When I was 11, my mother said, apparently out of the blue, “You know, sometimes we don’t know how we are going to pay all the bills. When that happens, your dad and I write a check to the homeless shelter. It reminds us how fortunate we are.” I am still thanking her for that expression of my parents’ sense of community and humanity.
Shelter is refuge, a metaphor for safety and comfort, whether that is a church or an umbrella or a hug. But our association with the word shelter is headed in a bad direction thanks to the phrase, “shelter in place.” This is a nonsensical euphemism for many reasons. Most relevant right now — it doesn’t mean “stay at home.” It means don’t leave the building you are in when the nuclear bomb drops. We don’t need to be reminded of that right now.
We shouldn’t forget all the great things associated with the idea of shelter. A good place to start is with one of America’s most powerful rock songs. From the very first notes, nothing in you can ignore it.
Shelter can also mean a personal sanctuary, whether that is a castle or a shed or a tent. In 1973, I built a small cabin for $67 on Stuart Island in the State of Washington. For more than 30 years, it sheltered more than a few people and, now I presume, bugs and small animals.
The emotional association we have with the idea of shelter is presented by American producer Porter Madison in his short film of the same name. Using beautiful electronic music, the story is about Rin, a Japanese girl who fights loneliness by engaging her imagination and memories. It is poetic and uplifting.
Love is also a shelter, which is the message of one of Bob Dylan’s best songs, “Shelter from the Storm.” The song is about his first wife, Sara, with adoring lyrics evoking nostalgia and a little regret, using just a couple of guitars and a harmonica. Someone said “if you’ve wondered why Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature, this is a good place to start.” If I had been Sara, this song would have been enough for me.
Artists have been painting buildings of all kinds for forever. But few have crocheted them. In Delhi, India, a New York artist named Olek covered a woman’s homeless shelter in colorful yarns for an art exhibition. The artist’s goal was to draw attention to “a place and a problem many people choose to ignore.” In the process, she created a place of joy. Wow, I want to do this. https://mymodernmet.com/olek-knitted-homeless-shelter
For those of us who can weather this uncertain time in the shelter of a home and a community and love, this is not such a bad time.
“Take shelter with those who need no shelter. Only on the horse of love can you go beyond the sun and moon to behold the Perfect One.”