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“Is that a lock and key tattoo on your arms?” I asked the long dark haired woman. I was at a small business in a small West Texas town about to hit the road heading east toward Houston.

Just the day before I had placed a broken lock on an art installation in Valentine, Texas, a very small town on the outskirts of Marfa where I’d been exploring all the nooks and eclectic crannies. Locks and keys have become meaningful metaphors.

Last year I found three random keys three separate times in three different places including Scotland. I had arrived to Glasgow with my sister and friend and as we walked to find a restaurant for dinner, I found a key on the sidewalk. As a woman who loves signs and wonders, it was a moment of wonder to discover a lost key on the streets of Glasgow within my first hour of arriving to this old, old city. I had never found a key in my life.

I would find two more keys on the ground later that year. The last key I found was a skull key charm in the dirt of the Mojave Desert. It was the last day of Wasteland, a camping festival that attracts thousands. It was lying there barely visible in the sand and rock. But somehow I spied it, and now I wear it on a cord as a necklace.

When I was in Iowa my friend Lisa had many key charms around her art studio. She collects old, rusty keys and then stamps them with words or uses them in her art making. She gifted me a key charm that says Slaymaker. We also did a trade of my art for some of her rusty keys, including a key charm she made that says Carpe Diem...Seize the Day...I wear that one every day, too.

I found some old Slaymaker locks online that I grabbed to add to my new collection of corroded keys.

“Those are cool tattoos,” I continued with the shop keeper. She had a heart shaped lock tattoo on her forearm and a key on the other one.

“I am curious. Do they have any meaning for you?”

No one else was in the place as she opened up.

“No one will ever have my heart again,” she said. “I just got out of a bad marriage. I am keeping the keys to my heart all to myself. I’ll never give my heart away again.”

She paused as she stood up a little straighter, her head held a bit higher as if she was making a declaration. “I am the only one to take care of my heart. It is under lock and key.”

Her eyes flashed with conviction like someone who just got liberated from a cage of lies. I felt her resolve to never again allow another to control her beautiful, vivacious heart.

“That is so wild, you’ve a new start in life,” I said.

“My deal with locks and keys is different than yours,” I continued. “I had a lock on a necklace that just broke yesterday and I keep finding keys in random places. I have lived guarded for so long. I am wide open for the possibility of new love."

She listened with intent, her brown eyes fixed on my blue ones. I am in awe of how quickly two strangers can enter the deep waters of intimate things of each other’s lives. I did not know her name nor her mine yet here we were having a women’s empowerment session in her shop.

“I live openhearted and welcome the day when I meet the right person to share my heart and life with.”

“Not me,” she said, “I am done with men. Never again.”

I nodded my understanding of her decision. The death of her marriage was barely cold. She was healing into becoming a self-determining woman. I would not patronize her with cliché wisdom telling her that one day a good man could show up and love her in the way she is meant to be loved and cherished. I would not say to her that when she least expects it someone might appear who will inspire her to open up and love again. I could not say such words to her for she was road weary as one had traversed difficult terrain to find the wide open spaces of reveling in her agency. Bravo to her for reclaiming her power and guarding tight the treasure of her vibrant heart.

I identified with her on so many levels, though I am further up the road then she is from my own divorce. I was not in a bad marriage, it was just a marriage that died a quiet death. We all have a road to walk. This was mine.

I have many rusty locks in my inner world keeping old gates closed to the inner sanctum of my heart chambers. I am the keeper of keys to my heart and world. I am far wiser in the sage years of my life to whom I will share my keys with, or open up my gates.

There is an old proverb that says, Guard your heart for from it flows the springs of life.

I guard mine well, yet I remain open.

The keys I possess are keys of wisdom in how to live and love and be loved. It starts in the hidden places, the nooks and eclectic crannies behind the gates of my inner being. I can only open up to another as much as I am able to be open hearted with myself.

I hope I find some more random keys.


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