Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.

– Christopher Forrest McDowell

It’s noon on Friday. I’m writing from a black upright desk in a tiny rectangular office with delicate lime green and white checkerboard fabric covering two small windows. Soft light glows through apricot lampshades near a pair of seafoam colored candles flanking an ancient statue. Pictures of treasured family and friends surround me. Toby, my beloved Jack Russell poodle, dozes at my feet.

In these crazy times with our world upside down and inside out, I find the sanctuary of home soothes my soul like nothing else. Altars abound in multiple rooms of my funky, 90-year-old, white stucco and red tile roof cottage. They each hold objects gathered through the years – symbols of nature, inner reflection, compassion, faith, love and life. These collections contain candles that are lit where I relax at night, where I work during the day, and whenever my spirit needs it. Today is one of those days.


Image of Our lady of the harvest represents nature.
Our Lady of the Harvest represents nature.

The statue of Our Lady of the Harvest, purchased years ago at Spanish Market in Santa Fe, adorns an antique Japanese single drawer table in the hallway. The skillfully carved and painted wooden figure represents the importance and appreciation of nature for the food it provides and beauty that nurtures us.


Image for Buddha reminds us to be still and go inside.
Buddha reminds us to be still and go inside.

Ancient stone Buddhas from Burma and Laos watch over my dining table and remind me to be still and go inside for a few minutes each day. I read recently that the negative effect of too much technology can scramble our brains. The article cited research showing excessive stimulation from phones and computers can challenge our ability to focus, something I have experienced personally, and that even a short time spent meditating each day can help concentration and attention span.

Image of Buddha, a face of tranquility
A face of tranquility


Image of Quan Yin representing mercy.
Quan Yin represents mercy.

An antique carved statue of Quan Yin, surrounded by piles of papers I am working on, sits in the middle of a tall wooden table in my office. This saintly feminine figure represents mercy in many Eastern spiritual traditions.

She reminds me to have compassion for beings in the world who are struggling in their lives, and to extend mercy to whoever I encounter in my daily travels. (I admit the latter can be challenging, especially when I’m driving.) Quan Yin’s presence in the room at this moment imbues not only compassion for others, but for myself.

This sacred feminine figure reminds us to be compassionate to others and ourselves image.
This sacred feminine figure reminds us to be compassionate to others and ourselves.


Image of an altar that can be filled with anything you hold dear.
An altar can be filled with anything you hold dear.

The last altar pictured displays symbols of other things I hold near and dear to my heart. It includes an array of Russian icons of Christ, several crosses and angels, a painting of my dog Joey who passed, a piece of wood from a cherished 80-year-old Cypress tree, photos of people I love, sacred rocks and crystals, and bittersweet berries that retain their beauty all year long.


Image for Candles can sooth your soul.
Candles can sooth your soul.

These altars make my home feel sacred. They help me stay grounded despite the latest breaking news of the day. I hope sharing them will inspire those of you who might be inclined, and have not done so, to consider creating a feeling of sanctuary in your home in ways that are meaningful to you.

An altar can be made of anything, from an upside-down shoebox on a nightstand, to a wheelbarrow in your garden, to an ornately painted statue from Tibet. Or anything in between.

The objects displayed in your altar need not be of religious significance. They can be anything that represents what you value in life. And if you can’t quite conceive of having an altar in your home, a few candles gathered in a special spot can also serve to soothe your mind, heart and soul at the end of a challenging day.

For the love of creating sanctuary and light,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 6 comments
  • Jane Hartling

    What a heartfelt, beautifully illustrated sentiment! It certainly resonated with me today. Namaste. Thank you.

  • Kirby

    This morning I am resting from a wonderful but very hectic out of town family weekend.
    Thank you Linda for opening my eyes to the altars is that are already all around me! I am calmed!

  • Sherry Temple

    Thank you for your wise words and reminder of the importance of sanctuaries in this troubling times. Sherry

  • Liz Nichols

    It’s like some of your words came straight from my mouth.
    I do like your blog themes and this is intriguing to me from an art point of view. And just this morning I was hunting for authentic sandalwood candles for my home.
    I’d like to cycle back to making changes in our homes from last week’s message. I’ve stopped watching much HGTV except for Home Town, but when I see shows like Love It or List It/Too, etc. I always have the same initial reaction: why in the world don’t the homeowners CLEAN AND ORGANIZE? Cull, donate, clean up, put away, do laundry and press other family members into helping. This is half the problem with “limited space” that people think they’ve outgrown – and have too much “stuff.” The point here is that a clean, organized (“well-lighted”) space gives us peace, tranquility, a sense of order because the world has not only gone inside out, but also upside down. Doing whatever we can to keep ourselves upright and sane is going to be a good thing, starting with the “sanctuary” of our homes.

  • Jean Bennett

    Your statues and spaces are so peaceful, reading your blog and seeing what you have created in your home gives me renewed faith. It’s so warm and beautiful with all the earth tones and different textures. Thank you for sharing them. 🙂


  • Marlene

    Hello Linda,
    We haven’t connected in a long time and I’m not sure how that happened.
    I love your work as always, treasure your beautiful book created during our intersections and I miss you!
    The good news is I find your timely emails with encouragement, brilliance, stellar imagination and awesome landscapes a warm visit with the spirit of you.
    I send light, love, and good wishes for the ongoing contribution you make to our world! You light up our soul’s inner and outer home with your beloved sense of whimsy!
    Beauty is my medicine,

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