Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Collector Personality

If such a thing exists, I definitely have it.


I've collected since I was a young girl. Some of my first memories are of being on the beach in Grado, Italy near my grandmother's house and wading through the warm waters of the Adriatic in search of seashells. Once I even found a seahorse and captured it in my yellow plastic bucket for observation.

My seashell collection is perhaps the longest-running of all the items I seek out. Every single beach I visit, I pass hours searching for shells. Walking along the sand in search of that perfect, whole shell is one of the more relaxing activities I can imagine. It is also great because I don't like deep water or waves, am afraid of jellyfish and several other sea creatures, and as a result don't get in the water much when visiting the beach. I need something other than books and sunbathing to pass the time!

I've tended to display all of the shells I've collected on beautiful ceramic platters on shelves and tables around my house. Here in Maputo, however, it is impossible because the boys are so naughty the would destroy everything. So my shell collection here sits in a basket inside the bathroom closet.

Rocks and Minerals

Another collection I started when I was very young was a rock collection. I remember going to several spots in New Mexico - the Gila Wilderness and the Bisti Badlands, to be specific - where you could find giant quartz crystals just lying about in the sand. I still have all of my beautiful rocks and minerals, but they are in a storage unit in California at the moment because, what with international weight limits for travel, I've not been able to justify literally filling my suitcase with rocks!

Pressed Leaves

Part of what I enjoy so much about collecting is the possibility of then organizing the items in my collection. I remember my mom taking me to the University campus and to several city parks when I was in elementary school so that I could get leaf clippings from various bushes and trees. They had a Ginkgo Biloba tree in the patio of one of the University departmets - biology, perhaps - and that was my favorite because the leaf shape was so beautiful and in a category all of its own.

I'd go out armed with scissors, a photo album with magnetic pages, paper labels and a pen. I knew all of the leaf shape categories by heart - chordate, ovate, oblong, etc. I'd put each leaf carefully on a sheet of the photo album with the appropriate labeling, then take my full field book home at the end of the day and place it under a stack of dictionaries so that the leaves would become pressed and dried.

Native American Pot Shards

Another exciting collection I started as a child - and one of the ones I still do to this day, though periodically - is that of Native American pot shards (broken ceramic pieces from old cookware), mostly from the Anasazi. My dad and I would go out to this empty lot in Los Lunas, New Mexico, just off I-25 and about a mile from the state prison. At the time it was just mesa - sand and scrub brush. I don't remember why we originally went out to that isolated spot to walk around. Perhaps because my dad knew it would be a treasure trove, but maybe it was just a coincidence the first time.

It would just be the two of us, each one with a plastic sack. We'd stomp our feet hard to create vibrations on the ground as we walked as to scare away any snakes lingering in our path. My dad and I would literally spend hours walking around the high desert looking for pieces of painted or coiled pottery. Sometimes we would even find 2 or 3 pieces that fit together, though I never fulfilled my dream of finding an entire pot.

I realize that technically, the fact that we were collecting anthropological evidence on our own was probably not ideal; however, my dad knew that within months there were plans to put up an ugly housing subdivision on that ancient living site. There would be no survey of the site, no recognition of its rich value in terms of research and the history of our state. We figured it was better to have some of the artifacts in the care of people that appreciate them, as opposed to the entire site being buried under slab concrete and grass lawns, forever destroyed.

Now when my dad and I go camping in the Jemez Mountains, we still find loads of pot shards from the Anasazi. I usually collect a few pieces, but am much more criterious than in my younger years and prefer to only take the truly unique pieces home. On our last trip, I found a single ceramic piece the size of my palm, covered with ochre and black geometric designs. We also made an exciting new discovery - in addition to pottery shards, there are also 1,000-year-old beads to be found. You have to look close, but I managed to find 2 in addition to the original heishi tube my dad discovered.

Stamps, Postcards and Foreign Currency

These were my travel-oriented collections. In the same storage unit in California, I have a album with an unimaginable number of old stamps, some from the 1800's, and others from countries that don't even exist anymore. I used to buy some stamps from those lots advertised in the back of magazines. Others were from my many international pen-pals when I was a child (I regularly wrote letters to friends in Greece, the UK, Madeira, Mexico, Italy and the Central African Republic).

In addition to stamps, it was logical that I would also collect postcards. Many were ones that I'd actually received in the mail; others I'd buy as souvenirs from tourist points around the world. On several occasions, I selected my favorite postcards and taped them in a grid pattern to both sides of my bedroom door like a mosaic. I think I have easily more than 500 postcards squirrled away in a box somewhere...

I also collected foreign currency, both banknotes and coins, from my travels and those of my mom, who had quite the international career at the time.

New Collections

As I get older, I prefer that my collectible items serve a dual purpose. They must give me the pleasure and challenge of the collection process, as well as be something useable, for example in the decoration of my home, or in the kitchen as I make and share food with friends and family.

The latest focus of my collector personality is paintings. Ricardo and I have already acquired several here in Maputo, our favorite gallery being the Núcleo de Arte.

We've also included wood carvings in the scope of our new collections, which makes a lot of sense since Mozambique is internationally recognized for its precious hardwoods and skilled artisans in this medium.

For more stories of people with collector personalities, go here.


Shelby said...

Oh I loved reading of your collections here .. take care!

Shades of Blue said...

I started collecting stamps when I was still in Mozambique. Some are Mozambican ones - pre-independence and after. Boxes are what I gravitate towards now. My youngest daughter shares the "box passion". :-D We have a lot of boxes in this house.

Safiya said...

I love your Sunday Scribblings posts! I thought there hadn't been any for a while, so it's great to read one.

I used to love collecting seashells too. God willing, I will collect them again one day.

Ali la Loca said...

~Shelby - Thanks for coming by and reading. I'll have a look at your collections entry as well.

~Shades of Blue - Ooh, my mom and I also collect boxes! Some of them hold jewelry, but most are simply empty, on display on a table or in front of some books. I love boxes.

~Safiya - I missed doing Sunday Scribblings, but have been, well, overwhelmed lately. I hope you get to collect seashells at some point again, too. It is one of my very favorite activities in life. :)

Karen Travels said...

You are so right on about beach combing being a relaxing activity. Especially in the winter when no one else is on the just seems majical. My mom and I spend hours looking for treasure. More now then when I was a kid!!

tumblewords said...

Lovely collections - nicely written and informative. Enjoyed my visit!

Boricua in Texas said...

What wonderful collections. They show your sense of curiosity about the world.

Poppy Fields said...

When I saw your name in the comments at Sunday scribblings I tried to guess what you collected before clicking over here.

Alina said...

I tried most of the things you've collected. But got bored very soon! What I never got tired of were books and pick-up disks with stories.

Now I have this new passion for decorations and for getting fridge magnets from the countries I visit.g

Ali la Loca said...

~Karen Travels - My mom is one of the few people that has patience to beachcomb with me. It is a great way to pass the time.

~Tumblewords - Thanks!

~Boricua in Texas - Yes, I was a very curious kid, and hope I continue to be that way forever. I think I would have been very happy as a natural scientist, something along the lines of geologist/archaeologist/botanist/etc.

~Poppy Fields - What did you guess? Were you close?

~Alina - I did fridge magnets for a while, then at some point had a strange refrigerator that wasn't magnetic! That put an end to my collection...