Years ago, my dear friend Christine Mason Miller sent me this box full of treasures: a dried hydrangea bloom, a metallic skull, a plastic goat, a seed pod, a tin whistle, a tiny notebook, a brocade pouch filled with lavender, a smattering of seashells and more. I cherish this box of odds and sods. Every now and again I open it up and, one by one, I take each item out and admire it closely. Then, with gentle reverence, I put each piece back and close the lid.
It reminds me of the ‘memory box’ I’ve been keeping for years. The blue box itself is from a gift I received when directing a show for a Turkish youth drama group. Inside is a translucent bow that crowned a gift from my mom, knitted bells made just for me by my childhood babysitter, a pink plastic squirt ring, a Mr Dressup button, a Latvian ribbon from my grandma. Every now and again I open it up, take each treasure out to admire it and then, with gentle reverence, I put each one back in.
This week was the first time I became aware that I do this, that I love this.
In a doll-making assignment in Carla Sonheim’s yearlong art class, Carla pulled out bits of ribbon and fabric and buttons and lace, I got teary. What was that about? During our recent renovation, I had let go of supplies like this. I decided to simplify, to focus on the arts that speak to me most: drawing, painting, photography and collage. I let go of fabric and buttons and wire and yarn and any number of some such things.
It was good to let them go but in that moment I missed them, not because I wanted to use them but because I enjoyed them for their own sake. I love opening up a box of buttons and seeing the array of shapes and colours, hearing them click against one another as I run my hand through the pile. I love the extravagance of ribbons, how they feel as they pass through your fingers. I love old pins with coloured pearls on their tips arranged around a plastic circle or stuck in a satin cushion. Treasures all.
In that moment, I recognized this love and all the ways it shows up in my life.
The top drawer of my writing desk is full of miscellany: a “My 2 Cents” change purse full of coins from travel destinations, a cat toy Shibumi loves but is too noisy to bear, the key we accidentally brought home from our hotel in Nice, an address stamp that stamps my mom’s address, a kaleidoscope and, believe it or not, a piece of wood from the famous Bluenote schooner from Nova Scotia.
And what about jewellery! I open a box and find my pink plastic triangle earrings circa 1984, my mother’s green and gold necklace (which I will never wear but will also never part with), my grandmother’s old watch, a pair of linen gloves, a unicorn necklace from my high school boyfriend, a broken sodalite ring, a moonstone a friend gave me for our wedding.
How did I not know I do this?
This gathering, this love of objects and artifacts is me through and through. I see it right back to the days when I was little and loved to pull things out of my mom’s purse – her wallet, her lipstick, her keys – and then put them all back in again.
Did you do that too?
I think we creatives are gatherers by nature. This is perhaps why we consistently long for order and simplicity while also delighting in abundance and ‘stuff’. We are sensitive to the beauty of things, the simple sensory joy of loving what we love – a shot of colour, a coolness to the touch, a bit of sparkle or softness, a bit of mystery or memory. We read or add in layers of meaning. We see the connections in collections. We understand the autobiography in things.
But no matter the reason, no matter the why, the simple truth is this: we are allowed to love what we love.
This week I discovered my love for little collections. What love is calling you?
PS My sister Shannon hooked me up with a supplies for the class – a box full of love and treasures!