Love tokens: How my teenage homelessness blossomed into powerful vulnerability.
I was born into a poverty-stricken commune outside of Cayucos in California. While it promised a sacred connection to God and free-love, it cultivated dysfunction. The choices of our mothers and fathers would seep into our own, spreading through our lives like a poison.
Abuse, addictions, and continuous abandonment prevented me from burying my roots as a child. Instead, they were forced to grow around me, entwining themselves into the few possessions my tiny hands could hold. My treasures become my security blanket because it was the only constant I knew.
My life continued to unfold into chaos, and I became homeless shortly after my thirteenth birthday. As I surfed from sofa to sofa, nesting myself in church pews and hidden crannies within my town, I clung to my collection even harder and carried each item with me every moment of every day, each sacred in their way.
My tarot deck was by far my most prized possession. I was only twelve when I claimed it and had no idea what the cards were, but it was if it sang to me from a bookstore window, stopping me dead in my tracks. Their illustrations connected back to images in dreams I had, and I just knew that I needed them and that in a way, they needed me, too.
For years, I held tightly onto a drawing of a wizard I found near a dumpster. Dressed in a blue robe with a beard blanketing the front. He held his arm parallel against a very tall hat, clutching a wand that glowed yellow against the backdrop of a Crayola black sky. Lightning bolts flashed around him, connecting the heavens to the earth; angular and angry.
I would unfold him from my pocket and stare at him while I fell asleep. He would help me travel to different places where I would dream that I was powerful like he. Sometimes, that meant just manifesting a meal, a house, or a family. Other nights I was the lightning that flashed around him, erupting into the lives of those who hurt me with a tremendous fury of justice; an eye for an eye.
Then, there was my bell—a tiny, brass harmony bell with a crescent moon embossed into the side. I had found it underneath one of the stairwells I used to sleep under, hanging by a single black cord severed at the end. I would ring it softly next to my ear as I tried to drown out the noises of the families living in their apartments around me.
It helped so much.
My collection of river stones by far took up the bulk of my prizes, but I held strict requirements for each: they needed to be jet black in color and smooth to the touch with a substantial weight about them. I wanted to feel them, heavy and unyielding in my pocket, but each had to fit neatly into the center of my palm. I would search for hours upon the riverbank to find the perfect one, claiming it as my prize for turning away from the waters that wanted to claim me.
I am a gatherer by nature: I seek. I harvest. I use. I offer. It is the magic that kept me here as child, and the entire embodiment of my practice, the very heartbeat of my soul. To offer you something from my collection was the highest honor I could bestow, yet to lose a piece was devastating. I still dream of treasures lost.
Yet, I find that as I grow, my collection wanes. I simply have less of a need to hold on to things and more of understanding on how to give. Tokens no longer fill my empty spaces. In a world where everything has become disposable (dreams and people be damned!), we all too easily dismiss the power and thought behind a gesture. Even those who consider themselves to be the most sacred still cling to their favorite items but lack the vulnerability to give what we hoard the most—
A phone call. A letter. An email.
A silent prayer.
A minute to listen. An hour to stay.
There is no greater service to a human than showing them they are important. That who they are, just as they are, has value.
Now that I am aware in my choice of collection, these are the only love tokens that I want to carry with me. With pockets full of blessings and heart ablaze, I offer you all my vulnerability—truly the greatest of treasures that I own.
'life's collection' / Jamie Homeister