How to Build a Home Altar

What follows is a service piece I wrote for [outlet name redacted]. The assignment got canned, but still may prove useful on this sweet spring Sunday. May it help manifest what you need!

Once considered the domain of stalkers and the abjectly religious, home altars are starting to be mainstreamed much like yoga and meditation were twenty years ago. To quote the domestic goddess Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing. A home altar can be wonderfully restorative, whether you’re seeking a fresh start, feeling overwhelmed, or grieving a significant loss.

An altar is a sacred space. This does not mean that you have to believe in a higher power, but it’s useful to believe in yourself–your ability to heal and to receive support. In the age of online everything, it helps to have a physical place to channel dreams and strong emotions constructively so they don’t hold you hostage.

“I think altars are appealing to a wider range of people because we’re experiencing a more chaotic political climate and an oversaturation of technology,” says my good friend Cat Cabral. A self-proclaimed “modern witch,” she is the author of Chronicle Book’s upcoming The Spells Decks. “There’s an increased need for control and self-mastery, and they’re a tangible way to get in touch with the elements and our deepest feelings, especially since so many of us are disconnected from ourselves and the outdoors.”

As is so often the case, I agree with Cat. An altar is a visual reminder of nature’s power as well as our own. It’s a physical reflection of who and what we love, and who and how we want to be. And that’s the best sort of practical magic.

A few guidelines to creating an altar of your own. Continue Reading →

Caturday Night: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Grace and I are rewatching the brilliant Can You Ever Forgive Me? on this Caturday night and once again are appalled it didn’t score a best picture or best director Oscar nom. Its nostalgia for 90s NYC–which was all about nostalgia for midcentury Manhattan and paying the cultural piper– is pitch-perfect, as is Melissa McCarthy as Israel, reminding us what a terrific actress she can be when her husband doesn’t have his meat hooks in her projects. Continue Reading →

April Fools in the Neighborhood

Exhibit A (knickers twisted)

I was rushing down Graham Ave today, doing my shop at the pork store, mozzarella store, pasta store. (It’s the kind of weather that calls for a meat ragu.) Bogged down with parcels, dressed in sweaty, schlubby workout gear, shuddering in the shitty cold wind, I rounded the corner to my house. And came face to face with one of the neighborhood old-timers who’s never acknowledged my existence in the 20 years I’ve lived here–not being Italian in East Williamsburg means I’ll always be dismissed as a Janey-Come-Lately. This time, though he stopped short. “You’re still pretty, honey,” he said. His consoling tone–that still–is cracking me up even now. Cuz, you know, he really was trying to be nice. P.S. The ragu turned out molto buono.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy