• evansph2

A new acquaintance of mine here in California, Maggie Chessing, posted these photos of “morning altars”, or “mandalas” as she prefers to call them. She makes them from the pruning she does in her own garden. I am so enamored of them I asked if I could interview her about making them and post some photos of these marvelous creations.

In the past she used to put the branches that she pruned from her yard in vases on her deck. Mostly she was too sad to throw away her prunings. She thought of it as “therapeutic recycling”. And then she came across a book by Day Schildkret. ”Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art, and Ritual. It is a beautiful book in which he talks about his daily walks in the woods and his ritual of creating art from things that have fallen on the forest floor.

Maggie has altered the practice to fit her needs. She says she does it “randomly” and not on any specific time table. She waits until the current one is either blown apart by the wind (which she doesn’t mind) or until the plant material decays or until the next time she prunes her prolific branches and then she creates a new one. Lately she has begun adding other items; some glass jars from a church potluck, some vases of wild California poppies, pinecones, dried berries, blossoms etc.

It strikes me that this could be a beautiful and meaningful spiritual practice. Either to make large or small altars in some public space such as a clearing in the woods as Day Schildkret does. Or, to make one on a surface in your yard – or even indoors if you, like me, don’t have much outdoor space of your own.

In the introduction to the book, “Morning Altars”, theater director Anne Bogart has written;

We are debris arrangers. Equipped with

what we have inherited, we try to make

a life, make a living and make art.

We are assemblers. We forge received

parts into meaningful composition.

This state of affairs is our plight and our

destiny, but it also offers the opportunity

to find meaning as well as to find

communion with others.

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  • evansph2

Here is a beautiful poem for you. If This Time by Kevin McCormick. May you have a beautiful week-end/Easter/Passover/Spring opening.

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  • evansph2

Updated: Apr 3

If ever there were a set of holy books, for me it would be my poetry collection. I have several books that I can blindly open up and read a passage that will have meaning. Poems I have by heart serve as prayers for me. The act of writing, even bad poems, opens me to an appreciation of the world.

In her book, SAVED BY A POEM, author Kim Rosen says; “Poetry is the commitment of the soul…. We know intuitively that the soul has to do with genuineness and depth…. From below the surface of your life the truth of who you are calls to you through the poems you love. What happens when you merge the power of the word with the language of the soul? The simple and powerful act of creating a deep relationship with a poem you love can change your life.”

So, I invite you to consider some sort of commitment in the coming month to feeding your soul with poetry. Perhaps you’ll just open a book you already own – randomly each morning – read one poem. Let it seep into you throughout the day. Use it as a tarot card! Or perhaps, you’ll copy out some favorite poems as my friends Janice and Laura do and hand them out to people each day during April. Spread the love! Or, maybe you’ll go on to the next step of writing a tiny poem each day. Maybe a 15-syllable haiku, or even a one-line poem. I am going to try to write a small poem each morning during April and work my way through the alphabet. The first word of the first poem will have to start with A. The first word of the poem on April second, will have to start with B etc. I am doing this both for the challenge of it and for the joy, for the expansion of myself and for the affirmation.

Do spend some time in your own holy books of poetry this month!

Here is a poem about poetry and its power.


~by Jason Shinder

A poem written three thousand years ago

about a man who walks among horses

grazing on a hill under the small stars

comes to life on a page in a book

and the woman reading the poem

in her kitchen filled with a gold metallic light

finds the experience of living in that moment

so vividly described as to make her feel known

to another, until the woman and the poet share

not only their souls but the exact silence

between each word. And every time the poem is read,

no matter her situation or her age,

this is more or less what happens.

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