I will continue this practice, but I am excited about another kind of offering I’ve been making the past few weeks—earth altars. (Not quite the right name, but I haven’t come up with a better one.) What happens is my joy in an area calls me to make a love offering. I follow my intuitive urges about where to place it and what I will dedicate it to. Then I grab a basket or a bag and forage. With loving focus I walk the landscape, taking as much time as I need, putting in my basket whatever leaves, blooms, seeds, grasses, cones, sticks, etc. want to be included, in the quantity that feels right. I am often surprised by what makes it into the basket. When I’m gathering this way I feel like the place and I are talking to each other. I become totally energized, noticing its details and loving it even more. When the foraging is complete, I take my basket to the appropriate spot, remind myself what the altar is dedicated to, and intuitively create a pleasing pattern using everything I’ve collected. This part of the process is quick, as I let my hand find where each item wants to go. I don’t leave out anything that I’ve gathered or go back to get more. When it’s complete I step back to admire its beauty, give an honoring blessing, and walk away. Each altar is a love offering, a blessing prayer, a piece of art, and an exercise in letting go.
I developed this practice while staying with a friend at a cabin on the north shore of Lake Superior. I created altars on three successive days. The first one, placed on a large rock facing the lake, I dedicated to Grandmother Lake, and to all the Grandmothers and Ancestors—people, creatures, plants, earth elements, etc. The next day’s offering, put together on a beautiful lichen-spotted stone near the cabin, I made to honor Earth’s Beauty and Abundance. The third altar, dedicated to Color and the Power of Water, I placed in a pool of water among the rocks on the shoreline.
A few weeks later Tom and I stayed with my brother and sister-in-law at their cabin on the south shore of Lake Superior. I made an earth altar in honor of the Big Lake and of the strength, beauty and love of Family, since our families had returned to that area nearly every year for more than forty years. That offering was made on a large, powerful stone near the cabin’s fire pit, halfway between the lakeshore and the cabin. Later, noticing ferns growing on the edge of the property while foraging for the first altar, I created another, smaller altar on a clearing in a path through the woods. A place where a “fairy house” had been constructed by a neighbor at the base of a pine, where grandchildren visited and stoked their imaginations. This offering I dedicated to Children, Wonder, Imagination and Mystery—and Fairies, of course.
When I returned home, I knew I needed to make an earth altar here, too. So the other day I selected a spot on the front lawn and created the biggest one so far, in honor of Harvest, the Fullness of the Earth, and to thank our House and yard, which has nurtured us for nearly 30 years.
Creating these nature blessings felt both fun and reverent, and it’s also expanded my vision and understanding. More than before I appreciate the beauty, not just in blooms, but also in the numerous shapes and colors of leaves, stems, grasses, seeds and sticks. I now see more clearly the charm in what I might before have considered “imperfect” or faded. I am struck too with the bounty—there is always more available than I can use. I am learning to trust this bounty, to become less conservative; my altars have become bigger and more complex as I come to trust the sacred purpose of these creations.
When the altars are done I cheerfully let them go. Though I do sometimes peek again after a few days because I love to see how Gaia folds them back into Herself over time.
I see now these nature offerings are similar to my intuitive art. Both begin with a prayer, and proceed by intuition and curiosity. A free, open space where joy flows through my hands, into a brush or a bloom.
Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to hear.
(If you want a clearer, larger view of a photo, just click on it.)