When I travel, I carry talisman, for lack of a better word. These are personal items to which I attach significance.

On all trips, I carry photographs.

On my trips to Afghanistan, I carried photos of my family, my parents, my ancestors…the fantastic women of my matriarchal line…and my niece and nephew. I carry these for different reasons.

With the strong, brave women of my mother’s family, I look to them for inspiration and courage….and to remind me that I come from a great line of bold, daring and wild women…who didn’t let society dictate their roles or limit their lives. My great grandmother was a landowner, a suffragette and a reporter. My grandmother flew airplanes. My mom is an artist, athlete and a teacher.

I look to the photos to remind me of those I love…to remind me of love. Sometimes in dark places I need that light. The photos of my niece and nephew are beacons of light that pierce my heart whenever I look at them: their smiles, their exuberance. I am reminded of how they embrace each day with joy and wonder. How they let their emotions shine and run right through them. When they’re mad, they show it. When they’re giddy, they show it. They ride the waves of life with such ease and abandon. They are beautiful role models.

On this trip I also wore a silver chain with two pendants. One pendant was a gift from my brother and his wife; they bought it for me on a trip to Iceland. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful, perfect gift…knowing how I love Norse mythology and the power of symbols. It’s an elegant Nordic rune, a symbol for heart and courage. I figured I’d need plenty on my journey. And it would keep my brother close to my heart.

I added a charm that I bought in Rhode Island last summer at Island Books. It’s a wooden Scrabble tile (I come from a family of mean Scrabble players). It has an H on the back (four points) and a pink enamel cover on the front with a crown and the words “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The crown and the words have glitter embedded in them and the tile has a gentle sparkle.

I loved that pink, glittery pendant, so out of character for me….though the phrase resonated deeply. When I bought it, I wasn’t thinking about embedding in Afghanistan. I was thinking I liked the sentiment.

As I prepared to travel to Afghanistan, I combined the rune and the Scrabble tile and made my own amulet…and I wore it throughout both embeds. Sometimes I’d wrap my hand around it before I go on patrol with the soldiers….a quiet request for me and them.

The other day, my friend Sarah came across a YouTube video that explains the history of the slogan. It apparently dates to World War II. It was part of a series of three posters with slogans created to boost morale in Great Britain.

When I did a bit of searching, I discovered the expression has created a cottage industry of products: t-shirts, coffee cups, iPhone covers. Branding. Ugh.

I’m happy my pendant is a unique creation.

I’m wearing it now.

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