cowrie shell backsack from Pier 1 – circa 1985, making this vintage
today is really day 50 in the world of the 50 days of Easter. but for me, it’s day 49 on my journey. i brought it full circle with a bag i’ve had for around 28 years. back in my high school days – early to mid ’80s, Pier 1 sold clothing, scarves, bags and earrings. the stuff was so cool – boho long before the word boho existed. i couldn’t wear a lot of the clothes, maybe a skirt here or there, but i could definitely work with the scarves and bags. i got this one when i was maybe a senior in high school. sometime around there. i was drawn to the shells.
so how has this bag stayed in the family when many others i’ve had through the years have been given away? it’s the shells. i love cowrie shells. maybe you’ve heard, but wikipedia can tell you: they were used as currency in Africa, Asia, and North America, and also as a sign of rank and authority in some cultures. they are also worn as jewelry and adornment in clothing and the hair, and are a sign of womanhood and fertility. i made a cowrie shell necklace for my wedding and put a fertility symbol on it to boot, and wore cowries in my hair. let’s just say it worked and leave it there.
i think cowries are beautiful. they also feel great to play with – i read they’re also used as dice. i have a dish of them in my living room. i grabbed this purse because i knew i was at the end of this journey and it woudn’t be complete without this bag, as it has been with me for so long. also, i needed red for Pentecost. my church, Calvary Episcopal Church, had a joint service with my childhood parish, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at a park in Mt. Airy forest. what a blessing THAT was!
the bag’s faded a little through the years, in part because i have it handing on my closet door where i can see it every day.
as i typed those words i was overcome with emotion. doing this work has reminded me of the many lessons that the strong women in my life, primarily mom and Joy, have taught me: live in the moment. appreciate and enjoy what you have. try to make someone else’s life better on your way. of course there are more, like those involving raggedy underwear… but we’ll leave those alone for now.
i remember one day coming home from working at the downtown library. we were living with my parents while david was getting his mba and n was a baby. this particular day, i had been asked for money by homeless people repeatedly. i asked mom, what do you do when people ask you? i feel bad when i don’t give, but i don’t always want to. here’s what she said: when the spirit moves you to give, give. if you don’t feel moved, don’t. either way, pray for that person and keep going. and pray for yourself to be open to the voice of the spirit within you.