There’s a city in northern New Mexico called Chimayo that I visit everytime I’m home. It’s a spiritual site — one of many in The Land of Enchantment — with a sprawling hodgepodge of accumulated infrastructure to accommodate a small well of supposedly holy sand. Imagine: a city built entirely around a circle of dirt roughly 18 inches in diameter.
The history of the site is complicated, and steeped in Spanish colonialism, but its uses today are much simpler. People come to leave things -— pictures, memorabilia, birth announcements, funerary memorials, baby shoes, crutches and old toys. They sit with these things and think about them, reminisce, with some of them praying, but the point is to come to terms with whatever you bring. People come to Chimayo to give thanks for everything, good and bad, and move forward a more complete person, unencumbered by the past.
I know it sounds lofty and kind of new-agey, but I think that kind of opportunity is sorely lacking in general walks of life — the time, space and occasion for closure. We carry these things around with us, unable to leave them behind, and the hurt fades but it also comes back sometimes, at unexpected and often inopportune junctures. I write a romance column, I of all people should know.
But alas, we can’t all make a pilgrimage to tiny towns full of spiritual significance, nor is it necessarily all of our styles to do so. Some, myself included, like to keep drawers full of the past, and boxes and bags of it in the back of closets. An ex’s old shirt we said we lost but we just wanted to keep sleeping in, concert tickets, burned CDs, heartfelt notes, goofy drawings. It doesn’t even have to be romantic. Hell, it could be a brimmed beanie that defined your seventh grade experience, a handprint painting you made with an ailing parent, a family picture from before the divorce, a birthday present from your first grade best friend. These things don’t hold any current relevance, but they hold a piece of you — not unlike a horcrux for you Harry Potter fans, something you’re not quite ready to separate from. So you keep it buried rather than throwing it out, forgotten somewhere in storage, to spark a journey through the past when you come upon it again.
Last week, I wrote about finding a stack of postcards from a high school crush. They brought up a sudden rush of memories that I had otherwise completely forgotten, but more than anything, they bummed me out. I was such a strange adolescent who became a strange semi-adult, and all the confidence I had in that strangeness evaporated in the time it took to say a first name. But all that is behind me, and I’ve grown so much since then, romantically and otherwise. My total loss of memory from that time should have clued me into that. Why spend valuable time and energy feeling bad about who I was and what I did God knows how many years ago when it clearly has no bearing on my present?
It’s not to say there’s anything wrong with reminiscing once in a while — you might even learn something about yourself, add some depth to your understanding of how you got to this point. But there are also times when it’s better to lay those memories, those past selves, those talismans to rest. It’s time for me to move on and I would like to invite you, dear readers, to join me.
I hereby invite you to a recurring event of collective catharsis – or rather, CARTharsis. That’s right. You don’t have to go to Chimayo — Chimayo is coming to you. I am constructing a mobile shrine that I’ll install in various places on campus throughout March and April. It’s a memorial for your sacred items, somewhere safe to leave them so you can move forward a freer person. Just imagine if your favorite food truck served up a steaming dose of closure with your comfort food.
Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated on where the shrine will be and when so you too can plan your mini pilgrimages. The Facebook event page is live — just search for CARTharsis or message me for a link. My information is on the invite, so please feel free to contact me whenever you want with any and all questions, concerns and comments. I’m here for you. This campus is full of complicated, interesting individuals who have lived a lot. Come to terms with it, and do it in an environment of supportive fellow closure-seekers.
Rica Maestas is a senior majoring in cognitive science and narrative studies. Her column, “Cuffing Season,” runs on Wednesdays.