In My Backpack I Carry A Piece of My Heart, a.k.a. My Traveling Sacrament
In my backpack I carry a piece of my heart, wrapped in plastic. Along with it are a dozen scaps of paper, a few scribbled notes, two poems I wish I had written, and a white stone from a distant, magical shore. Also a pewter charm my mother gave me to carry, which grows wonderously lighter with each step, along with a seashell from a place I no longer remember. These common objects are holy relics of my heart. And like relics they bestow a power on me that transcends all visible reality. When the time is needed, I take these elements from my pack and set the table for this holy communion of sorts.
I'm a veritable Casanova when it comes to picking the right spot for my traveling sacrament. Maybe a walk on the beach at sunset. Or perhaps a stroll through town to my new favorite spot. Coffee or beer? Definitely a view. A quiet place is best. If I had candles I'd use them. Ah, here's the spot: I find a cozy cafe on street I've never walked down and score the corner seat, tucked out of view. Here I won't be disturbed. Here I won't need to risk a stranger's glance when the tears well up in my eyes and threaten to spill down my cheeks.
I take out the small, plastic pouch which contains my heart. I lay it on the table, so bare and vulnerable in the sunshine. I open the bag. I remove each element inside, one by one, savoring them, taking my time, letting the words go in my eyes, down my throat, and into my soul where they slowly nourish me up like drops of wine and bits of bread.
I read a poem, its first line like a sweet arrow, "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice–"
Now a handwrittten note from a friend I have not talked to in ages. "I hope you know how much I love you," I whisper to the air hoping the person I speak of will feel the vibrations 3,000 miles away. I touch these notes that touched their fingers, that have come with me through each place I've traveled and here into the present moment. Holding these bits of home, turning them around in my hands, these are words turned flesh. They ground me in the love of friends and family far away.
Pages torn from their binding, folded three times to fit, the ink on the page burns my insides, "And the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood....and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace." I've learned there are a type of tears that cleanse like holy water running down.
Brenden the Navigtor, a favorite Celtic saint of mine, urges me on, "It is a 'Yes' to risky living… The sea takes me; Where I do not know, but I gladly go."
I put these bits of home and hope back in the little ziplock from which they came. This goes back in my backpack. I get up feeling revitalized, grateful. I walk on. Further now towards home, realizing I've already passed through the front gate, into the garden of God's house, even now.