I probably have three thousand travel photos, maybe more. I look at them once a year. Maybe twice. Don’t get me wrong. I love my photos and the memories they conjure. But I rarely devote any time to them, not just to those stored in my computer, but to all the ones tucked into the bound photo albums of yesteryear.
The things that call my attention to the past more often than photos are the lowly bookmarks I’ve collected from places I’ve visited, near and far. These pull me back in time as quickly as a picture. And since I usually have a stack of books on my nightstand, the reminders come often.
As an aside, bookmarks have an interesting history. Detached bookmarks (as opposed to a thin silk ribbon bound into a book) became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, and early examples have become collectibles. Makers of today’s bookmarks don’t restrict themselves to paper, as you can see in this photo of strips of metal, carved wood, embroidered fabric and beads attached to a miniature shepherd’s staff.
But back to bookmarks collected while traveling. Whenever I see this creased one with worn edges, a painting of the Parrish church in San Miguel de Allende, I think of our first foray into Spanish language schools in Mexico and remember the kind and funny sisters — Alma and Blanca –who opened their house to us for a month. I’ll never forget their table setting for the main meal of the day, which included a centerpiece consisting of a huge mound of tiny red chilies and circled by shot glasses for tequila.
Besides the travel-inspired bookmarks, I have others that were gifts from friends. The most special ones are those made by my friend Marilyn, who recently passed away. Some of these combine her wonderful talents as a haiku poet and a photographer.
And I, who devote part of my life to fighting the battle against clutter and a house full of stuff, hang on to ticket stubs from European museums, and add these to the collection of bookmarks that rekindle fond memories. There’s nothing like a ticket showing the kitchen of Monet’s house at Giverny, or one covered in sunflowers from the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum to brighten up our dark, soggy winters and, for a moment, let me relive a treasured experience.