From a Wooden Box
Atop the armoire in my bedroom sits a wooden box about nine inches square, with an ornamental brass latch and a church-key lock. It is a worthy looking box made of oak with a rustic yet elegant finish, and clearly intended to last for a long time. Because the armoire is across from my bed, it and the box are often the first things I see when waking.
I placed it there a little over ten years ago when I first moved-in. Life (and I) had just officially changed forever, and this quiet, simple home suited my new circumstances perfectly. Weekly since, I've moved the box for dusting, and though I've changed the placement of other items, it has always returned to the same spot (on the right side, close to the front, angled slightly toward the center). Its specific positioning speaks of ritual. I have rarely opened it. So rarely, in fact, that at any given moment I'm unsure of the specific contents. Lately though, for some reason I've been drawn to the box for I think it may contain something sacred, something of time, as if it was a tabernacle. My previous diffidence has given me pause, and the other day I finally did open it.
As I lifted its lid at last, I almost expected to hear a slight hiss of air. The first object I saw was a rolled Boy Scout neckerchief threaded through a dark metal clasp, then another unthreaded Cub Scout clasp. There was a school photo of my boy as a happy, innocent, handsome 11-year-old, taken in that blessed and beautiful time before the storms gathered, long before the day he ended his earthly life, the day when everything changed. Lying with these items was my credencial, my pilgrim passport from the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Talk about poetic. How to move among these things without hearing the songs of memory? How to close the space between them all? How to not call love by its new name?
These objects were arranged almost in a circle as the significant things in life seem to be. Start at any point in the circle, the pain will come, the pain will bring change, and so on. It’s certainly nothing personal. A crucifixion, a pause, a resurrection, and back again...the mystical ways of being in time for a while.
Perhaps a kind of magic lies in that pause, though. Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday was a very quiet Saturday. I would suggest it is there the world beneath appearance exerts its exquisitely subtle influence. Nothing in that world is obvious, but here in time it can be a mighty long day indeed. Things need to be gathered, lives arranged, circumstances developed, paths crossed, patience and faith required throughout. Then slowly, even glacially, something wonderful begins to flicker and the rising stirs. Love’s new name becomes clearer in the holy pause as the heart-now-ripened softens and opens into compassion it could not have otherwise known. Maybe sometimes in a flash but more often not, it’s revealed at last that it all belonged. It couldn’t have been a circle otherwise. Turns out a long, thin road in Spain has no real end after all in spite of what those many passport stamps would suggest.
Talismans found in a wooden box compel a walk through time and remembrance that bears down hard on the soul and begs to be known more deeply, yet always remains just-shy of real understanding. So much needs to be taken on faith. But from this box, love’s new name is finally revealed as grief. It’s time at last for grief to go on pilgrimage, to go forth and do some good in the world, to meet others, to serve them, and to let go of the suffering. For now, this is enough to understand.
As always, love, by any name, is the answer.
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