Holy Grail and Souvenir
“The truth that the quester discovers at the end of the Journey is essentially incommunicable and can be only obliquely suggested. Its multivalency reflects… the Home, the Patria, the City, the Pot of Gold, the Awakening of the Land cast into sleep, and ultimately, the deepest secrets of the Self (La Queste del Saint Graal, F.W. Locke 1960:3). In his essay Route-metaphors of “roots-tourism”: the Scottish Highlands, Paul Basu brought out the wonderful metaphor – the Holy Grail – as something that a quester, a pilgrim, or a tourist is looking for in his/her journey away from home (Reframing Pilgrimage: Cultures in Motion, edited by Simon Coleman and John Eade 2004:150). For centuries, none of the adventurers has really found the mythical Grail, but at least they can have some souvenirs.
Thousands of root-tourists have gone to where their ancestors once lived after the diaspora, and bring a piece of the ruin, the soil, the water, the air (in special containers) home – “Like all wedding rings, it is a souvenir of the joining of the circle, the seamless perfection of joined asymmetrical helves” (Stewart 1993:135). Through the ritual, the root-tourists are connected to and united with their ancestors. Not just taking a piece of the “place” away with them, some would even leave their traces over there – small objects in a bottle buried in the soils or messages carved on the tree. The souvenir is functioned as what Sir James George Frazer called the “contagious magic” in his most famous book Golden Bough. Through possessing the object, the tourist can thus maintain his/her memory and relationship with the special place.
I’m not a person that likes to take photos or collect souvenirs, for I don’t think these objects can really document the most important experiences during a trip. Besides, they have specific frames, such as the photo, and may exclude many other things important. But as I went back to see some photos I once took, or ate the souvenir foods of a specific place, they triggered many amazing memories and feelings – however, memories, what are these memories for – “the deepest secrets of the Self” as Locke proposes in the quotation? Perhaps.
** Elaine with the Wall Street Bull (with her admission to put this photo on the blog) -- It's the best shot of that day. Elaine, Eric, my boyfriend, and I went to the South Seaport as tourists during the Christmas time. Unlike any other tourists who stood aside the bull's head, she kneeled under it, and attracted a lot of flash light from other tourists.
** Elaine & Eric
** On the ferry to Staten Island with Lady Liberty