Building Shelter

I have been pondering the formidable concept of ‘shelter’ on many levels, thanks to the latest Are You Book Enough January word challenge.


I am grateful for the shelter of my funky little house with all its cobwebs and creative clutter. A shelter of love, potted plants, books, and dreams. I know too many people in the world have nowhere safe to sleep, let alone dream.


As a backpacker longing for long trails and warmer weather, I think about the sturdy, storm-proof shelters every ten miles or so along over 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail that are built by teams of passionate volunteers. Because who else would do it right?


The more thought put into a building’s design and the more care taken in its construction, the longer it will stand as a safe haven for its occupants. Without ongoing preservation and protection, our buildings are vulnerable to destruction and decay.


It is the same with democracy. How can I let January go without pondering that?


My book, King of the Castle, explores the implications of upholding or rejecting the rule of law and the Constitution—the lifeblood of democracy. It pays homage to the foundational work sheltered within the walls of the U.S. Capitol building. It features powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on the flip side is the House Article of Impeachment against former president Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, including inciting violence against the government.


Our We-the-People Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use. It is a well-worn, wrinkly, patched-up blueprint for building a more perfect union. It knows perfection will never apply because humans are imperfect. But it learns from failure and commits to do better. A beacon for the world, as many call it, though it has seemed pretty dim in recent years.


Just how to read our constitution, in real time, is not always clear. Nothing is black and white, even while blackness and whiteness lie in the trenches of its heart while the rot of greed, white supremacy, misogyny, and corruption spreads.


The breach of our Capitol on January 6th, 2021 revealed the extent of this rot. Clear as day. Yet hope springs from this clarity, this light, the seeing of wrong, and striving for right. It springs from unsung, everyday heroes. And the spectacular, shining wisdom of Amanda Gorman:


When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.


I’ll take shelter in this.


More to come around the bend…

2 Responses to “Building Shelter

  • The metaphorical shelter our Constitution provides remains under siege so long as we ignore the structural inequalities that make people prey to magical thinking. Millions of Americans who are white and male and working- and middle-class have been left out in the cold. Trump invited them in. Democrats couldn’t find room. If democracy is to survive, Democrats must make these newly dispossessed welcome. The tent that Democrats insist is Very Big must in fact get bigger. The Constitution is not a zero-sum shelter. ALL of us must feel we belong.

    • YES, agree and so well said. Thank you for extending and nailing the metaphor. I keep wondering about ways humans can be coaxed to nurture ‘non-zero design’ so we can unfold, expand, extend, and raise the roof. There is so much work to be done.


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