Altars & nature tables

Do you have a special place in your home where you can rest your eyes and find peace and comfort? Creating sacred space has always been a particular passion of mine, so creating a meaningful altar feels soul-fulfilling for me. An altar is a surface (usually elevated in some way) containing objects of significance and a place to engage in whatever sort of spiritual practice fits for you.

A nature table is a place where the seasons and rhythms of the earth can be observed and honored. For those of us for whom season and earth intersect with our spiritual practice, these can often look similar.

Ellen Dissanyake states that art is about "making special." She says "this aesthetic ability.. enabled us to ‘bracket off’ the things and activities that were important to our survival, separate them from the mundane, and make them special. We took the objects and practices involved in marriage, birth, death, food production, war and peacemaking and enhanced them to make them more attractive and pleasurable, more intriguing and more memorable. We invented dance, poetry, charms, spells, masks, dress and a multitude of other artifacts to make these associated activities, whether hauling nets or pounding grain, more sensual and enjoyable, to promote cooperation, harmony and unity among group members, and to also enable us to cope with life’s less expected or explicable events." Altars and nature tables are one very concrete expression of this idea of art as meaning-making or ritual.

I often create small birth altars when friends are in labor, bringing a baby into the world... keeping a candle lit throughout the birth to send love and light their way.

Personal altars can also be made portable using matchboxes.

Children can even take delight in creating their own personal nature tables or altars, like the one you see below.

As you can see, altars come in various shapes and sizes. They can live at home or at work, be made with your children or alone, small-scale or large, seasonal or not. I am inspired by so many beautiful nature tables I see online -- you may wish to search pinterest or flickr for inspiring examples of various types of altars or nature tables. Once they are created, altars can be a lovely addition to a family room or a personal space where you can sit and enjoy meditating in front of it or having some quiet time alone.