today, a wordless altar.
i assumed the role of family historian at an early age, carting around an old camera with a flip top that I held down around my belly button so i could look, focus, and snap. then came the adorable little brownie camera with the big silver flash compartment, followed by the instamatic with the flash cubes. eventually came the nikon compact digital camera (which by today’s terms, wasn’t actually all that compact), and so on through the ages till i arrived at the iphone 4 and the fabled photography community called instagram where i travel around the world several times a day.
as a young girl, i photographed friends, family, and pets – the black and white photos now curled around the edges and fading into lighter shades of gray. when i became a mother, i snapped photos and videos of the children – enough to keep us in laughter and tears for decades to come.
now i find that i’m more interested in snapping my surroundings, clicking on the run and over my shoulder and on the spot because clouds and trees and water and such don’t wait for me to frame, focus, and shoot. i can’t line them up and stage the shot. i am seeing my world differently, slowing down to appreciate – deeply appreciate, i’m talking about down to the cellular level – the beauty that wraps itself around me constantly.
sometimes i peep through the lens and am surprised by what i see . . .
of late, i am smitten with the macro lens, finding that just like people, so many things are beautiful to look at, but spend a little time and get close enough to see them as individuals, and their uniqueness, their specialness will take your breath away . . .
photography opens doors for me . . .
gives me time and space to reflect, sometimes allowing me to see above and below at the same time . . .
sometimes the reflection bounces off of something else, like – oh – say a windshield . . .
my grandcats are even cuter . . .
and while grocery store roses may not smell, they delight just the same . . .
sometimes i see things differently when they are in relation to something out of the ordinary . . .
the most banal things make me smile . . .
the most familiar things that i see every day become new and unexpectedly delightful . . .
and sometimes nature just takes my words away, leaving me with nothing to do but stop and applaud . . .
“We all have within ourselves a chispa or ember, a spark of divine creativity. and because of this spark, whether we have never even produced a work, we are still in our essence artists. Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests that even when that ember is not actively tended, it still remains glowing within us, just waiting for the breath to ignite it and bring it to a leaping, dancing blaze.”
~Christine Valters Paintner~
Did you breathe your spark into a flame today?
Did you treat the world to the warmth from your spark?
What did you create?
What did you want to create but didn’t?
Why didn’t you?
How did it feel to create . . . or not to create?
Tell me about it.
Tell me everything.
In the past, I’ve skirted around grieving, sashayed away prematurely (though outwardly nobly) because I didn’t want to endure the muck and messiness, the tenacious, persistent roller coaster of emotions. I am a planner by nature, and to not know how I would feel from one moment to the next was just not something I could bear gracefully. At least I didn’t think so. Plus I didn’t want to burden others who prefer to be around a funny, lighthearted me.
Grief unattended is a tar baby, a sticky gooey mess of emotional debris.
In the short tenure of my dedication to see my 2012 words – stay and surprise – made flesh, I’ve been treated to all sorts of inexplicable, delightful happenstances. Or, as Quakers say, “Way opens.” Like this: last night as I muddled around in my journal about grief, as I tried to stay with the tumultuous emotions without falling into the familiar patterns of pointing fingers and defending myself and all that, I happened upon an online article about Ho’oponopono. Today, despite several hours worth of trying, I can’t find that link anywhere. Did it come from a friend’s Facebook posting? Did I stumble upon it? Why doesn’t it show up in my history?
I am perplexed.
I google, and though I can’t find that particular article, I learn that Ho’oponopono is where we take responsibility for and clean with anything we perceive to be a problem. It’s the ultimate emptying, done with gratitude, openness, willingness. It’s a way to clear the tar baby of all old dramas, resentments, agonies such as things I wish I’d said. The theory is that it’s only from this point – called the zero point – that there’s room for new to enter . . . new ideas, new ways, new inspiration. It’s a way of accepting responsibility, expressing gratitude, letting go, making way by holding the emotion/situation/person/whatever and saying four things with utmost sincerity:
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Though being fluent only in English and Southern I know I’ll never be able to pronounce it, Ho’oponopono seems just the ticket now: a process resulting in detachment from the junk of the past, in clarity, in freedom. Things I seek. And so today I begin to create a new way of being, even if my tongue trips and tangles in the process.
An altar is a place you go to reclaim your woman’s intuition. This place says to the busy, rational mind, “Quiet down—let the deeper, wiser woman within you speak!” Over time your view of yourself and your place in the world shifts. The altar becomes a sacred space because you place symbols of your true self on it. As you sit before the altar, these symbols act as mirrors reflecting your deeper self. You see yourself differently while looking in the mirror, and, in time, you find the courage to be this authentic self more frequently in the world. The peace you’ve invested in your altar now radiates back to you. ~ Denise Geddes, A Book of Women’s Altars
Stay is my word for 2012, and my theme for 2012 is surprise. Wanna’ know a secret? These words actually landed on 10/25/11, according to my journal, and though surprise tickled me from the get-go, it’s taken me a while to warm to stay, my resistance waning only as I sit with it (which is another way of saying “stay”) and remember all the various interests and ideas I’ve had that I’ve just left laying by the side of the road. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do, things I’ve longed to investigate, things I’ve wanted to at least try, I can’t help but wonder how my life might be differently now had I silenced those nay-saying Committee of Jeanne members advocating abandonment and moved forward, following the interest, the hobby, the question, the idea without regard to return on investment and such. Can you imagine how many languages I might speak besides English and Southern had I practiced for 30 minutes a day on a regular basis? How many books I might’ve written had I made it my job and showed up to work every day? You get the idea. I get the idea. So what if nobody hailed me and hung onto my every word? So what if hoards of people didn’t enthusiastically throw flower petals at me to share their unending excitement at the mere hint of my proposed adventure?
For those reasons and more, I left one quest after another untended.
But no more.
With that in mind (and because it won’t leave me alone), I’m launching the 365 Altars project for 2012. Just typing the “365” part has me shivering a bit with the commitment of it all. Life has a way of throwing down fistfuls of tacks in my road . . . and I have a way of bringing the car to a screeching halt. There will be speedbumps, of course – some unavoidable, but I will not use that as an excuse to not do this. Not this time.
Every day – every single day – I will stop, drop, and honor my deepest sumptuous self in one way or another. Every single day, I will commit one single creative act – maybe more.
I’d love to have you join me as and if and when you will.
There are a thousand ways our essential nature can be expressed in the world. ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Altars can be something as simple as sharing a photo of something that gives you pause. Or arranging flowers. Or writing a blog post or creating a mixed media collage when words won’t come. Altars can be dancing to music we adore, stitching cloth or paper, painting, baking. Altars are simply ways we honor our deepest sumptuous selves by bringing our inner self into the outside world.
When I think of all the marvelousness we will bring to our lives and to the world when we give our sumptuous, creative, wise, playful selves that extra beat of attention on a regular and consistent basis, I can’t stop the gleeful squeeeeee from bubbling out. In his poem Feast of Epiphany, Kenneth Rexroth says “Let us celebrate the daily/Recurrent nativity of love,/The endless epiphany of our fluent selves.”
Join me as, if, and when you will in enjoying a year of endless surprise – a year of the endless epiphanies of our fluent selves – as we honor our deepest sumptuous selves. How will we gather? Oh, let me try to count the ways . . .
a facebook page
a flickr group.
You can use the hashtag #365Altars on twitter
and #365Altars on delicious.
I’ve also created a 365 Altars pinterest board where we can inspire and dazzle and be proud to know each other.
There’s even the 365 Altars Dinaglingy (also known as a newsletter in more uncivilized parts of the world) for those artsy, chortling hearts interested in book talk, creative prompts, and, in keeping with my allegiance to “surprise,” a host of other things I may or may not have hatched yet.
There’s 365 Altar bling, and there’ll be more to choose from as we go along cause if I ask and you say Yes, I’ll make your image bling so we can change our bling as often as we change our shoes. Or lipstick. Or, for some of you, pocketbook.
Oh, good gracious, how could I forget to tell you that if you’ll click on the 365 Altars page here in my little e-nest, you can toss your welcome mat out by adding a link to your blog in the linky thingy so we can all drop by and say “Hey, I LOVE what you’ve done with the place” or something like that (no pizza required.) cause that’s the second what-it’s-all-about, right? Supporting and cheering each other on.
So that’s about it (at least for now) my fellow Surpriseateers. I’ve packed my shoebox with all kinds of creative supplies, and I’m raring to go. How ’bout you?