Journal entry 060211: Hiding place

On my most recent trip to the Barnes and Nobles on Mockingbird in Dallas I discovered a book by Michael Pollan titled, “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.” It is an account of Pollan’s quest to build a room of his own - a small, wooden hut in the forest, a “shelter for daydreams,” a place to write and read. I’ve only read the first 50 pages, and already I love his exploration of home and safety and accomplishment.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot on the topic of home. As in: Where is home? When do you feel at home? What distinguishes home from other comfortable places? How does a new and strange place become home? The questions come from my reading of Ephesians 3:17, “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your heart …” This notion that Christ can not only dwell in me, be in charge of me, lead me and guide me, but actually be at home in my heart, is intriguing.

For me it’s one of those epic questions worth spending a lot of thought on. If I can understand what home means, maybe I can do a better job making my heart into a comfortable home for Christ.

I’ll admit that part of my attraction to this notion of home is personality driven.  I’m the sort of person who needs private space and private time in order to remain mentally stable and productive. I need private sanctuaries where I can be by myself, surrounded by my own small pile of stuff that has no one’s fingerprints save my own. For me there is a connection between privacy and respect; if my privacy is invaded it feels like a loss of respect.

Having said all that, I don’t need or want to be private all the time. Just some of the time. I’m not a recluse nor a hermit. And the more secure my private space and time, the more generous I can be with everything else. But when robbed of my privacy, not only will I get short-tempered and tense, but you won’t get the best I have to offer. I’m not creative if my privacy bank is in deficit.

So back to Barnes and Nobles. After glancing on page six of Pollan’s book where he wrote about his search for “a space where I enjoyed a certain sovereignty,” I clutched it to my heart, and trotted all the way to the cash register. The statement felt true the moment I read it. In order for a place to feel like home, I need a certain level of sovereignty. In my own house, which I love, my sovereignty over space is not consistent. It’s weakest in the north end and grows stronger as I move southeast toward my closet, which Cyndi calls my man cave.

Pollan wrote about a tree house he had when he was a young boy, and the best part about it was the entrance - a small trapdoor in the floor that was too small for adults to fit through and accessible only with a flimsy rope ladder. Difficulty of access guaranteed privacy. Cool.

Reading about his tree house stirred a memory from my life in the 1960s in Kermit, Texas. We lived in the south part of town on Shannon Drive, and the endless mesquite pasture with all its mystery was only a couple of blocks away. The pastures weren’t as cool as deep woods would’ve been had we lived in northern New Mexico, but it was the wilderness that was accessible to me, and I couldn’t get enough. I spent countless hours exploring my patch of the wild, sometimes with buddies, but more often alone. Even then I was captivated by the combination of solitude and dirt.

We often built forts out in the pasture using found wood and abandoned car parts. Illegal dumping may be a plague on civilized society, but it is prime harvest for young fort builders. Our best and last fort was a lean-to built behind a huge mesquite, and it rested against a chain-link fence. If we had been the sort of boys who drank beer or snuck cigarettes or, dare I say it, smoked dope, this is where we would’ve done it. The real value of the fort was having a private place of our own. I spent a lot of time alone in that fort, feeling safe and sovereign, until one day it occurred to me that anyone and everyone in the Schlumberger yard on the other side of the chain-link fence could see right inside. It wasn’t as private as I’d hoped.

Well, after writing about our fort in my journal, I spent the rest of the day singing Steven Curtis Chapman, “You’re my hiding place, I’m safe in Your embrace, I’m protected from the storm that rages.” I also couldn’t shake off Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

The curious thing is that I don’t remember thinking of my forts as hiding places. I grew up in a strong stable family without abuse or alcohol or drugs, the things most kids escape from. My parents loved me and still love me, loved each other and still love each other. I don’t remember a life of trouble that begged escaping. It wasn’t just solitude I was after, either. I was an only child during those years and spent most of my time by myself. No, it must have been something else.

So why did this verse and this song ring through my mind all day after I wrote about forts? Maybe there is more to this story than I have remembered so far? I’m hoping to learn more as I read the rest of Pollan’s book.

How about you? Did you have hideaway forts when you were young? Do you have one now?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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