She travelled all the way from Macedonia to join me for my 50th birthday celebration (I say “she” because something this elegant, intricate and wise could only be a “she”).
She was, she is, an antique piece from the Balkans, early 19th Century. A decorative button, most likely worn on the wedding dress of a friend’s great-grandmother.
What was she doing in Taos? Well, my friend, the great-granddaughter of that great-grandmother, has organized a project called “The Stories of the Little Wanderers” that sends three distinct pieces of jewelry (one hand-made, one store-bought, one antique) around the world to live the lives and stories of their hosts in roughly thirty-day intervals. Antique Piece, as this Balkan button is formally known, made her first stop at our home in Taos. She arrived in a tiny box, looped through a delicate chain, brightly polished for the journey to come.
“You ain’t going on no wedding dress,” I told her.
Still, I did have big plans for Antique Piece. I wanted to show her off and tell everyone about the project and this particular button’s journey. To wear her around my neck 24/7 so that she could witness, and then share with future hosts, our life in this high and magical desert. And I did do some of that. For the first week or so, Antique Piece went with me to the grocery store, to walk the dog, to buy wine, to gaze at the mountain, even to make love.
But then one day she whispered, “Stop.”
“Leave me in your studio. I am here for you, just you.”
At first, I felt guilty about this change of plans. The “Little Wanderers” curator kept emailing me, asking for updates. Surely, she was not going to be happy with a response that simply said, “Antique Piece is just hanging out on my desk.” However, given the choice between irritating a friend who lived thousands of miles away and disobeying a talking, 200-year old button right there on your desk…well, what would you do?
By week two, Antique Piece had settled into my studio, where she stayed for the rest of her visit. So tiny was she that, when wrapped in her delicate chain, she was virtually invisible to the occasional visitor. I moved her only at dawn, when I’d place her, gently on the arm of the chair, while reading Rumi, Lao Tsu and St. Francis, words older than even she.
It was somewhere in those still dark mornings of late October and early November, that I began to consider another possibility for Antique Piece’s visit.
The possibility of receiving a gift. That you do not share.
Think about it: In today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and constant texting, we share just about everything. So much so that it seems as if a vacation hasn’t truly been enjoyed, a birthday hasn’t fully been celebrated, a loved one hasn’t really died unless we constantly post pictures and updates.
Antique Piece offered me an antidote to our over-sharing times. Rather than show-off her intricate beauty, she invited me to take-in her simple wisdom.
And keep it to myself.
She reminded me of the ayahuascar who led my first dance with Ayahuasca. After that night’s ceremony, everyone came together in circle, eager to share. “Consider not sharing” said the ayahuascar. “Consider taking everything you’ve experienced and holding it in for a few weeks or a few months, maybe forever.” The folks in my circle were having none of that, so share we did. And it was beautiful, enriching and, on that first night, helped all of us know that we had not lost our ever-loving minds.
But I’ve often wondered what would happen if we didn’t automatically share the details of profound experiences. If we kept the singular moments of our greatest “a-ha”s, joys and despairs inside. Not to suppress, but to tend and nourish, to listen and mature.
I wonder what would happen if we listened to the ancestors, to the antiques, who walked and lived and celebrated hundreds of years ago. When beauty and wisdom and mysticism were more intimate and personal. More secretive.
Known, but not shown.
Where might we wander then?
Bret Will Taylor
Taos, New Mexico