Thursday, 21 April 2011
Open the box
Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to dispose of the clutter in my life. The clothes I haven’t worn for a year were ruthlessly separated from the rest and taken to charity shop or dump. My books have almost all gone save a half a dozen too unbearable to part with. Ornaments, pictures, that fancy thing to peel a cucumber and the steak knives still in their box are all gone. The white walls of my home are bare. I’ve done this before in my life when there has been a major change. I’ve had that feeling that I should get rid of everything but never had enough courage or faith or stupidity to do it. Because no matter how hard I try some things just have to stay with me. Someone else can throw them out one day. These are the things I’ve found all over the place and as I have encountered them I’ve been putting them in a box. As if to prevent myself filling it up I’ve put it on a top shelf where it sits both threatening me and tempting me to open it and relive the memories inside. Just one more time. I’ve now opened it to write this.
An ancient death certificate describes a family mystery of a long gone relative who died of multiple injuries having fallen from a window. Successive generations always pondered whether he jumped or was pushed. No one was quite sure the family legend had actually occurred until I did some research and obtained a copy of the certificate. The event is confirmed but the mystery remains unsolved.
The family photographs are there nestling with memorial cards and funeral Orders of Service. One or two special pens. A small and odd assortment of photos of people I know were family whose only record are the images in sepia tones. If I threw them out all memory of them would be gone
That brings me to the last items I want to show you. They lie on top of all the things that bring memories of joy or sadness. They are my credenciales. To me more important than the Compostelas rolled into one cardboard tube, the Pilgrim Passports remain separate in all their glory. A glance at the sellos brings instant memories of walking in Spain; of particular places and memorable people. They are records of my journeys of hope because that’s how I’ve come to think about pilgrimage. I think it may be the special gift of the Camino. Pilgrims are hopeful people. We hope for a bed every night. We hope it doesn’t rain. We hope the food will be good in the next village. We hope that our water will last until the next fountain. We hope we will meet someone when we are lonely and we hope that the pilgrim we have met who won’t stop talking will go away. We hope that we can be as nice to other people as they are to us because we are pilgrims. When we go to bed at night with sore bones and throbbing feet we hope it will all feel better in the morning. It always does. So in the end the credenciales represent hope in the box. I’m quite happy with that thought.