Symbols

28 May

On Sunday I got into a kayaking accident. We had missed the warning that the creek was to be avoided due to water speed and rapid strength. The accident could be a blog post on it’s own. The rapids flipping me into cold May water, me fighting to get my feet out in front of me and having to just let go as the current turned me backward so I couldn’t see the rocks coming that would have their way with me– I know there was a lesson for me somewhere in there about hubris or the current of life or the rocks on the journey that hurt less if we relax. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Two flips of the kayak left me chattering, bleeding, bruised and a little shook up.  I was also missing a water bottle, a track jacket, two flip flops and my wedding ring.

At first, none of these losses meant anything to me. I’m try not to get attached to stuff. But over the week, I started missing my wedding ring. It wasn’t particularly valuable—it was a titanium band I ordered online for under $100. I could order another. And I knew intellectually that not having a ring did not change any aspect of my actual marriage. But it had, over the years, grown to mean something to me as a symbol.

via flickr user CubanRefugee

via flickr user CubanRefugee

This week I have been pondering the need of humans to have tangible transitional objects for our biggest moments of joy and pain. Words will never express what becoming married has meant to me over the years, but somehow my ring had captured some of it and held it for me, reflected back to me. I miss the comfort that came with twisting it absent-mindedly during the day.

My friend, when she miscarried, decided to plant a tree in her yard  so symbolize the life that took hold in her body for a short while. The tree is a tangible, visible companion for her family and continues to bring her great comfort. Someday she will tell her beautiful daughter about the tree, too.

A young theater tech major was biking through Madison the summer before his senior year when he got hit by a drunk driver and died. The theater department dedicated the entire season to him, and after the last show, the tech director presented a box made out of pieces of wood from each of the sets with his name on it. His classmates, whose handprints were all over the wood from hours of building, rehearsal, performing and strike, placed items of importance in the memorial box during a dedication ceremony.

Our limited human brains cannot fully process and comprehend things like the love of God or the pain of death. We strive to use words, but they fall short. These objects– the cross, bread and wine– can bring a glimpse of the intangible world to us so that we can assign meaning to them, touch them and believe. What symbols do you lean on in your life to bring meaning to the mystery?

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