This was our family’s home altar from about three-ish years ago. It’s definitely the most elaborate and beautiful one I’ve ever had. This was a shared altar, between my husband and I, so you can see there is a good mix of deities represented here. For example, the enormous Buddha, Jesus, Mary, and Prabupad (whose name I’ll have to check and edit, but that’s how it sounds, prah-boo-pahd). Oh, and Yoda, of course. There’s a good collection of other things as well…my string of paper cranes, the letter my father wrote me on his death bed, and a box that gives you a round of applause when you open it. There’s a rope of sweet grass, from way back when I lived in Arizona and danced along the pow-wow highway, a statue my mother made of a mother with a child on her knee, a shell from the sea, and landscaping rock from when we lived in Texas. All this, gathered around a more traditional selection of candles, incense, and a vessel for liquid. I threaded long garlands of lights around each of the three “altar boxes” as they’re called and had them set with a timer that would make them automatically flip on with my alarm clock, and off when it was time for bed. Looking at this altar space again touches my heart. It was the best one I’ve ever had, even if those three windows looked over someone else’s driveway. A lot of magic happened there.
Fast forward a couple of years and here we are in a new space. Some of the magic made before that altar led us here into the backwoods of Maine where we bought a one hundred and thirty year old farmhouse, restored it to the best of our ability (and budget), and began farming the land. We have lived here approximately 2 and a half years and have yet to set up our altar. It weighs heavily on me, not having a daily reminder to stay focused, a quick jolt of inspiration just upon opening my eyes. I have a lot of theories about why it’s taken us so long. Maybe it’s simply because the act of restoring this house, and stewarding this land, while trying to make a living, and raise two young boys is about all I have time for? Maybe it’s because I find the natural world that surrounds me here every day so beautiful and inspiring I don’t NEED such a strong reminder. Or at least maybe I didn’t THINK I needed one. I’ll be honest though, it’s probably more due to the fact that we don’t have a single good space to put it.
I like to put the altar in front of a window…CLOSE to the natural world. So that I may crack a window and have the smoke from my candles and incense actually reach the fresh air and be carried away. Unfortunately, although this house is beautiful, and is filled with windows, none of them are in a very good location to be considered sacred. Except for one. The kitchen. After many months of pondering what to do, I declared that the ONLY place we could put an altar, was the big bay window in the kitchen. And why not? The kitchen is where our family gathers. It’s where I go in the morning to commune with my coffee and the last room I go in to while shutting the house down for sleep. What better place to be greeted by a reminder to stay centered? A chance to say a prayer before heading out for the day or before heading to bed for the night.
I don’t have a picture of this altar yet, and I warn you it’s quite sparse compared to the last one. This is a more public space and frankly, there just isn’t enough space to put all the things I would like to up there. I’ve got some ideas for a bigger and better set up, all of which have their own logistical issues. For now I’m happy to have what I have. But…there it is. A step in the right direction.