five years, four months and twenty-nine days after Lev died—the first draft of my book was written. I was finally able to write about a peace that leads to joy, because I at last reclaimed joy. I did not require Nantucket to find joy, but I did need to find a place deep within me that gave me peace and settled happiness.
Excerpt from my book-in-progress, Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows.
Do you have a sanctuary, a place where you feel at peace? If so, tell us about it.