1. Treasure maps. Make them yourself, lines and roads and rivers and words drawn in ink on paper. Maps for the heart, or the apartment, or the city, or the psyche, treasure waiting to be found.
2. Kindness. It’s free. It never gets old or used up or worn out. It is sometimes more important than all the other things, to simply be kind.
3. Laundry service.
4. Letters and love notes written in unsuspecting ways and places. Chalk on the sidewalk. Written in sand and snow. Post it notes on the car windshield. Large poster board taped to the brick wall by the coffee shop frequented every morning. Tucked in the coat pocket or backpack or lunch box. Lipstick on the mirror. Sharpie on the wall and sheets, because some things deserve to be permanent.
5. Time. But not just any time. Time with your full attention.
6. A box of favorite scents: sweetness of orange blossom, rough of worn leather, ponds cold cream, rose water, tobacco and clove, dark perfume, old books, memory of geranium oil, comfort of cotton that has dried in the heat of summer sun.
7. Amnesty. For what was done to survive. For what was done in the fumbling of finding the way. For forgetting dates and numbers. For never being on time. For not being able to make it work. For wanting what we want. For being human, living.
8. A nest.
9. Wake him up. Shake her from the shelter of sleep. Pull them from bed, outside, to where the moon hangs low to the ground. To where the air is cold. “Why”, he says, tugging on sweater and shoes. “What are we doing?” she asks, pulling the door shut behind. “To see the sky”, is the answer. Walk to the backyard or get in the car and drive for as long as it takes. In the night. When it is quiet, and so dark, and the stars shatter and are so, so many. This. This is the present. To be here, to see this. Unable to count their number, and how, forever then, you both remember that night, when sleep was abandoned and the sky was given as gift and grace.
10. The truth. A clear no. A real yes.
11. Paper airplanes, with secret messages penned inside the hidden folds and creases of wings.
12. A new beginning. Not the same as a second chance. This is knowing there is no going backwards. So this is where things now begin new.
13. The gift of seeing someone. And naming what you see.
14. An antique frame, with nothing inside. Four cornered and blank space, hanging on the wall, asking for the freedom of emptiness or the curiosity of filling with whatever is found. An empty frame, and all the words on scraps of paper, and love notes, and question marks that will come to rest there on any given day, an ever changing conversation.
15. A compass. A list of navigation. Ways to remember how to come home.
16. Raw honey.
17. The gift of giving to yourself, whatever it is you want. Taking good care. Treating yourself like someone who is deserving of the things saved for special occasions, and can have them whenever they would like. One who needs good sleep, and good food, and good loving, and is sovereign, responsible for tending to the life that is your own. So give yourself what you want. Take yourself to buy new face cream or beautiful underthings. A trip to France. A hot bath. A week, or month, or year with no obligations. Going to the matinee, alone, eating popcorn and getting lost in another world. The room with the window that lets in the sound of the ocean while you sleep, and wakes you to the feel of heat, where, even inside, you can taste the salt in your mouth.
18. Give questions. Curiosity. Suspending assumption and the belief that you ‘know’, willing to wake up and no matter how many years it has been, to still be able to be surprised and delighted, asking questions, wanting to know more.
19. Holy water and the savage sacrilege of having no answers, just the seeking of a hunter heart, that will come find you, again and again.
20. The gift that was always wanted, but never received. Track it down. Find it now, and give it. Which is the gift of memory, and completion, and love. The baby doll in the basket. The sheet music to the song whose name couldn’t be remembered, just the melody hummed. The coveted pocket knife, smooth and cold to the touch. The telescope. The charcoal pencils and liquid ink pens, speaking the language of who you were going to become.
21. Stories written on the lines of your palm, waiting to be discovered.
And once you’ve tried all of these, the only thing left to do is this:
And, at the end of the day, don’t forget to say “I love you” to the person who matters most:
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