Little Altars

April 14th, 2010

I have little pop-up altars all over my house. Some are shelves with family photos and candles, others are impromptu gatherings of  numinous images or objects. This one is in my bedroom, and the flowers have been exchanged for a little vase of fresh rosemary to remind me of people in my life who are gone or far away. I don’t go to church, and I’m never quite sure what I’m doing in this life, much less whether there’s an afterlife.  Maybe my hodgepodge of icons and altars (Shiva cheek to jowl with the Virgin of Guadalupe who is next to Frida) is just another hipster decorating pretension, or maybe my altars are spiritual lightning rods, designed to attract what I’m seeking in the way of peace, enlightenment, creativity, clarity, belonging, believing. Mostly, though, I think they’re visual prayers, the only kind I know h0w to make right now.

7 Responses to “Little Altars”

  1. Spiritual lightning rods. I love that…

  2. Deb says:

    Once again you have put “me” into words….I too have altars and symbols, indoors and out, mixing many religions and beliefs. They give me peace when my eyes fall upon them, something I crave in the chaos of my daily life. Thank you for describing it so eloquently…

  3. I have a glow in the dark Virgin Mary.

  4. m. heart says:

    I was spring cleaning this past week and suddenly realized the prominence of religious items throughout my house — from little Buddhas on the windowsill to Mary, St. Theresa, and St. Joseph hanging out in the dining room, to Shiva and Ganesha in the bedroom.

    I love thinking of them as “visual prayers.” That’s wonderful. I guess I’ve been doing more praying than I gave myself credit for.

  5. rebecca says:


    to transform the lives of young children in oaxaca. i hope you will come and drink them in.

  6. Jacquie says:

    “visual prayers’…how insightful-sublime…

    Mine one and only is positioned neatly in the corner of my bedroom…

    As I stood over it mouthing a prayer yesterday it struck me how crowed it looked..

    Like I had outgrown it, and need a larger more reflective one…

    One, not two…. It never occurred to me to set another one, or two, or three…

    laughing out loud..(thank you)

  7. Sheilah says:

    Since I believe in words and art more than anything, my little altars everywhere are collections of the works of Louise Erdrich, David Sedaris, and Marilynne Robinson. They comfort, inspire, and humor me… Love your blog. Thanks for the inspiration in words, thoughts, and pictures.

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