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Collecting for Keeps

Collecting for keeps, it fills me with joy, I’d say I’m actually obsessed but I’ve begun to feel increasingly uncomfortable with the need I have for keeping what I’ve collected. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Why do you keep what you’ve collected?

A while back I asked you when you were out exploring if you collected any natural treasures and then kept some. Everyone who answered said that they did. In anticipation of my collecting obsession that I seem to have passed on to my kids. I packed these jars for our family trip. The idea is that each of us get a jar, we can collect as much as we like but can only keep what fits in the jar and once it is full that’s it, we can’t take or keep any more. It also means we can do a constant re evaluation of our treasures deciding which mean the most and if it really needs keeping.

In theory it works.

I’ve been an obsessive collector of natural treasures for many many years. My husband still refers back to a time we visited Sardinia and I spent the whole holiday with a hunched back, my face down searching the beach for shell after shell after shell. A whole week of it, I was SO happy. I would actually get a hit every time I found one I wanted to have. Mike refers back to it because we didn’t really speak, I was too distracted by my obsession and he wasn’t really comfortable with my need to keep all those shells!

I’m happy that my job now means that I can quite justifiably collect piles of alder cones and sycamore seeds and sticks and save then up for the children to play with and use at forest school.

It’s only recently I’ve started to feel really uncomfortable with the need for ownership over treasures I just want like the shells, which actually belong to no one and everyone and Mother Earth, not just me.

Two years ago we visited an amazing beach in Cornwall and I carried a stone back to keep. It sits on my dressing table, I look at it everyday and love it so much. I feel connected to the happiness I felt on the beach that day and the magic of the place. I’m grateful that I carried it home. I don’t take it for granted so how can it be wrong to have it?

The shells from Sardinia however sit in a jar in the bathroom and I never really look at them anymore. Is it because it was so long ago? Is it because I don’t like the jar they are in or is it because I collected hundreds? They have no real meaning anymore because the real joy was at the time in finding them.

I have a printers tray which sits above my desk and half is filled with woodland treasures and I keep thinking about how each item I find this trip will fill up the other side but there is a limit to the space. I’m slightly ignoring that limit. I can’t stop and even despite the self inflicted constraints of my jar the questions are still there. Do I really NEED to keep this stuff and why? Why do I need to own it?

Today we made the pilgrimage to a coral beach on the Isle of Skye. We made it with a hundred other tourists. It was then I felt the potential devastation of the greed for the shells. What if every one of these people took a handful of coral home with them. Eventually there would be no beach left to visit. I’m not saying anything new here or making profound observations it’s just that finally I feel the guilt and I’m troubled by my need for “keeps”.

I have no real answers. Other than wanting to feel connected to places that I’ve loved and yet I still come back to the word “ownership” and it disturbs me.

I would love to here your thoughts.

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