A little copper box. On its lid, two seahorses free-floating in a bed of tiny, shimmering beads.

When I saw it in the island’s gift shop showcase, it spoke to me:

I was made for you.

But what ARE you? I wondered. A curiously small trinket box? 

Then I saw the inconspicuous card in the shadowy showcase corner—as if it had just materialized.


That is when I knew.

“Ahem—can I please see this little box?” I called to the shopkeeper. Once the enchanting object left the glass case it would never go back.

The shopkeeper, an older lady with shoulder-length sandy hair, a friendly face, and a bohemian air, chattered happily as she withdrew the box and placed it in my open palm. One of a kind. Handmade by an artist. A reliquary.

A work of art, I thought, tilting the box in my hand. The beads in the lid shifted like grains of sand; the seahorses drifted over their pearly sea. Meant to hold relics. Something special. Something holy.

I had no idea exactly what. 

I only knew it was mine as soon as I saw it.

Or that maybe I belonged to it.

First of all, the seahorses. A symbol I love, one I’ve adopted as my writerly motif. Hippocampus. There are two in the reliquary lid; there are two in the human brain. They help new memories form. They are tied to learning and emotion.

A glimmering of blue against rolling quicksilver . . . I begin to see, to understand, a little.

Whatever stirs in my brain, in my heart, finds its way onto a page. My notebooks are reliquaries. My blog is a reliquary. They hold my learning—they often reveal my learning to me—as I write. They hold my emotions, my memories, bits and pieces of my existence. My relics. Words.

On a metaphorical level, that is what the box represents. My writer-soul, poured out, made visible, received in a keeping-place.

On a physical level, the box is quite real, tangible, and empty, waiting to hold something worthy. It will come. I will know it when it does. For now my reliquary sits on my dresser. Whenever I pass by, the hippocampi in my brain flutter at the sight of the hippocampi on the lid. For in the vast currents of living, of thought, grains gather one by one to form something solid. Somewhere in the waiting lies an invitation, expectancy, a sudden discovering. A work of art, ever and always developing—because, in truth, we are all reliquaries.


11 thoughts on “Reliquary

  1. This is such a rich, reflective post. The last two sentences could each serve as a starting point for even more contemplation. “Somewhere in the waiting lies an invitation, expectancy, a sudden discovering. A work of art, ever and always developing—because, in truth, we are all reliquaries.” Your words are as beautiful as the box that inspired them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post flies off the page and into the reader’s heart and mind. You grabbed my attention through every line and left me wondering about reliquaries. What a wonderful metaphor for the blank page and for how we live our life. This post will stay with me for days to come. Beautifully crafted and filled with inspiration. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Claire. Here’s what the artist says on her card (I asked for it when I bought the reliquary): “I’ve been collecting since childhood and forever looking for a way to combine and preserve my treasures. I’ve put them in boxes, reliquaries I make of heavy copper … using crafting techniques almost forgotten … I work and play to display my objects of affection and hold your memories.” I ask – isn’t that exactly what writing IS? What writers do? I knew this box was calling me for a reason! 🙂


  3. Oooh–“in truth, we are all reliquaries.” And you are a special reliquary, able to pull detailed memories and bring them to life with your eloquent words. What an interesting biological connection to make with the seahorses! I am off to share this delightful post with my friends!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fran, talk about writing off an object! This is a powerful story and I love how you connected it to this idea of containers (such as writer’s notebooks) being reliquaries. The box will let you know what objects it wishes to hold or maybe it will stand on its own? Can’t wait to find out. – Krista

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your rich description and the way the reliquary moves back and forth between something metaphysical and something concrete. My favorite line was “That is when I knew” There is something really powerful and inviting about transformative moments. The word reliquary set off a primal response to honor a relic of your choosing in you
    So now, I too wonder….. what will go n it? a ring, or pendant? a memory stick back up with all your stories?, a special note or photo??????? Who knows life is filled with potential relics.

    Liked by 1 person

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