I was lost for almost the entire day, bouncing between my old Sony Vaio that has been sitting in the corner of my office for more than a year, and my MacBook Pro, which was wiped clean of documents when I upgraded to a new one.
I meandered from thought to thought like Hansel in the woods looking for Gretel, googling artists, book illustrators, floor plans, recipes.
One click took me across the sea to a blog about gardening, another to a blog called Collection a Day. The blogger has a book, a beautiful one that you can buy to savor the many collections she gathered such as erasers, plastic bread ties, coffee cup sketches. I thought of a friends collection I came across last night at a party. In a glass case that covered the wall beneath the stair in her foyer were collections of sand dollars, beach shells, turtle shells, a birds nest with eggs intact, and even cuckoo clocks were arranged in a collection within the walls of glass, apparently no longer able to blast their tunes throughout the house.
I thought of the delight she must have each morning as she makes her way to the kitchen, surrounded by the things that she loves, the little moments she can jump right back to that made her want to pick those things, to save them, to savor them. In other rooms, bowls of crystals, arrowheads that she might have found in a creek of her childhood.
I thought of days past when we would collect fools gold and white shale in the negative form of an oyster shell. I thought of the feathers that probably still are stashed in a cup in the back of my closet in my mom's home in Livingston. I shudder to think she might go on a cleaning spree and toss them.
I thought of all of the pseudo collections I have stashed around my home, from trips, rocks from Arizona and Puerto Rico, wood pieces in the shape of a cross, moments on the beach while searching for signs on the shore to guide me, comfort me, make me feel assured that God was speaking to me, even in my wandering. My stashes lie in drawers, in bags, lined with abandon along the edges of my book shelves. There are rocks, hair clippings of the kids (yes, ew), bottle tops, wine corks (I did glue those to the backsplash at the lake, and not too neatly I might add) but you have to give me credit for something. A favorite item I might call more of a pile of mementos than a collection is a rock I keep on my sink. It is in the shape of a heart, a reminder that mine is so often similar. A metal cross with crown to remind me that there is something much bigger than myself allowing me to make mistakes but bearing my burdens. A piece of coral I once thought represented my split from my first husband but when turned the other way now stands as a symbol of the bond that shows my husband together with God as the center of our world. And a chain and necklace with a number seven and a crystal chandelier piece. I am not sure why it speaks to me but I am now exploring the meanings of the number seven besides the usual "lucky number" it represents.
I thought about how the other things that surround me now are like half thought out verses, magazines I didn’t get to read yet, a broken statue that lost a head, sitting on my desk in hopes I might muster the energy to glue it back on, if only I might find it. (round things often roll behind the desk to the floor, the abyss that is the crack between desk and wall).
I hop over to Pinterest and type in “collections”. I am inspired, moved, motivated. Yet I sit on this computer surfing for new writing projects, for painting inspiration. Luckily this weekend I actually did get out and visit the Norman Rockwell exhibit at our museum in town. It moved me to tears.
I realized after my husband, an accountant, was trying to calculate the number of issues Rockwell had illustrated, that he was producing creative work out of obligation that appeared to run on a weekly routine. Deadlines prodded him along, giving him no excuse to shirk his creativity. His illustrations would come to be a bond of American spirit during bleak times with economic downturns and war. He would speak to the common people, the politicians, the mothers, the fathers, the soldiers, the aristocrats. I teared up at the magnitude of his collection in awe of the talent that quantified his existence.
I came home immediately and napped. What else is a girl to do on a Sunday afternoon?
Then Monday I woke up and vowed to never paint or draw anything that has no significance. And today is Wednesday. I set the bar high for myself making my creative motivation more like a limbo contest than a goal to prod on through the life that is the creative person.
I know for sure we arsy types are better equipped when gathered together in what my new creative writing friend calls TRIBES. I love the tribe. The creative tribe pushes you to expand, not contract. The tribe chats with you on the days you can’t seem to produce. The tribe offers gentle suggestion without bursting a bubble on the things that are just about to burst forth into life.
The tribe understands the block. It understands the genius that comes in the night and is lost the next day because the pen was not working or the tape recorder was nowhere to find or without batteries. The tribe understands when you are painting together and you then dash to jot words to an idea for a song that may or may not ever be written with music.
The tribe is always ready to try again the next day, to piece together the puzzle.
The puzzle that is the creative life.
And most of all, the tribe is there to share in the glory of your accomplishments, even if those are merely that you completed the scrapbook of photos from eighteen years before.
Here is hoping you find a tribe to move you forward, to quantify your existence as a creative outlet for the things within that are unheard and unsaid and uniquely yours. Together make a collection of moments that inspire, reflect what you believe in, document that you ever walked this earth, if even in a photo book or a small journal.
The most sacred collection to me is that of the small books scribbled in during 1917 by my great grandmother whom I never met but who lit a fire in my heart for writing. She will never know what that collection of poems and inspiration have done in my life.
What can you gather to inspire those who come along to find your collection?