Collecting Things from Nature
My mother collected dead insects, interesting rocks, dried plant parts, fallen birds’ nests, discarded bird eggs, and other things from nature, mostly because she was an artist and a teacher, but also because of her insatiable eye for beautiful things that are missed if one walks too fast. Her kids and grandkids always loved to look through her treasures. Years later when she died, there were all kinds of little surprises tucked away in little boxes, drawers, and corners of shelves in her art room.
There was always something rooting in a glass of water on a window sill or shelf. Mama never met a house plant or flower she didn’t want to take home.
Those traits have been duly handed down through the family. One of my own grandsons, who is now married, mailed me the discarded skin from his pet snake when he was about 8 years old. He knew I would love having it in my nature collection. He had already been with me on many hikes in the woods, where we would slow down to pick up all kinds of interesting things. He knew my mother too, but only too briefly. But he knew her well enough to know that she loved the same things. In my move to this new home, I made sure that I kept that snakeskin in its original envelope.
I’m smiling today as I look around at things I’ve collected and placed here and there in our new house:
A tiny blue shell of a bird’s egg that I found out in the yard right by the garden about three weeks ago. That little eggshell has been in my kitchen window sill since I brought it inside.
This tiny egg is no more than 3/4″ in diameter. Both halves were nested together. I’m told that chickadee eggs are blue. I wouldn’t think it’s a robin, because those are bigger. It might have even come from our little birdhouse where the chickadees nested this spring.
Then on the same little table where I keep all my painter’s tape and staple guns is a growing collection of just “things” — including a decaying hickory nut, half of a hickory nut shell, another shell that had been gnawed into by some rodent, a tiny orange feather, and two small rocks.
And — well — there’s the small matter of plants. I found this avocado pit tumbling out of the compost pile when I was stirring it, and it had taken root. I picked it up because it looked so beautiful with just a little shoot at the top and a couple of roots at the other end, with all its decay marks on the surface. My original intention was to draw it. But of course I couldn’t leave it to die. After all, it had a tree inside it. So I stuck it in water, supported with toothpicks, and look at it now. I still feel moved to draw it. Maybe I will.
The sad thing is that to survive it will have to live inside for the winter. I suppose that’s always possible to do.
More and more it’s looking like home around here.
Note: Yes, you do see the avocado tree sitting on top of a stack of new panels that are ready to go. I see paint in my future!
Do you collect little treasures for inspiration? If so, what catches your eye in your everyday travels?