Making an altar out of your desk
The piece of furniture that I treasure the most is my desk. It is a huge, wooden L-shape that sits nicely in a corner.
In Barbara Ann Kipfer's book, "A Field Guide to Happiness," she recommends "creating an altar" of your desk.
On my desk I have a piece of metal that is twisted into the shape of a frog playing the banjo, a Japanese fisherman figurine, a model ship, two Buddhas, two miniature pewter Hindu gods, and a Jesus statue.
Even though a spiritual motif spans across my desk, the altar Kipfer encourages readers to build is not a religious altar. It should just be something that will cheer you up, she says. But I would go a step further and add that it should inspire your art—even if that isn't always a cheery thing. Happiness was the focus of her book. It may not be your focus as a poet.
"Altar is just one word for a collection of family photos, trinkets and a vase of flowers," she writes. "The idea is that the place where you work, or wherever you spend a lot of time, should be cheery and inspirational."
To that end, she suggests that the items on your altar be linked to memories, beliefs or goals. The important thing is to pick items deliberately. Consider what each one means to you.
The frog sculpture on my desk brings folk musicians like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie to my mind—minstrels who preserved stories of early modern America.
The fisherman and ship are on my desk because of my love of the sea. A ship on the horizon always sets my imagination adrift. The religious items illustrate the variety of ways in which people reach out of themselves to connect to their surroundings.
Tailoring your desk to your desires might mean setting up family photos to help you appreciate your life. I like to pile books that are currently fueling my imagination on my desk. Currently, Roberta Beary's "The Unworn Necklace," Mark Strand's "Blizzard of One" and C.K. Williams' "Repair" are in my face. These help me focus. Sometimes, the books I pile serve as mile markers for my muse.
But as Kipfer points out, altars don't need to reflect a grand scheme.
"What makes your collection an altar is your intention, which can be as simple as your desire to return to the present moment and be aware of it each time you see your special collection."
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