reliquaries: a history lesson

i tend to spew prose over any flat surface at my disposal. countless notebooks intended for list keeping or note taking reflect this. recently, i grabbed my 3.5 x 5.5″ five star notebook to take to a lecture on medieval reliquaries and in it found relics of myself. its pages revealed hours of divided attention as if positioned to evidence my writerly tendencies. “is there such a thing as late onset gender identity disorder?” i once pled. several pages earlier i closed the chapter of the most meaningful relationship in my life to date. several pages later i recorded my initial thoughts on what may be angling to become the next. “i can hardly look at you without feeling like i’m falling through your skin and into your soul. i thank g-d for that.”

it was pointed out to me recently that i never take pictures of… anything. i thought on this for awhile and realized that i do not because i savor being in the moment too much steal impossible images away from it. i blame part of this behavior on roland barthes’ book, camera lucida. his concept of the sadism of the snapshot was introduced to my life through my first contemporary art class and my thought process has been warped ever since. college majors should come with warning labels.

beyond that though, i realized that i don’t take pictures because i write to remember; my snapshots are stolen in scribbled margin notes and discursive journal entries. by the time i reached eighteen-years-old, i had filled nearly ten volumes with accounts of my life. several years ago, i threw them all away because they were too painful to read. hardly a day goes by when i don’t remember that mistake. now, instead of a camera, i carry around a notebook and a pen. my head fills with thoughts in the forms of facebook statuses, blog titles, monologues, and prayers. “i hope i feel this alive for the rest of my life” stands proudly aside “eli has seen your face in a past life”. my heart beats words. i didn’t ask to be a writer; some things are simply gifts.

when i happen upon these relics i cry and i smile. i read to remember how it was to feel the pain of being disconnected from my body at thirteen-years-old. i see myself being so in love that my heart was going to pop. i remember the pen strokes of feeling “truly alone”. here, where i stand with a greater understanding of myself, i write with a heart full of love and compassion for the writer of those words at each stage of their life thus far. i have found myself to be my own reliquary. the words that were etched in paper years ago connect me to their patron saint. touching the memory of those words, seeing the characters of those i still have inspires my faith in the resilience of the spirit and the beauty of the soul’s journey in this life. words, like relics, connect us to something deeper. they allow us to believe in our perceived realities, our sordid histories and our promising futures. my collection of relics grows in volume and obscurity with each passing moment and so i grow fuller, stronger. i write to remember because the relics of my words recall muted feelings long past. one day the written records of this life will fade but their memory will rest inside me.


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