My main altar resides in my living room in front of a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of mountains and palm trees. But I create smaller, impromptu altars elsewhere in my house—on my kitchen windowsill, in my garden, even in my bathroom. I never know when or where I'll create an altar. I engage in this activity without conscious thought. The process is intuitive, spontaneous, and often results from clearing space.
Last week I cleaned out the supply closet in my home office. The job was long overdue. I recycled outdated stationary, mismatched envelopes, stray papers; trashed dead pens; bagged old-fashioned pencils to give away (I prefer mechanical ones); weeded out worn three-ring binders, ill-matched dividers, and more. As I dragged boxes and bags out of my office, the space felt lighter and more spacious—and so did I.
In this state, I was inspired to create a mock-up of my forthcoming book, Raw: A Midlife Quest for Health and Happiness (She Writes Press, May 2018). I printed out a color copy of my designed book cover, taped it to a book from my library, covered the spine, added my name to it, and placed it on a stand on top of my file cabinet. A thrill ran through my body as I saw “my” book for the first time!
I then retrieved an important object from my living room altar and brought it into my office: an egg-shaped stone, which has been a symbolic representation my memoir for the past six years. I bought it when I first “conceived” my memoir. The egg represented the idea that would require years of fertilization to grow. And now, even though the book is written, its path to publication and beyond is part of its incubation and hatching.
Next I added a tchotchke my sister gave me decades ago when I was a young writer: an image of a shooting star, along with the words, “Believe in yourself.”
While cleaning out my supply closet I found an old incense burner that reminds me of a miniature version of Aladdin’s magic lamp. I added that to the bourgeoning arrangement on top of my file cabinet, perhaps as an unspoken request for magic to be part of my publishing experience.
Buried deep in the back of my supply closet, on the floor, I’d found a bag of office supplies my husband cleared from his dad’s house after he died six years ago. It was filled with Post-it pads, pens, numerous boxes of paper clips, and a few knickknacks. One of these knickknacks looked like an empty pot of gold, so I filled it with my grandmother’s gold rope necklace and placed it with the other objects. I would later see the symbolism of this choice—my hope that publishing my book will bring riches. Not necessarily monetary wealth—although I’m certainly open to that—but treasure in its various forms: relationships and human connections, opportunities to share and to be of service, personal and professional growth, and any other prosperity and abundance the universe might have in store for me as I usher my memoir into the world.
The next object that called out to me was a painted, wood-carved angel on her knees praying. Into her wire wings I placed a photo of myself taken a few years ago at an empowering raw-food photo shoot. This image had been the placeholder book cover I’d used when I first started writing to help me visualize where I was headed—toward a completed book. I’d created that mock-up six years ago. Now that I had my actual book cover it was time for an update, but I still wanted to add this image to my altar because it was infused with all my raw-food energy and excitement about sharing what I’d learned about health and happiness in my a memoir.
My altar felt like it was almost done. I added a plaque given to me by my former life coach, Tracey Brown. It contained an acrostic with my name written vertically. Beside each letter the following words appeared: Beautiful, Enlightening, Loving, Learning, Artist—to which I added another photo of me that I like, taken a few years ago at Raw Living Expo.
Finally, I included a candle so I could illuminate the altar—turn it “on” when I needed to activate some mighty memoir mojo.
What I love about space clearing is this: as we release stuff we don’t use or need, we open the space around us for new goodies to enter.
The mock-up of Raw became the centerpiece for this beautiful, inspiring new altar in my office. I didn’t even realize I was building it until I was well into the project, and now every time I enter my office, I feel like I’m calling my book into being and also honoring it—as well as my efforts.
An altar gets made from random objects that turn out to be not so random after all. It’s a creative process. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. Like writing, listen and take one step at a time. See how your arrangement feels. Whatever needs to be expressed will come forward. Often we don’t know what we’re thinking or wishing for until we create it.
When was the last time you cleared your writing space? What happened? How did it feel? Have you ever built an altar? What did you place on it and why? What are you calling into being? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!
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