NATURAL ALTARS

In my weird half-pagan, half-agnostic way I do a reasonable amount of praying. I pray to a mixture of God, the universe, Mother Nature, saints I loved as a child like my all-time favourite St. Francis of Assisi, the archangels, people I know who have passed on, the sky at night, the sky in the morning, and in an odd kind of twist, sometimes to my inner self.

I think that most people, whether they view themselves as religious or not, engage in some kind of praying. Surely, prayer is about aligning our thoughts in a positive way so that we calm and restore ourselves;we don’t necessarily need to invoke God or Jesus or the Virgin Mary to do that.

window altar

I have found that along with the prayer comes the altar. A place to sit, or kneel, or lean against where contemplation comes easily. It is a natural altar that has just presented itself. It could be under a tree, on a bridge or an office desk that happens to be beside a window.

This photo is of my bedroom window. It is a little dark inside because it is the evening but it is still light enough outside to sit and reflect and watch the colours dress the sky for night.

I often sit there. Sometimes on the bed. Sometimes leaning against the lintel. Sometimes on the floor so I can see the rooftops turn from red to amber.

Sometimes the sunset casts a pink and orange glow on the curtains. You would swear they had changed colour but in the morning the shades of sunset have faded to cream.

Often the birds call. A plaintive sound, a sonata in a minor key that soars and twists and aches like weeping.

I watch as the lights come on in houses up and down the street like hands being raised in welcome and hear doors thud one after the other against the night.

I give thanks then. For making it through the day. Whether it is to a god or to myself, I can’t be sure. But it works. It crystallises hopes and dreams. Then I think of, hope for, pray for those that need some good to come into their lives. People I know and people I don’t. The animals. The trees.

It is a prayer. It is a poem. It is a story. It is a song. A mantra, an anthem, a meditation, a psalm.

It works. Sending out all that energy to be gathered by the spirits who wait to catch and disperse it. The ether zings with wishes and prayers flung out from altars of our own making.

Who would have thought that sitting by a window could provide such coherence, such relief?

I’d better watch out.

I might start believing in something.

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20 thoughts on “NATURAL ALTARS

  1. What a beautiful , inspiring and uplifting post Selma. WoW.
    “The ether zings with wishes and prayers flung out from altars of our own making”. That should be in a song.
    I feel really , really , really good… just having read this post.

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  2. “…and watch the colours dress the sky for night.”

    Oh. My. Goddess! What a wonderful phrase! This whole post was inspired and musical. I’m with Punatik, I feel good just reading it.

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  3. …and I hit submit before I was done.

    I agree with you that altars are wherever our Spirit leads us to stop and…

    sometimes you stop and pray.
    sometimes you stop and listen.
    sometimes you stop and stand in awe.
    sometimes you stop and rest.

    Whatever your inner self needs most, wherever your inner self needs to be, there’s your altar.

    Wonderful post, Selma.

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  4. I know of what you speak Sel! Good post.

    Let’s all collective send out a prayer/good vibe for everyone who stops by Sel’s place.

    I am wishing you all, a wonderful week. And a special wish for you Sel, that all the good things in life come your way.

    Oh Higher Power, Mother Earth, God, The Universe….are you listening!!!!

    Hugs, G

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  5. PUNATIK:
    I am so happy to hear that. If I can write something that makes you feel like that then I feel I am really achieving what I want to achieve as a writer and that is, to move people. You have made my day by saying that 😀

    PAUL:
    I know. What will people think if I change my wicked ways now!!!

    KAREN:
    I really like your point about what the inner self needs the most and needs to be, there is the altar. Oh, that is beautiful!

    GERALDINE:
    I hope the powers that be are listening and that they sprinkle a little of their ‘best of things’ dust on us. I think many of us need it right now XX

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  6. Hey Selma….I posted a piece today that came from a few thoughts I had after reading your post. xx

    I also have a photo I haven’t posted yet because I couldn’t find the right words to match with it. but all along I was thinking of the scene as a natural altar…a place of peace and prayer.

    One of the places I spend my time in the morning is in my living room looking out at the river down below the hill my house sits on. I can watch the sunrise and set from there. It is most meditative in the winter when the trees are bare and the fields across the river are visible…white with snow. I can’t help but calm and give thanks to the natural miracles all around.

    I also wanted to share a quote I found a while back and really liked. When I stumbled across it, I was struck for the first time in my life that prayer is something more than kneeling in a church with my hands clasped…. that praying (how you beautifully describe it here) is done beyond walls and rules…. it is part of our daily personal rituals too., of giving thanks…..

    “Everybody prays whether [you think] of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way.” Frederick Buechner.

    love to you Selma.

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  7. Hi DANA,
    I am in tears after reading that quote. That’s it. That’s IT! That is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Thank you for sharing it.

    Whenever I think of you now I will picture you sitting by your window looking down to the river, seeing the trees and natural beauty all around.

    Much love to you too. You are brilliant XX

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  8. Yes, I do know what you mean. Appealing to something “up there” is something I do very rarely, generally when I feel powerless and have no idea how to tackle something or simply just have to wait. I haven’t done it for a long time but I did a lot when I first split up with T. I always spoke to the sky (not to anything or anyone up there) because the sky is everywhere.

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  9. A lovely post Selma. After reading it I thought a bit about myself, my non-religious, scientific self and thought maybe I am spirtual afterall. I like to stop at the turning place on my daily walk with the dogs every morning. It is in the bush under an accacia tree. There is a stone for sitting if I have time, others I just stop and shut my mind and force myself to be in the present – to hear the birds and feel the breeze, listen to the rustle of the leaves, watch the vultures high on the thermals. I do it to try and ground myself a bit for my day ahead. Perhaps that is my altar, that turning around tree. I’ll think of it that way now, Selma- thanks.

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  10. You are lovely. Simply beautiful.

    I have nothing else to say about this post – it is the perfection of inner reflections, and I appreciated every word.

    Now I want to address your thoughts on my blog – thank you so much for them – I have appreciated every time you comment. I am writing in NaNoWriMo this time around, this time with fire in my fingers. I was wondering if you were doing the same? If I’ve missed a post where you’ve already said so, I’m sorry.

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  11. I love your alter, thanks for sharing. Anytime we are communicating with the universe we are in prayer. The most pure form of prayer is to simply say thank-you for all that we are. Who are you kidding, you do believe in something, you believe in your innate wisdom and love that you are.

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  12. ‘I’d better watch out.

    I might start believing in something’.

    This reminded me of Walter Sobchak line from
    The Big Lebowski:

    “Nihilists! F**k me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos”.

    Lovely post. Selma, thanks, DavidM

    For the record: national socialism sux.

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  13. My mother once told me of the time she took her mother-in-law to be (my Grandma … a Roman Catholic!) to the Wesleyan Chapel which she attended.

    Grandma was extremely uneasy ‘What kind of church is this? There’s no altar!’

    I guess that, no matter what we believe … or even if we don’t believe at all, we need something to focus our thoughts/meditations/prayers on. No matter how rudimentary our ‘place of worship’; in Islam, it can be just a circle of stones in the desert … most times, there’s an altar of some sort.

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  14. Your words sing, and I will buy your novel when it’s finished. Regardless of whether we believe in something or not—there is something that believes in us…

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  15. This is how I feel when I’m at peace in the garden. I feel as one with the universe and nature and the most profound thoughts meander through my mind. No-one else exists but me and for a few minutes I am truly happy.

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  16. RELUCS:
    The sky seems to be open to accepting our troubles. I feel that sometimes. I’m glad you are in such a good place now 😀

    GERALDINE:
    I agree. What an incredible quote!

    LAURI:
    The turning tree sounds like a perfect altar. It sounds like the perfect setting for a story, actually. I am going to think of you there all the time now. It is a lovely image!

    TEXASBLU:
    Thanks for your lovely words.

    I am definitely participating in NaNo. I’ll add you as my writing buddy and we can send each other motivating messages and such. I don’t think I mentioned it in a post, so no worries there. I am really looking forward to it and am excited to be a part of it with you. What fun!

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  17. TOBEME:
    Your comments always hit the spot for me. You are so insightful. Every time you comment I have a real lightbulb moment ❓ Thank you so much!

    DAVID:
    You quote from the best movies. Made me giggle and nod my head at the same time!

    TRAVELRAT:
    A circle of stones in the desert seems like a very worthy altar. It has a mysticism all of its own. I really love that!

    JOANNA:
    It does feel right, doesn’t it? I have gone for long periods of time without praying and when I get back into it again there is a strong sense of comfort and relief as if I have missed it without knowing. Maybe we are all meant to do it!

    TIMOTEO:
    Aww, thanks, hon. It does seem as if something does believe in us. What a wonderful way of putting it!

    GYPSY:
    I know that feeling well. There is a real purity to it. It’s the way I used to feel as a child before I had things to worry and fret over. There is nothing like it!

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