Wilderness proven, Eleanor's potato, as well as Gabe's letter to Hattie, were the tangible "passports" by which Norman and Rita, and Oliver and Shane, "secure[d] the attainment" of the "shining light"---more full and complete connection to one another.
Norman & Rita
Lost Without You may have proven that Norman and Rita possessed the ability to work well together independently and in a professional capacity, but it remained unclear whether other not the pair would be able to do so in something as high-stakes and personal as raising a living thing.
As Shane observed in Higher Ground, Norman and Rita "[weren't] ready to take the next step in their relationship, so they...created a sort of family with a surrogate potato." And the little family they created with what was once Eleanor's pet became a crash course in "parenting," requiring them to determine the type of potato they had, and how to care for it. Answering these questions and "raising" their potato acted as the "passport" that secured Norman and Rita's bond informally, prompting Norman to eventually make it permanent and formal through their engagement.
Marriage was a topic that Ramon indirectly breached during that first poker night observing that after a year in a relationship, "[Norman and Rita] would be married with twins by now..." in his home country. As Norman points out they "have a potato." But much like the Director got Norman thinking in Lost Without You, it seems that Ramon got Norman to begin questioning why he had yet to make that commitment to Rita, especially since he is, as Ramon so astutely observed "very fortunate" to share life---and a potato---with her. Notice that when Norman proposes he wants "to raise a family, and have a place for them to grow---talking about kids now, not potatoes." It's a direct connection between his discussion with Ramon and the conclusion to which Norman's careful consideration clearly led.
The outcome of their Wilderness journeys in Lost Without You established Shane and Oliver's relationship on a solid foundation, only to find their bond placed under intense strain in Higher Ground. In order for their relationship to "bloom to its full potential" they needed some kinks worked out, not the least of which were their individual tendencies to hang onto the "seen," needing to latch onto their "unseen"---but firmly established---connection instead. In this context, the term "passport" took on a literal and figurative meaning for the pair, revealing to them the true nature of “what they have” as a result of the letter Eleanor left behind.
Directed to Oliver, Gabe's letter, and the promise he made to find Gabe and tell him "not to be too hard on himself, that [Hattie] knew that he loved her" drove Oliver's efforts in Shane's absence, committed to fulfilling the last promise he made to her. It was a commitment that in the course of fulfilling, Oliver experienced the full range of his humanity, from great joy to great despair, as he attempted to keep hope alive for what he could not see (his connection to Shane and her return) through something that he could (reuniting Gabe and Hattie).
When Shane said, "I'll be back" it was her unwavering promise to return home, one she fully intended to keep, because “[Oliver] didn’t have to say that he loved her…[Shane] knew.” And it was this knowledge, along with Oliver’s pen, that she exited the country.
Departing, she took two "passports" with her---a formal government issued one and an informal Oliver-issued one. The former, “authorized travel to foreign countries, authenticated [Shane’s] identity, U.S. citizenship, [and] right to protection while abroad,” as well as “secured her right to re-enter the United States.” The latter---Oliver’s pen---carried with it an ability to travel into new physical territory, while at the same time reaffirming her identity and connection to Oliver, securing the protection (or guarding) of her heart while abroad, as well as securing her return to Oliver and his heart when the time came.
Yet there was something curious happening during Shane and Oliver's reunion in the DLO. Where Oliver held onto reuniting Hattie and Gabe, and Shane held onto her government- and Oliver-issued passports, it was the "unseen" content of their hearts that proved the most powerful "passports" of all, revealing that neither of their hearts had truly lost hope in each other. It was their hearts---and their time apart---that allowed them to truly see "what they have" together, a bond that transcends objects and trinkets. This revelation allowed them to cross into the territory of "what [next]," a place where clarity and vision is empowered to chart their path forward, together.
Gabe’s letter to Hattie ultimately showed Shane and Oliver the true nature of “what they have”---their deep, "unseen" connection---a reality they might not have fully discovered or embraced if not for the aide of Gabe’s letter to Hattie, which Eleanor left behind to be delivered “right on time” for both couples.
By the end of Higher Ground, both Norman and Rita, and Oliver and Shane, crossed into new territory in their relationships, which in the process of traversing revealed the true depth and strength of their bonds. And while Eleanor's contributions appear peripheral at first glance, they were, in fact, the mechanisms by which these truths came to "light" for the POstables.
The Passport Process: Application & Processing | Approval & Issuance