Monday, September 29, 2014

Loyola Writing Retreat Day 1 - The Hope Chest

This week I'm taking part in an on-line writing retreat put on by Loyola Press. It's being directed by Vinita Hampton Wright, author of The Art of Spiritual Writing: How to Craft Prose That Engages and Inspires Your Readers

Today's topic is Writing to Pay Attention

Today’s assignment was to pay attention to an object that had some significance to you. I live in a home brimming with objects, many of which I am quite comfortable with. They are old, familiar, and like me, showing some wear and tear. But I am not a “things” person. I’m constantly trying to cull, to remove unnecessary objects from my environment. Therefore, this task posed a challenge. I had to choose an object that mattered. 

I perused my home. I ruled out photos, which I do value, because they are not prized because of what they are, but rather what they represent – the moment of time preserved by dots of ink on a piece of paper. I did the same with art prints which are like old friends to me, but are representations of something else.
I ultimately decided on a miniature cedar hope chest sitting on my bureau which I have owned for over twenty years. It is still in excellent condition, the surface polished to perfection, smooth to the touch, appealing to the eye. 

These 8 ¾” x 4 ¾” x 3 ¼” chests were made by the Lane company and given away by a local furniture store to all young women graduating from high school in the city. I imagine it was a marketing ploy by both companies in the hopes that we would one day purchase a much larger and more expensive Lane cedar chest or some other piece of furniture from the store. In my case, it did work. I ultimately did buy a large cedar chest, although it was an antique and from a different company, and I did purchase a bedroom set at the now defunct furniture store. Mission accomplished.

It didn’t matter. As a young woman, I loved that little box. It came with a lock and key which made it a perfect place to hide love letters, the kind that came on notebook paper folded into tiny squares or triangles, an art form perfected in the days before email and texting. A few years later, I would use the chest as the subject in a watercolor still-life. I don’t remember what happened to the original painting, but it lives on in a print hanging in my parents’ living room.

Today, the hope chest holds more mundane items: two combs, some ponytail holders, two hair clips, a barrette my daughter found at the park featuring the heroine from Tangled, a safety-pin, and a medal of our Blessed Mother - a somber visage on one side with a miniature depiction of Lourdes on the other. While I still own the key, I haven’t had a need to lock the chest in many years. 

Still, I keep the box because of its simple beauty and because it serves as a reminder of the young woman I once was in a time that now exists only in the mist of memory.  


  1. Hi Anne, this is wonderful writing. (I clicked over from your comment on Vinita's blog) I loved reading about all the different uses your chest has been put to over the years. And was most struck by its contents now and the juxtaposition of mundane hair clips and a safety-pin against your medal of our Blessed Mother...but then on thinking about it more it is perfect really - representing how the Lord is concerned with all areas of our lives including the most mundane.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words on both my posts!