I’ve had a myriad of collections of an odd assortment of things throughout my life. When I was a child I collected glass figures and various glass objects won in carnival dime pitches, stamps torn from the corners of envelopes that had arrived through the mail which I kept in a small cardboard box, as well as Breyer horses that I played with quite a bit.
I also collected Canadian coins, pennies and quarters mostly, in an old Noxzema jar. I used to tell my mother I was saving them up for when I was older so I could go live in Canada. It was the sweet, yet naive, fantasy of a child with no concept of money.
In high school, I progressed to collecting frog figurines and anything with a frog image on it. This lasted all the way through college.
Next came the elephants. I still have a large number of those around my house, but they’re slowly becoming outnumbered by the squirrels.
Currently, I have a collection of buttons that reminds me of my great grandmother’s button box. I remember rainy childhood days in which my entire world faded in comparison to the fascination that the button box held. I would play with the buttons for hours, inspecting them, sorting them, and string them together only to undo my strings before putting the buttons back into the box for another day’s play.
I have a library full of books, comic books, and graphic novels on shelves throughout my home that speak of my love of reading. I suppose one could consider me a “collector” of these types of things, but only in that their number far exceeds my abilities to actually read them all.
Yet it is with my collection of objects found in nature which have been squirrelled away in various spaces around my home that I feel the most visceral connection. I often find myself picking up random leaves, pinecones, and acorns. Some of the leaves end up taped to the pages of my journal. When we go to the beach I’m always on the lookout for shells, sea glass, and shark egg cases, even the occasional piece of driftwood. I also enjoy taking pictures of nature; plants and animals of all types find their way into the photo album on my phone. Some of these I share on Facebook, but mostly I guess I just collect them.
I wonder what, if anything, they say about us…these things that we collect over a lifetime. And what it means when we finally give up on the collection of these same items? It seems to me that the act of collecting itself indicates something of our personality, perhaps it is a desire to capture the things that remind us of the past, perhaps it is a more materialistic desire for possession, or perhaps it is a token of our identity or a sense of belonging to a group. Whatever the case may be, I would guess that the majority of us have at one time or another collected something in our lives.