I think about Paris when I'm high on red wine,
I wish I could jump on a plane.
And so many nights I just dream of the ocean,
God, I wish I was sailing again.
- Jimmy Buffett, "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes"
There's nothing like a well-placed travel memento to tug at one's
heartstrings and inspire reminiscing or wanderlust. While I've never been a
purchaser of souvenir spoons, shot glasses, or other gift shop kitsch, I do
enjoy the whimsical treasures I've selected over the years. I surround myself
with these sweet reminders the way others use family photos -- to give myself a
sense of place, a sense of self.
My Secret Garden
Some of my mementos are in my home, others are in my yard and garden. My
potting shed, for example, is faced with river rock from the Columbia River
that flows a block away from my home. But mixed in among the rock are a few
terra cotta tiles I picked up from a roadside ceramicista (ceramics maker) in
Tuscany. The unpainted reliefs show pears, figs, and other fruit and vegetables
reminiscent of the Italian countryside.
Also studded into the rock wall is a
piece of the Berlin Wall that worked its way into the pocket of my parka on a
cold February morning in 1998. Along one of the raised beds, a perfectly flat
piece of Carrara marble from my visit to the quarries in the hills above the
Ligurian sea. Carrara marble, with its fine grain and exceptional luminosity,
was Michelangelo's choice for sculpting and is still quarried today. My tiny
marble tailing was plucked from piles alongside the road and secreted in the
trunk of my rented Fiat in 2001.
Just inside that same potting shed, a tropical beauty blooms on the potting
bench. My fat and glossy yellow hibiscus is a daily reminder of trips to Hawaii
-- Kauai in 1981, Oahu in 1997, and Maui in 2003. There, the saucer-sized
blooms burst in profusion from every hedge. It was my habit to pluck one daily
and clip it in my hair before dinner.
In summer, I move my hibiscus outdoors to
my deck; in winter, back in the potting shed it goes, to be tended like a loyal
pet until the weather warms again. Adjacent to the hibiscus sit my citrus trees, tasty reminders of many
Who Was That Masked Man?
And inside the house: the masks. Leave the spoons and shot glasses to Aunt
Mildred, but I do have one themed collection from my travels: my masks.
First, the granddaddy, the show-stealer, the one that started it all. My
vejigante mask, with its giant pink, orange, yellow, and turquoise horns, is a
stunner. I procured it in Puerto Rico, where they are worn during a festival in
February. I've worn mine while chasing the dog around the house with a vacuum
cleaner (I know that sounds cruel, but it's a game he loves), loaned it to
nieces for show-and-tell, and basically enjoyed the heck out of it.
Below it hangs a leather Heyoka mask I purchased while taking long, hot
walks through the Hopi and Navajo nations in the Southwest. This sacred clown
is known for doing things backward or contrary to the natural order -- my kinda
guy. In this example, one side of his horned visage is turquoise and the other
sports horizontal black-and-white stripes. Adjacent to the Heyoka is a relief
bust reminiscent of Roman friezes; I picked this up in a hilltown just outside
of Rome a few years ago, and carried it in my backpack all afternoon until I
could safely ship it. Below these is a small, multi-layered mask celebrating
the Mexican Day of the Dead. My visits to Mexico have included the tourist
haunts of Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and Cozumel; this mask was
purchased by friends who were venturing inland and thought of me.
On the next wall is a long, tall Hawaiian mask I watched being created. The
artisan had a humble venue -- a Maui strip mall parking lot -- but his talent
was genuine. We bartered amiably, and in the end I had a suitcase-busting
treasure for my mask wall. Near that, nested in a little straw-filled
shadowbox, is my Viking sculpture. Not a mask per se, this bearded and
mustachioed little head is a replica of a sculpture in Denmark's Viking Museum.
He is Heimdal, a god who watches and warns of enemy approach.
Above my little
Viking, a whimsically lurid pink Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of
beginnings and obstacles. Ganesh is the only mask I've "cheated" on
-- I didn't actually buy him in India, but in a wonderful Indian market in
Vancouver, B.C. This particular mask serves more as inspiration than memento --
of a place I hope to go one day the next time wanderlust hits. In the meantime,
I'll let Heimdal watch for enemies and Ganesh help me overcome obstacles.
Sally O'Neal rambles the globe in search of highways, byways, waterways, and
campsites worthy of sharing with sportsmansguide.com's readers. She makes her home
in Washington State and has written for the website since 2000.