My Sacred Place
Stepping out onto the sidewalk along St. Honore, I pull shut the heavy tall green door to the courtyard where the entrance to our simple fourth floor walk-up hides from the street. We’ve been here so many times now; it feels like a second home. There is no pressure now to see or do anything but experience and explore the city as if we simply had a weekend off and were curious about what was happening here.
Even early in the day with not many people stirring, the air retains the familiar city scents, not entirely unpleasant either. Faint hints of diesel exhaust, ubiquitous tobacco odor and a hint of urine now and again are just part of urban life here. I quit smoking cigarettes decades ago, but when a smoke’s fragrance hits me in the open street it still brings back pleasurable memories.
I walk with purpose up St. Honore to the second station of my routine. The Louvre is on my left, across a small square where kids usually congregate to kick a ball around or hassle tourists for a handout or with some ludicrous scam. Not on this excursion. The square is curiously empty.
I turn right and head deliberately through a stone gate to a greened courtyard surrounded by what appear to be bureaucratic government buildings, low but with the fastidiousness flags you routinely see here.
Out of this courtyard I arrive at my third stop, cutting through a large arch in the stone buildings into a bigger courtyard, run through the middle with a clay and pebble path lined with manicured poplars that just let in a thin, rigid crack of sunlight through their symmetrical canopy.
I stride down the path, following the sharp line of sunlight leading to the fourth station. I stand in front of a gargantuan set of oak doors, festooned with iron handiwork. I lightly push on the door, and it glides open silently as if without weight at all. The doors are set in a low stone edifice, but it’s not clear from the outside what the building contains.
Stepping through the portal, the marker I left before is right there to my right by the door. The room I stand in is circular, made of stone, not more than 50 feet in diameter. It has a chapel feel to it, yet two stories tall. The top story carries stained glass windows around its circumference, with no discernible figures or stories depicted, as can be the case in chapels here.
There are dark wooden bench pews starting at ground level, descending into an amphitheater that is exactly 88 steps down each of four aisles. The pews have hard wooden drop-down kneeling rests without pads, just like in boarding school. Like the chapel at boarding school too, the room is infused with a residual incense fragrance.
In the pit of the amphitheater is a red-carpeted circular space maybe 20 feet across. It is empty with the exception of a folding chair and my Replica 1957 Les Paul Goldtop. Its cable snakes offstage to a hidden amplifier.
I’ve invited guests to join me here. So far I have only felt Jerry’s presence a few times; the fit and jocular Jerry I saw perform so many times in the seventies, before the junk set in. We chat about music, and he shows me a lick or two, and he gives me a guitar pick. This meet-up is tenuous and hard to grab onto, surreal and not as graphic as I’m told such manifestations can be with practice. I’m going to keep trying.
I go here each morning since I was trained four years ago to create such a sacred place where I am safe, content and everything is perfect. Everything is indeed perfect here. It’s warm, it’s relaxing, it’s inviting and I play music perfectly. I’m in complete control and can create the experience and feelings that give me joy.
I’m here for about twenty minutes, then thoughtfully rub down the guitar with the towel Buddy Guy threw to my wife in the front row the night we saw him.
I retrace my steps mindfully past my marker; the black stone Asian garden pagoda my wife’s boss gave her. I’m not sure why I chose this for a marker; it was the first peaceful thing I could think of when pressed to decide, so there it is. It reminds me of the beautiful Asticou Azalea Garden in Maine, where they have such things.
I pass out the big door, through the poplars and back out onto St. Honore.
Ready to start the day.
(Original art by J.E. Hargate)