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Jul 8th, 2005 - 16:04:24 


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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

People have written prayers and hung them in the prayer shrine to blow in the wind until they disintigrate.

By Lois Barton

Posted on May 28, 2005

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The Cortesia Sanctuary Gate, "Spirit and Nature Dancing Together" photo © by Susan Thomas

Nestled among 100 year-old trees on a hilltop a few miles southwest of Eugene is a charming 22 acre retreat center known as Cortesia Sanctuary. An interview with the proprieters, Forrest and Tricia McDowell, developed a spirited picture of their commitment to sanctuary and their nearly twenty years of sensitive work to create a sanctuary garden.

They explained the source of the word "cortesia" as coming from an old French word, "cortese." Forrest defined the meaning as "a deep reverent courtesy toward life," and stated that meaning as their basic philosophy.

An arbor at the Cortesia Gardens, photo © by Susan Thomas

The McDowells have written and published two small books: Home Composting Made Easy with more than a million copies in print, and Gardening for Optimal Nutrition. Their major publication is titled The Sanctuary Garden with the subtitle Creating a Place of Refuge in your Yard or Garden. Early chapters in this 189 page book are titled The Garden as a Sacred Place and Meeting the Needs of the Soul with a Sanctuary Garden.

My friend and photographer, Susan Thomas, and myself set out to explore. A small flyer contains a map of their garden for a self-guided tour. Here you will find raised beds containing vegetables and flowers, but also a prayer shrine, a peace shrine, a cob grotto, a meditation garden, a labyrinth, a stupa and many other attractions.

The blue heart of a rock, photo © by Susan Thomas

Tricia took us on a tour and called our attention to some of those special places. People have written prayers and hung them in the prayer shrine to blow in the wind until they disintigrate. We each added our prayer stone to the stupa feeling afresh the sacred quality of our surroundings.

The interior of the cob structure, photo © by Susan Thomas

Forrest is a talented composer and musician. He builds and maintains the gates, arches, trellises and trails using native materials with a simple charm suggestive of nature's own creativity. He says he likes domesticity--living in and caring for a home. He feels passionate about understanding and writing about the concept of sanctuary. They both are concerned to find ways of creating sanctuary in everyday life for needy people which includes each of us in some aspect..

The exterior of the cob structure, photo © by Susan Thomas

Among other talents Tricia is a Reiki master. She is a certified Master Gardener. During our conversation she explained how she began creating the Cortesia Flower Essence Blends, gentle yet powerful remedies taken internally for deep emotional healing. A well known herbalist was teaching a class about plants, and asked each participant to choose a flower in the garden, go sit by it, and talk to it, attune to its essence. Tricia chose a yellow yarrow and was delighted that she immediately found herself in tune.

A garden arch structure, photo © by Susan Thomas

The field of flower essence therapy was originally developed by an English physician, Dr. Edward Bach, about 1930. He learned that flower energy could be captured and applied to human needs in a homeopathic manner.

Tricha has an art studio. She does watercolor paintings and skillful photography. She recently presented a slide show of their work, accompanied by Forrest with his guitar as part of a recent interfaith ministries program.

Inside looking out, photo © by Susan Thomas

An incidental talent of Tricia's, via her company Window Visions, is window painting, those seasonal scenes on the windows of banks, businesses and stores. She has been given complete freedom to creaate bright spots for passersby, and never uses patterns. The latex paints she uses are water soluable and can be washed off when the season passes. She finds it humbling to accept the necessarily transient nature of this creative art work.

Trisha and Forrest McDowell, founders of Cortesia Sanctuary, photo © by Susan Thomas

Forrest and Tricia are members of the Self Realization Fellowship. Meditation is an essential part of their daily life. They carry the practice to every aspect of life, making their place a sanctuary for body and spirit. The dictionary defines sanctuary as "a holy place." These talented folks have a deep personal concern for promoting sanctuary in a world where so many soul-hungry people have lost their connection to nature. They encourage us to build a special place in each home or yard and are working to establish sanctuaries in nursing homes, retirement centers and hospitals.

Visitors to the Cortesia Sanctuary Garden and Galleries are invited, by appointment only, to spend time in that peaceful place regenerating their bodymindspirit. You may even watch the sun go down while sitting on one of the sunset benches at the end of the ridgetop. You can also visit their website at

Copyright ©2005 by Lois Barton

Now Available on Compact Disk: Stories from The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Three and a half years of years Lois Barton's stories–so you can read them without going online!

Lois Barton's Selected Works
Volume I, Chanticleer's Tales
Send $10, plus postage of $1.50 to
84889 Harry Taylor Rd.
Eugene, OR 97405

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:
Visit the Heron Rookery
Sauerkraut and All That
Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife- The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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