X: Backpack

How long have we been carrying burdens on our back?

X: Backpack
A backpack. Photo by Yann Allegre / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is Decadi, the 20th of Fructidor CCXXX. The Victoria, the sole remaining ship of Magellan's fleet, completed its circumnavigation of the world on this day 500 years ago.

Today's card: 5 of hearts

5 of hearts. From a vintage 1970s Amtrak playing card deck by USPC.
From a vintage 1970s Amtrak playing card deck by USPC.

We're going to talk a lot about the places you go and things you carry with you to get there, so it makes sense that I pulled a card that indicates a pause between journeys. Hearts, as always, indicate the spiritual energy you put into the universe, which can be interpreted as your affection, your attention, or your desires. The five is one of the trickiest numbers to cleanly interpret. Sometimes it indicates inertia, an emotionless statis quo, or a feeling of being stuck. But it can also indicate either balance or stability. When it comes to your heart, I'm actually intuiting this card as a moment between a change in directions. With all the jacks and jokers in your life lately, it could be that your heart is contemplating a big, radical change. The card says nothing about whether that's good or bad or right or wrong, only that today is a day to make room for that feeling and let it flow.

Today's meditation: Pack Basket

My kids have a very generous grandmother who buys them a fresh new backpack at the start of each school year. This is unnecessary, but sweet, and it means they have accumulated an accidental collection of school bags over the years, and I've had a strongly enforced view of the year-to-year evolution of their school equipment. Each grade has its own physical burdens, and in my mind, I see a distinct backpack for each.

At first, the backpack is a sort of pre-trash can, a place where crayons and semi-completed art projects go to be carried home, only to remain inside the largely decorative backpack to rot all year. Lunch boxes take up less and less of a percentage of space as they start checking out library books and needing a traditional school supply or two. In third grade, now, the school-issued laptop or tablet appears and remains, getting heavier or lighter depending on how much funding the school has acquired in its electronic education budget.

For my kids, there were two years where the backpack went nowhere at all, slouched in a hallway for pandemic schooling, filling up mainly with stuffed animals that "needed" to be carted to the grocery store on an errand run.

My oldest started middle school this year, and now the backpack has a second home, in a locker full of textbooks and hastily passed notes and stickers and spare sweaters. What was once a true bindle, carrying all her worldly education possessions, it is now a true pack basket, harvesting homework from the fields and carting it home for our dissection and consumption.

I may not know exactly how my kids will turn out through the coming tumultuous teenage years, but I can pretty solidly predict what will happen to their backpacks through college and beyond. They will become even heavier and more laden with costly electronics, house keys, cute miniature purses, tampons, spare shoes, sunglasses ... at some point, the backpack transforms from an accessory of work into an accessory of play, mainly used for hiking and music festivals, until morphing into whatever shoulder bag or briefcase or travel roller they need in their jobs to do whatever passes for a commute in the future.

When I took my latest day job, in the middle of the pandemic on a permanently work-from-home basis, they sent me a welcome kit that was clearly crafted before the offices shut down – a bag that can be a carry-on or a backpack depending on how you arrange the straps, and built with all sorts of clever pockets for laptops and phones and chargers and toiletries.

Those who make you work often expect you to place the load on your back. It seems like an old and fading idea – back-breaking work, hauling sheaves of wheat in from the harvest – but we're still out here, backpacking through life with anything that will connect us to work at home, and to home when out in the great elsewhere.

Today's video: Sales pitch for a Maine-made pack basket (2mins)

The video takes completely for granted that you know why anyone would need this.

Today's song: "Run DNA" by The Avalanches (3mins)

You'll know why I picked this today if you listen to the chorus.