We have an antique schoolhouse desk by the front door, and on the flat space above the hinge, at regular intervals, lie seed pods, feathers, pebbles, butterfly wings and the like. They mix in with the more mundane detritus of daily existence–random coins, keys, the new insurance card for the glove compartment. Nature spills onto the kitchen and pantry windowsills, too, and threatens to overflow the brim of the cardboard shoebox my son Gavin decorated for me: The Cabinet of Curiosity. Inside is a trove; most prized perhaps are the nearly complete robin’s egg, a “book” of sorts with river birch bark pages, and a papery white snakeskin.
I found a kindred spirit today in Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: archaeologist and cartographer Anne Campbell, whom he meets on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. I lust for her collection:
On the mantelpiece and window ledges were dozens of found objects: bird’s eggs, bones, antlers and pebbles. A swan’s wishbone with no central join. A skua’s egg from the Shiants. A pure-white golden plover’s egg, fragile as a bubble. Dark-brown sea beans, floated in from
the Caribbean, like little leather kidneys.