This week’s Roadside Mary can be found at the crossroads before the bridge that enters El Studiante.
Crossroad shrines are prevalent throughout western cultures. I became aware of their significance while reading Caesar by Collen McCullough. Ceasar was said to have been raised in an insular that housed the Lars of his district. There were many Lares in the pagan culture of ancient Rome but those in the crossroads, or Compitales shrines were there to bless and protect the inhabitants within their neighborhoods, and serve as a religious and social hub.
El Studiantes’ Mary appeals to me because she is fastidiously well kept, she rarely has dead flowers in her vases, and her wonderfully garish paint is frequently touched up, though I have never seen anyone near her.
But my favorite part of this shrine is the wood shard cross tied up in the direction of the roadway that passes beside her, indicating protection for both roadways that intersect at her abode. The wood and wire cross is an afterthought, a wish for a little extra blessing, made of scraps. I imagine the person who cares for the shrine lives in the direction of the formal cross.
Sometimes I would like to ask who tends the shrine, but this falls into the realm of obtrusive in my mind and would destroy the mystery. I am not completely comfortable with representation. I have difficulty taking photos of my life for this blog, and imposing myself on people’s realties by asking to photograph them, or to tell me about their lives for my own purposes, of writing or art.
It is a dichotomy in my work. I question the value of the abstract representation of object/or idea by image and words. I straddle these two worlds: the language of symbols and immersion in the physical present.
The Mary’s, with their jubilant embrace of the scared through images are a comfort to me, knowing I have company in my idol worship when it is not possible to keep myself planted in the now.
May all our roads, material and metaphoric, lead to the divine.