Late Summer Outdoor Altar

A few days ago, our landlord and his son asked us to clear our tiny front porch area while they worked on stripping and repainting the ceiling. Usually we have a small barista table set out front with a few candles and the odds-and-ends the kids bring back with them from the woods — bits of sticks, interesting rocks, a delicate bird’s nest Jeff’s oldest daughter found two winters back. We don’t always do a great job of maintaining this outdoor altar, especially during the cold months of snow and ice, and this past spring and summer has been somewhat overwhelming with wedding planning and work schedules keeping us hopping.

But today, I needed some spiritual down-time to ground in the textures and scents of the earth and replenish my soul a bit. So I spent a few hours out in the garden, weeding and trimming back, harvesting vegetables and taking flower cuttings. Our landlord’s home improvement project seemed a perfect excuse to revisit our outdoor altar with fresh eyes. After sweeping away all the left over dust and paint chippings and beating out the welcome mat, I set to work washing our offering bowls and candle holders of the grime they’d accumulated over the months. I dug a bright butterfly-patterned altar cloth out of the closet (an old one, with a few tears and more than a few stains, that won’t mind too much being out in the weather). Before I knew it…

Voila! A cheerful summer altar!

The vase is filled with a variety of wildflowers from our backyard garden, and the bowl beside it holds a few of our lumpy, multi-colored summer squash fresh off the vine (vines which managed to take over our entire vegetable plot and make a noble escape towards the neighbor’s lawn!). Towards the back is a small set of wind chimes — each time we pass our front stoop altar, coming or going, we set the chimes swinging as we whisper a prayer to our patron goddess Brighid: “O Brighid, bless this hearth and home, and bless all those who dwell within. May peace, love and beauty reign in our hearts.” (Our cat has learned to listen for the tinkling sound of those chimes to tell when it is one of us coming home, or when it’s a stranger at the door.) Our blue offering bowl full of fresh water and a small votive candle complete the altar.

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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