I was 10 years old and loved gumball machines. At that time you could put in a penny and out would come 2 gumballs and, depending on the machine, a tiny trinket would accompany the colorful spheres. The tiny plastic object was no bigger than a thumbprint and usually possessed a ring at one end so as to be strung like a charm from a necklace or bracelet. For me, those trinkets were treasures, my most prized possessions. Perhaps because they were cute and colorful; perhaps because they were mine. They all meant something to me and I loved them for it. I kept them in a box my grandmother had given me and in it they were transported back and forth from my hideout. Actually, it was our hideout, Kelly’s and mine. Kelly was my friend and we used to take my trinkets underneath her front porch and set them up here and there. That’s all we did – we took them out and set them up, one by one, and then sat there looking at them and being with them – often in silence. If someone had asked I doubt we could have explained why; we just did and it was good and that was enough.
And then one day Kelly stopped coming to the hideout and so it became my hideout. I continued to enter the place, box in hand, alone from then on. Soon the summer ended and Kelly went back to her school and I went back to mine. The weather turned colder and I visited my little temple less and less.
Thirty-plus years later my temple is housed in a sacred corner of my bedroom and continues to contain trinkets which represent my life, my love, my connections. Reminiscent of the altarcitos of Hispanic popular religion (small places common in many homes where Holy images and objects of meaning are placed), a simple mission style bookcase serves as my altar’s base upon which currently rest the following items: a small weaving from the altiplano or high mountainous regions of Peru; a candle; prayer cards and service programs containing small photographs and prayers of eternal rest for two dear friends; a miniature earthenware container filled with pinches of dirt from 12 countries in which the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas minister and reside; a petite bottle of holy water from the shrine in Mexico decorated with a colorful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe; a little clay vessel given to me 26 years ago at my entrance ceremony; a piece of stone etched with the words Be still and know that I am God; the crude clay bird hand-fashioned during a retreat; a piece of weathered driftwood from the lake at Stillpoint; coral from the shores of Belize; and my drawing journal displaying a mandala I created for Mary. I try to visit my mestiza temple daily and sit in silent reflection amidst the visual fronteras of my soul.* Some people call it meditation, others call it contemplation. I learned a long time ago to call it prayer, even when it does not feel like it.
*With experiences and devotions in two distinct worlds and not comfortably fitting completely into either, my spirituality embraces mixed traditions; lives in the borderlands. From the poem “To live in the Borderlands means you” by Gloria Anzaldúa in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza