Altar-ed states


Dia de los Muertos altar

I love how we celebrate Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos.

In Birmingham, Bare Hands Gallery reaches out to the community for an annual night of music, food and poignant art. I’ve been going since 2007, ever since my friend and former Post-Herald colleague Chris paid tribute to her husband Mike. (More from Chris’ wonderful blog.)

I don’t think about death too much, my own or anyone else’s. Too final, too mind-bending.

But when I gaze at the tributes, the altars made by artists, friends and family, I am moved. It is morbidly fascinating and enchanting. To walk the hallway and see the lights, the handwritten notes, the bits and pieces that make up a life, or at least the echo of one, gives me pause.

How will we be remembered someday? These dearly departed had no say in the matter; their loved ones simply picked out tokens and mementos of how they remembered the deceased. Or even, how that person would want to be remembered.

When you build my altar, please decorate it as you wish. But here are a few suggestions:

  • Recently gnawed rib bones from Dreamland. Leave a little flesh to decay and harden over time.
  • A reporter’s notebook and a Uniball Vision Micro pen, blue or black ink. Not a typewriter … too cliche.
  • Diet Coke. Or Corona.
  • My pocketknife.
  • Any photos you want, but they must be tagged Facebook style.
  • Some sand from the beach.
  • A little elephant.
  • A stand with a holographic message from Tasha Yar.

What should be on your altar someday?

Photo by Morgan Jones / CC BY-ND 2.0


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