Collecting

I’m a reader. During this period of social distancing, logic tells me I would look for escape and choose fiction — instead, I find myself devouring a ton of non-fiction. I just finished a 450-pager by Craig Childs, a writer whom I like and admire under any circumstances. “House of Rain” is about ancient cultures and archaeology in the American Southwest, primarily those I’d known as the Anasazi — a term I found out, isn’t deemed correct any more. Craig Childs starts his explorations near Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, a place well known for its cliff dwellings — and after that hikes for weeks on end into obscure places in the undeveloped back country of New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, to sites unknown to the public. He takes what could potentially be dull material and transforms it into a subject of beauty. Something that amazed me is his ability to literally pick up remnants of ancient cultures — pieces of intricate pottery designed with colorful patterns, parts of woven baskets, or specialized stones for grinding corn — marvel at them, and then put them back exactly as he found them. I can’t seem to visit my family near Lake Superior without bringing back half the rocks along the shore, or come home without sand dollars and shells from the Oregon coast. I am hoping this doesn’t start to carry over into the rest of my life. I don’t want Hector the Collector to be my role model.

If you’re not familiar with Shel Silverstein’s poem, here it is:

Hector the collector
Collected bits of string
He collected dolls with broken heads
And collected rusty bells that wouldn’t ring

And pieces out of picture puzzles
And bent up nails and ice cream sticks
And twists of wires and worn out tires
And paper bags and broken bricks

And old chipped vases and half shoelaces
And gatling guns that wouldn’t shoot
He had a couple leaky boats that wouldn’t float
And stopped up horns that wouldn’t toot

And butter knives that had no handles
Copper keys that fit no locks
Rings that were too small for fingers
And dried up leaves and holey socks

And worn out belts that had no buckles
Electric trains that had no tracks
Airplane models and broken bottles
And three-legged chairs and cups with cracks

Hector the collector
He loved these things with all his soul
Loved them more than shining diamonds
Loved them more than glistening gold

And Hector, he called to all the people
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Looked at it and called it junk

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1 Response

  1. Carol Tomlanovich says:

    Mary, every time Joe T and I went to Lake Superior, we, too, came home with rocks to add to our ever growing collection. We made a trip there last September, and when I added a few photos on FB, I commented that we brought more rocks home, and what were we going to do with them? Vicki White’s comment was, “That will be the children’s decision.”

    As always, I enjoy your blogs.

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