I have just moved into a new home, in a new city, and am currently experiencing all the disorientation that goes along with such a situation. I arrived yesterday, and spent the afternoon unpacking boxes and bags, trying to make my room feel more like my own. Later, finding myself alone for the evening, I fought off loneliness and curled up in bed with a book.
This morning, I continued trying to shake off that feeling by keeping busy, and just as I was about to leave the house with that objective, I found a letter on my doormat: a pleasant surprise when you still feel strange in an unfamiliar home.
It was from my Godmother, in London, who I hadn't heard from since January. Tucked inside the letter was a little swathe of lilac-grey tissue paper, tied round with green ribbon, and inside that was a small silver sand dollar on a black cord.
In her letter, she told me that "a sand dollar is a special thing - filled with positivity and well-being."
I strung it round my neck, thinking those seemed like appropriate sentiments to strive for, and went out in pursuit of orientating myself, feeling much more confident in the knowledge that someone was thinking of me.
As the afternoon went on, I was met with friendly enthusiasm and reassurance when I paid my new department a visit, and an organised tour of the university library lead to a chance meeting with a girl doing the same course as me - quite a coincidence, when you think that there are only 27 of us. A couple of very positive things, which certainly boosted my morale.
Out of the rain and back in my room, a quick search online further revealed the folklore behind sand dollars. Christians apparently consider them to be very special, reading them as symbolic of the birth and death of Jesus - there's a poem all over the internet about it. Not being religious, I didn't find much significance in this, but the sentiment is there. Another story I liked suggested they represent coins, lost by mermaids or perhaps the mythical inhabitants of Atlantis. In South Africa, where I'll be doing fieldwork next month, they are apparently known as pansy shells, due to their flowerlike patterning.
Whether any of this folklore holds any substance will have to be seen, I suppose, but my little sand dollar was certainly serendipitous for me - it set me off with a positive start to my first full day in unfamiliar surroundings, and I'd like to think that it led to the two confidence-boosting encounters I had later in the afternoon. It certainly seems to be special for me, whatever its symbolic significance may be. I think I will hold on to the explanation outlined by my Godmother in her letter. It seems most relevant.
Sometimes, I think people are too quick to denounce luck charms and talismans. Does anyone have a symbol they think is special to them?