The time changed yesterday and nefarious forces are afoot, delivering personal setbacks, professional disappointments, and hard forks in the road. Also, a favorite character on a TV show died (if you're watching Tokyo Vice, then you know) and my speakers refuse to connect to my device. In times like these, I’m grateful for my little altar, where I practice my meditations each morning and night (except Saturdays). “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Pascal back in 1654. It remains a struggle. I fidget and sigh and glance greedily at the clock. But they say there’s no such thing as good meditation or bad meditation; there is only meditation. The same might apply to running; I’m not sure if it can be said for writing and design.

Inventory of my altar:

1) a patch of fake IKEAN grass because synthetic nature tickles some pleasure center I can’t quite describe (although I’ve tried). I find it very reassuring.

2) a small brass Buddha that came from god only knows. I found it rattling around a cardboard box seven years ago when moving from New Orleans.

3) a Charity Island “round stone” that delighted my grandfather, who enjoyed telling long geological stories while we stood in the cold by Saginaw Bay.

4) a chess piece my father carved after one went missing in Wisconsin because chess was serious business for us while we waited for a lung.

5) a Garry Winogrand photo that captures the joyful lunatic energy I’d like to bring to the new thing I’m writing.

6) a Glade lemon + bergamot mist diffuser that smells like a fancy hotel lobby. Available for $12 at Target.

7) a handy visual timer purchased after reading Jack Cheng’s newsletter. (I spent ages dithering between Fern Green and Pale Shale before choosing the green because it matches my fake grass.)

I share this because I'm fascinated by the totems and rituals of others. At my Thursday night philosophy book club, there’s a gentle old Catholic who likes to say, “God can’t give us happiness, so he gives us habit.”