This guest post comes from fiddle player, singer and veteran touring musician Laura Cortese. We’re so lucky that she’s offered this meditation on the power of souvenirs for Leap Little Frog readers. The world is a grand and inspired place, especially when people like Laura remind us to savor and share simple material delights.
While riding a boat on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, drinking tea out of a glass just like this, I thought of you. The water we floated on was only a bit greener than the turquoise color of this glass. What an elegant way to drink tea.
So I bought four of these glasses. One each for the two friends I thought of while drinking my tea, and two for myself so I could recreate that elegant experience every morning and offer a guest that same experience.
It’s about 14 years into my adventurous life as a traveling musician and, I am embarrassed to say, I’ve only just begun reflecting on what brings me joy while traveling. Has the sheer novelty of it worn off? Have I become streamlined enough in my road routines that I now have extra mental space for this contemplation? Or have I realized now in my mid-30s that a beautiful life is merely a collection of many beautiful days–and that I must create each day for myself.
I’ve always been a fan of buying souvenirs for and sending postcards to lovers and boyfriends. My motivation was usually to make them feel less jealous of my venturesome existence. I had almost no awareness of how finding the postcards and gifts made me feel. In recent years this perspective has shifted. I expanded my list of recipients to include close friends, colleagues, family members and anyone who pops into my head while on tour, taking great pleasure in selecting postcards and souvenirs that will bring a smile to their faces. In the process a smile crosses mine.
I have often thought it was hard to share the life changing moments of a great trip with the loved ones left at home. So many things happen in such a short space of time. Does the person at home really want to hear how exciting your adventure is when they are left taking out the trash, walking the dog, and carrying on the mundane tasks required in daily life? Really, coming home and sharing photos and travel stories asks a lot of attention from people who didn’t share those adventures with you.
Being on the lookout for treasures helps to bridge the distance and share the process. When I tell my friend, “In an elementary school in Ukraine I was given this crazed eyed, pokey whiskered cat. It made me think of you and your love of the bizarre underdog,” what I’m really saying is that she was with me on this journey.
The souvenir habit keeps me connected to the ones I love. The excitement of seeing something a friend would love, the consumer therapy of spending money to buy it (however inexpensive, the act of spending money on the road is always satisfying), and the anticipation of their reaction ground me in knowing there are people to whom I will return.
Learn more about Laura’s work
Laura Cortese offers acoustic folk music with a rock and roll attitude. Blending the lyrical strains of folk music with touches of Cajun, soul and high-lonesome sounds, she has toured Europe, Asia and North America with her band The Dance Cards.
A native of San Francisco, Cortese moved to Boston to study violin at Berklee College of Music. She is a bright light in the city’s vibrant indie music scene. In addition to her solo work, she’s performed with Band of Horses at Carnegie Hall, Pete Seeger at Newport Folk Festival, and Patterson Hood and Michael Franti for Seeger’s ninetieth birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden.