At the house where I last lived, there was a bowl of keys. We didn’t know what any of the keys unlocked any more, but we could not bring ourselves to discard them. Each one of these keys was important to someone, somewhere – otherwise, it would not have been shared with us. This one might be the key to a friend’s house, to unlock the door to his or her home. And this one might open the shed in the back yard – the shed we’d never locked and never planned to. This one here, it looks like a key to an office somewhere, a place where people gather every day to work together. And this one could open a file drawer, revealing many secrets, or to a storage locker with treasures within.These keys were fun to play with. We usually have to be so careful with our keys. Without our keys, we cannot get into our home, and we cannot drive our car. Without being able to lock things up, we cannot protect ourselves. To give someone a key to one’s home is a statement of trust and honor – we only share our keys with people we trust completely. You do not want your key to be lost or stolen or broken. And yet… this bowl of keys to unknown locks – these keys did not have to be treated with such care and respect. They had not been used in years, so they were dry, dull, dusty, dead things. So they became a toy. It was fun to reach into the little bowl, pick up a handful of keys, and let them plink-plink-plink back into the bowl. They sang, did these keys; they made music. We could no longer find the places these keys could unlock, so instead of becoming the means to enter new spaces, they had turned into playthings and music-makers. I thought about cleaning and polishing them, and hanging them from string to make a key mobile or windchime. They sang beautifully, and they could look beautiful again, and sing whenever the breezes blow.
And I think, what would it be like if we could turn all of our keys into playthings and music-makers? What if we no longer lived in the fear that if we left our doors and windows unlocked, we would be in danger? What if we were not so attached to our things that if our belongings were taken, we simply shrugged and said, well, I guess he needed that more than I do! What if we realized that they really aren’t our belongings anyway? What if we finally came to the conclusion that everything on this earth has been entrusted to our care for the short span of our life, and that when we move on, these things pass into the trust and care of those who live on after us? What if, instead of being a symbol of our separation and brokenness, our keys turned into objects of beauty?
I close my eyes.
In my mind
I can see the windchime hanging over my patio –
silvery shimmery keys
bright brassy keys
gilded golden keys
red and blue and yellow keys –
glittering in the golden sunlight
swinging in the gentle breeze
tinkling and chiming and singing
and telling me that
are the answers –
not locked cars and windows and file cabinets and doors.
is the key.