In yoga teacher training, we as a class made an altar for our meditation retreat. All 20 of us were asked to bring an item or two of significance. We could share the meaning or not. I brought a pair of dangly gold earrings, a gift from a client who hugged me and said, “para que me requerdes,” “for you to remember me by.” My yoga buddy Jenn brought a shell from a trip to the shore with her beloved. Another classmate contributed a candle a friend brought her from Hawaii, and one of our meditation leaders added an ultrasound picture of her son who is due in December. It was a lovely presentation of our heart objects.

I considered making an altar in my apartment until I realized that my apartment is all mine, filled with only the things that I deem nourishing. My apartment is my altar. On the bookshelf beneath the window, I have an antique milk glass dish of shells from various beach vacations with my family. Next to that, a Willow Tree figurine that my mom got for me when I moved out of my period of depression and into a new job, a new apartment, and a graduate school career. The apartment an the school didn’t last, but my happiness and contentment did. I also display a panic button, a hoops&yoyo [sic] electronic device that, when pressed, says, “Stay calm…stay calm…PANIC!” It was another gift form my mom and her Hallmark career, poking loving fun at my tendency to panic and hopefully, a distraction to me when worries start to get the better of me. I have a mug painted just for me by my dear, talented friend Charrow. She handed it to me just before I left her apartment after my first visit to her Brooklyn abode. I fought back tears because I didn’t want to leave and I gently tucked it into my carry on luggage and unzipped my bag periodically on the plane just to admire it. The mug sits next to an angel figurine with wings that cats love to try to eat and a base that says, “Someone to watch over you,” a Christmas present from one of my oldest friends who is superstitious and sincere. I have a little Japanese fan that my dad brought me back from a business trip to Japan.

On another shelf is a lopsided vase. My parents took my brother and me to a craft fair the day before I started 7th grade. That was the second year of my annual First Day of School Panic Fest, Panic Fest ’95. I was allowed to buy something at the fair, and I selected a little vase that must have been knocked over before it was fired in the kiln. The artist chuckled as he wrapped it up for me, and I remember thinking that the vase was like me–imperfect, but delightfully unique. I appreciated the vase and maybe this year in school, someone would appreciate me. And they did–that year, I made friends with four girls who were as dorky as I was, and who never left me out of plans to string beaded necklaces or to watch Now and Then. One of those girls is the one who gave me the angel I mentioned above. She’s getting married next year and she asked me to help her plan it. Another of the girls lives 15 minutes away from me. We’re not joined at the hip, but we’re still joined because we’ve been friends for 15 years. I fell out of touch with the other two from the group, but I still have a soft spot for them.

I also have a shelf that is devoted to, well, my dead cat. My family adopted Emma when I was 10, and she came to live with me in Atlanta when I was 23. And when I was 24, she developed kidney failure, and I cared for her and fought what I knew was happening to her. I had had pets die before, but I hadn’t had them die slowly, painfully. I didn’t have to decide to have them put to sleep and I didn’t watch them die. It was a terrible loss for me. I saved some of her fur and I put that little baggie on the shelf with her ashes-I didn’t scatter them because she spent her whole life inside, so it was where I knew she was happy. The display also has a photo of Emma and a figurine my aunt got for me the Christmas after Emma died–a figurine of a girl holding a black cat.

And because I am not completely morbid and macabre, I also have a shadow box that houses a Bratz doll painted pink with a white skeleton, gold glitter, and a little flashing light. I found the doll in the waiting room at work and made fun of it for a while, and them my dear friend Tommy turned it into an art project with a feminist bent for me.

My refrigerator door is full of cards from my family and friends and clients, and above my sink is a fruit bowl that my college roommate made when she took her first pottery class. I have a miniature bonsai pot that my parents brought for me after they visited a monastery that cultivated the tiny trees. And a tiny blown glass piece as a souvenir from their visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. And a stuffed Hershey Kiss dressed as the Statue of Liberty, wearing turquoise Chuck Taylors just like I used to have–a gift form my brother’s first trip to New York. I also have a little covered dish sharing space with my books. Several years ago, I envisioned a house that was near a secluded beach, decorated a little bit like a Garnet Hill catalog. I called it My August House because that’s what it seemed like to me. I shared the idea with my mom and then I pointed out the dish in a boutique: “That’s an August House dish.” It was easier to show the decor that matched instead of describing this mythical house. That Christmas, my mom gave me that dish. And when I moved into this apartment, she said, “It’s your August Apartment.” And it is, because it is my heart objects.