This weekend I tackled a project that I’ve been putting off for a long time: cleaning out my craft supply closet. “Craft supplies” is a term I’m using loosely here because in reality most of my alleged “supplies” are really just junk that I’ve accumulated under the guise of one day possibly using them for a craft project. As I sorted through the stacks of expensive papers, jars of German glass glitter, and a puzzlingly large assortment of marbles, I came across an old Russell Stover ribbon taffy tin from the early 1960’s that holds my Grandmother’s button collection. You know you’ve hit critical mass when your collection has collections.
It got me thinking about the things we collect – both consciously and by accident. What is a collection? What do YOU collect? As a kid I collected rocks and lids from plastic bottles and bones smoothed by the desert winds, polished by its sand and bleached by the sun. Thigh bones of mice, vertebrae of snakes, sparrow skulls – to me they were things of rare beauty – each a talisman in its own right. I’d cup them in my hand and close my eyes and feel the dry rattle of my objects d’art as they brushed past each other: the whisper of movement as they jangled in my palm. I remember the way my hands would feel after holding the treasure – dry, dusty, gritty. I remember trying to rinse that fine dust from my fingers and watching with fascination as the tiny particles bonded with the droplets of water on the backs of my hand forming these mysterious, murky grey pearls that – if I held perfectly still – would float on the top of my skin like dull mercury balls. Eventually, they would begin to quiver, then blend into each other, then slide down my arms as rivulets of soap and sand and water until finally they would swirl into the white porcelain sink and be gone forever. This ritual cleansing always left my hands smelling metallic. If I close my eyes, I can smell it even now.