Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 66

GUEST COLUMN

When Space Becomes Sacred
By CARA ELLEN MODISETT | Photo by KATHRYN FELDMANN

Cara Ellen Modisett was part
of the Leisure Media 360 staff
from 1998 until 2012, and editor
of this magazine for four of those
years. Her work as a teacher,
writer and pianist inspired a
calling in another direction; she
has just finished her first year in
the M.Div. program at Virginia
Theological Seminary as a
postulant for priesthood in the
Episcopal Church.

66

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

M

ost Sundays in my childhood, my family drove
over the mountain to
a small country United
Church of Christ just outside Luray, Virginia. My
extended family, including my grandparents and great uncle and
great aunt, aunts and uncles and cousins,
sat on the back two pews on the righthand side, listening to sermons and singing the old hymns.
After church, my sister and I would
play in the cemetery, among the names
of our great-grandparents and aunts and
uncles and cousins, in view
of farmland and mountains. In the afternoon
we'd visit the family farms,
explore the barns and the
attics and the fields-landscapes and places that
would nudge me towards
Blue Ridge Country magazine, and eventually to
seminary.
In seminary, we think a
lot about what is "sacred."
Sacred ground, sacred mysteries, sacraments. Places
and things set apart, considered holy. The sort of places
where you whisper, take off
your shoes or wear something nice. Places where important things happen, or
have happened.
Over the years I wrote
for Blue Ridge Country, I
visited a lot of sacred spaces. A West Virginia cemetery where pebbles are left
on gravestones by visitors.
Native American lands. The

Appalachian Trail above Burkes Garden,
"God's Thumbprint." Civil War battlefields. Country stores where folks played
bluegrass on the porch. Backstage, listening to Ralph Stanley sing near Galax. Galax, for that matter.
Those places are just as holy to me
as cathedrals. They're made sacred by
the human lives and stories and music
they witness-beautiful, heartbreaking,
memorialized, forgotten-all important,
holy things. Sacred ground is the country
church, the family farm. It is the fields
where people fought and died and where
now we hopefully learn from those conflicts and losses.
And sacred, too, are the places where
we try not to impose our humanness-
the mountaintops, rivers and wilderness
areas in their beauty and steadfastness,
places we strive to keep holy by not leaving traces behind after our pilgrimages.
In these times, sacred ground has
become turned upside down. As our
churches and synagogues, temples and
mosques and meeting houses-our sanctuaries-have been been closed, we find
sacred space online, where we gather and
sing and learn and pray (yes, I might be
calling Zoom holy).
Sacred ground is not always perfect,
not always comfortable: We find it in
hospital rooms and protests, on hiking
trails and in quieted cities.
And there are moments when I see
ordinary space quietly become sacred:
the day two deer visited my small-city
backyard, munching leaves and watching me carefully through the windows,
and the stormy nights when birds
sought shelter under our front porch
awning.
These are the moments of grace, the
promise of living.


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Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

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