Learn Feng Shui
Learn Feng Shui
Do you realize how mysterious nature is?
An altar reminds us of the beauty of the Sacred. My altar this morning: Lupine in a syrup jar. The word altar simply means “high.” An altar reminds us of the High. It can be a jar of wildflowers; it can be an elaborate arrangement of sacred objects. Its purpose is to remind us of what is High: to re-connect. I love to make altars out of objects from nature. Altars that recall to me different elements.
Last spring I found a beautiful glass bowl married to a base made from the gnarled branch of a tree. The glass was melted over the branch so that its irregularly shaped base conforms to the shape of the wood. I found it at a time when our living room was too dry. In our living room we have created a FENG SHUI cycle of generation. FENG SHUI (wind-water), also known as Chinese geomancy, is the science of the spatial arrangement of forms in relation to the flow of life energy. In FENG SHUI, there are five elements—metal, water, wood, fire, and earth—and part of what we seek to do is balance them in our living spaces. This was during a drought, and the land, and our house, was too dry. The earth was too dry; the air was too dry. I could feel it in my nose. Once I found this bowl, I filled it with water, and then I began to fill it with objects from the ocean. Clam shells, mussel shells, sea urchin shells. Many of these I had found myself on various trips, including a sea urchin shell I had brought back from Brasil.. The clam shells my daughter and I found in a creek beside Tomales Bay. We filled the bowl with objects from the ocean and made an altar to the Sea.
At about this time, I was looking at a map and realized that where we live in San Rafael is only about sixteen miles, as the bird flies, from the ocean. At this point, we had lived in this neighborhood for ten years, and I found it strange to realize that we were so close to the ocean, and yet I didn’t feel connected to it in our home. I decided to walk there. There are no roads that connect our neighborhood directly with the ocean, but by crossing through the Open Space preserve here, walking down Butterfield Road, turning off behind Fairfax, going up a side street, veering through Deer Park—I could make it. I left the house with my dog, Brix, at about 7:45 in the morning. All along the way I planted small stones as markers. Each time I planted a marker, I spent several minutes visualizing the connection from my house to that specific place. I walked, and I stopped when I needed to rest. I was just a tiny bit afraid, at the beginning of the day, that we wouldn’t make it. I crossed through the Open Space preserve, walked behind the town of Fairfax. We entered the Mt. Tam watershed at about 11 a.m. I remember the moment, looking back toward our home across several ridgelines, where the fear dissolved and I became so happy. I realized that before the roads were here—not so long ago—this was how the people would have crossed from the area where we live to the ocean. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. Ascending Mt. Tam I was looking down at the ground when something brilliant caught my eye. I knelt down. It was a quartz crystal, about the size of my thumbnail. I picked it up, spat on it, and wiped it on my shirt. It was brilliantly clear. At the summit of the mountain I traversed about a mile at its peak. I planted my last marker in a large dead tree beside the road just before I caught a glimpse of the ocean. My spirit lifted when I saw her.
For the first time in the nineteen years we’ve lived in the Bay Area, I felt that I lived near the ocean. The sky was clear, and beneath me, the vivid, rolling green hills carpeted the backside of the mountain. The sea sparkled kaleidoscopically azure, flecks of cerulean, royal blue, and turquoise dancing through the whitecaps under the sun. The last mile-and-a-half took the longest, somehow, climbing down the mountain, because at that point I had seen the beach, and my body was impatient for the water. We walked out of the woods into Stinson Beach at 7:40 in the evening; my feet were in the ocean minutes later. I was exhausted, and splendidly happy. Brix raced and pranced and nosed the sand. He had walked with me sixteen miles, and seemed to be saying Great! Now let’s run home!
When we created the water altar, I placed the crystal I had found on the shoulder of the mountain into it. It connected me, and my living room, to that day, and to that pathway from my house to the sea, re-establishing our connection. It helped bring the ocean into our living room: the force of living water. In the moment when I stood on the shoulder of Mt. Tam, looking out at the ocean, I greeted her. In Brasil we venerate Janaina, the Queen of the Waters. She is known by different names. In the Afro-Brasilian traditions we call her Iemanjá, or Yemaya. Teacher Raven Elder explains that this comes from the Yoruban Yey Omo Eya, translated as “Mother Whose Children are the Fish”—–both literally, and as in all of us—too numerous to name. She is the Great Mother. We greet her and ask for her blessing. This is what an altar does: it reminds us to connect, and creates a space, in our home, and in our heart, to allow that Presence in.
Related Practices:Related to other elemental practices, practices of land connection, practices of organization..
Video: Distill | Photography: Stein Egil Liland | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.