Monday, October 29, 2007

Is your closet a time capsule?

In the last posting I gave some guidelines for using an altar to cherish the spirits of deceased loved ones. In Latin cultures we are very cognizant of valuing the past in personal and cultural history. In this next posting, however, you will see that such valuing can get a little out of hand.

Recently I received one of those postcards from a non-profit that would be collecting old clothing and household items in my neighborhood. Remembering the last safari through the undergrowth in my closet while hunting for something to wear, I welcomed the opportunity to clear out that jungle. Filling an old suitcase from the garage would help me clear space there too.
I’ve usually considered it an asset to have stayed the same size throughout my adult life, but when I got into the darkest reaches of my closet, I realized that that asset has its drawbacks. There was the dress I wore to the Black and White Ball fifteen years ago, and behind that was an embroidered sheath I bought in Athens ten years before that. There were pants I’d had for twenty years, and blouses still older. If a piece of clothing had been a gift, I remembered who’d given it to me, and on what occasion. Memories stored in fabrics were released as a train of mental snapshots went speeding through my mind. Clothes I hadn’t worn in years had accumulated like photos in an album. Very unexpectedly, by cleaning out the closet I had opened a time capsule.
It’s no wonder I couldn’t find anything to wear, my closet was so full of the past, I had little space for the present or the future.
There was a lot of letting go that day as I filled the suitcase, and several bags. (To tell the truth, there is still more to be let go of when the next postcard arrives.) I felt pangs of anxiety while placing the bags on the porch. Maybe it’s because I am a Taurus (we love to have our things around us), or because I’m from a family that never forgot the poverty of the past, I am a saver. “Just in case”, and “you never know” could be etched onto our family crest (if we had one). It is a characteristic that has had its advantages and disadvantages over the years, but the closet safari taught me something new, and it’s worth passing along.
I recognize that I’m at a stage in life when love for the people and events that are gone, can inhibit my ability to move forward. When we are young, we can stand out in the clearing of life hungry to meet whatever comes; but as we grow, after we’ve lost loved ones, gotten hurt in the process of loving, and stumbled somewhat awkwardly toward our ambitions, we come to a deep understand of vulnerability, and it can be paralyzing. Something tells us that the things of the past will give us a railing to hold onto for support, but the fact is, the railing is within us. We support ourselves by remembering the lessons we learned, not with the material evidence of life. Those old clothes might still fit my body, but they no longer fit my identity.
If your closet is a time capsule, I recommend a day of reminiscing and letting go. Hunt out the things that are keeping you anchored in an old identity, acknowledge your memories, keep what you need, then say good-bye to the rest. Pass along any objects that could enhance someone else’s life, say good-bye to the person you once were, and move on into the future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Welcome to the inauguration of This Creative Life, the blog for Adriana Díaz and Creative Life Coaching and Mentoring. For those who are not familiar with my work, please check out my websites and
The second website will give you a gallery of paintings, excerpts from my book Freeing the Creative Spirit. and feedback from readers and clients. (You can find other feedback on

October 2007

Summer departs along with the colorful leaves swept into compost piles to replenish the hungry earth for another season. Beyond the playfulness of Halloween, we honor the season ‘when the veil is thin between the worlds”.* Whether celebrating Samhain, the Wiccan new year, or All Souls/All Saints’ Days in the Christian tradition, this is a time for honoring our departed in some special way.
The Mexican tradition of building altars is a colorful way to honor the dead, but you don’t have to be Mexican to build an altar. My family is not from Mexico, but over the years I have accumulated some knowledge about this practice, and enjoy building an altar every October. So I’d like to pass on some basics, suggesting that you add this creative practice to your autumn season. Remember that an altar can be as big or as small as befits your situation.
Marigolds are traditional for honoring the dead at this time of the year, so bringing some of these flowers to your altar is a great start. Use a colorful scarf, weaving, or sheets on the base. Photos of the beloveds will go on the altar, and memorabilia from their life. It is traditional to put the foods they loved on the altar, too. (If you can’t get the real thing, try some type of facsimile.) Candles are also appropriate. I like to place elements of earth, air, fire, and water on my altars. Mexicans decorate with papel picado (cut paper); you can make your own out of tissue paper, or buy some already cut.
In parts of Mexico, families decorate the tombs and burial plots of their family members and spend the whole night there, playing music, praying, and having a welcome party for the spirit of their beloved. The altar is a way to honor our departed loved ones, and welcome their spirit in for a visit. You might want to read a special poem or passage.
You can include people in public or intellectual life who have also been important to you. Dr. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Susan B. Anthony, Chief Seattle, Eleanor Roosevelt-anyone who has been a meaningful mentor or role model can be honored.
Building an altar can be a uniquely powerful experience, something you can do with your family. It can be a very nice tradition for children, learning to cherish and honor the departed.

Happy Halloween!
*The Spiral Dance, Starhawk.