There are collections, and then there are Collections

Pottery Mug

Mug brought back from Israel by my hubby in 1980

I’m not a hoarder, but I do like to collect things. Certain things. Like pottery. I had to sort through an outrageous number of pottery mugs recently, deciding which ones could be culled (to make room for more, of course).

In addition to mugs, I have pottery serving bowls, plates, casseroles, sauce dishes, jugs, vases and more. Not a huge number of items (except for the mugs), but enough to fill a few shelves and decorate the space atop our kitchen cabinets.

There are specific features that draw me to a piece. In mugs it’s the feel of the cup as I cradle it in my hands. Filled with coffee, it needs to feel right in my grip. ‘Right’ is a relative thing, I know, and now that I have arthritis in my hands, one criterion is that the handle be large enough to accommodate at least three of my fingers.

I also collect rocks.

Rock Collection

The criteria for them are similar to what I use to choose my mugs — stones need to hold meaning for me and feel ‘right’ in my hand. I have agates from the shore of Haida Gwaii, a stone from a roadside in Mexico, a piece of volcanic lava from northern BC, and  several more picked up as mementos of other places of significance. Many stones in my collection are ordinary-looking ones collected during walks along ocean, lake and river shorelines.

Rocky Beach

That’s about the extent of my collections. Well, it is if you don’t count all the Loons that appear around here, or all the snowflakes among our Christmas ornaments… but that’s different. No, really. It is. Everyone has a collection of special Christmas ornaments, don’t they?

One kind of collection has never appealled much to me, and that’s a collection of short stories. I’m not a big fan of reading short stories to start with, because once I get hooked by a plot and its characters, I want a long term relationship — hundreds of pages, please. I admit to having written a few shorts, but it was more as an exercise than as a chosen genre.

I believe writing good short stories is more difficult than writing good novels, simply because the writer must accomplish all the same things as in a novel, but with many less words. Nobel prize winner Alice Munro is said to have perfected the art of writing short stories. She always intended to write novels, but never found large enough chunks of time to do so. When she attempted them, they always ended up fragmenting into something shorter. I admit to not reading many of them. I intend to remedy that, not because I want to read short stories but because I think I ought to read hers. I’m curious about her writing. There are a number of her stories published online and I may start with them.

Last Christmas I read A Log Cabin Christmas because among its stories there was one written by Jane Kirkpatrick and I’m particularly fond of her writing. Others of my cyberfriends have joined up to produce two collections of Christmas novellas this year —  Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection  and Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collectionand I’ll be reading those, too. Hey, don’t be calling me inconsistent. Like snowflake ornaments, Christmas collections are different!

Do you have a preference when it comes to the length of your fiction? What do you see as the pros and cons of collections?

~  ~  ~

Taking a Closer Look

I do it all the time. I hurry along, busy with daily trivia, looking at things as I go but not really seeing them. I’m physically there, but not focused on my surroundings. You know how it is when you glance at something and later can’t remember what it looked like?

Fifteen years ago our family holidayed on the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). While there we celebrated my birthday, and my eight-year-old granddaughter gave me a jar of pebbles collected on a beach below Tow Hill near the northern tip of Graham Island. The jar had also been filled with water because only when they were wet did the rocks display their hidden beauty. For me it was a priceless gift.

That jar of rocks still sits on my china cabinet shelf, and it still has a trace of the original water in it. The rocks glisten with the residue of condensation. I treasure this simple gift because of the giver’s loving heart, but also because those rocks are a constant reminder of the beauty all around me that too often goes unnoticed.

I’m not much of a photographer but am forever snapping photos, often without looking beyond the lens to see the miracle of detail. How often have I captured the picture of a gurgling stream or lakeside vista without stooping to discover the treasures at my feet? How often have I bypassed ordinary rocks without washing off the dust to reveal their true beauty?

 

While we’re rushing through life we miss living.

~

Slow Me Down Lord

(Wilferd Arlan Peterson)

 

Slow me down, Lord!

Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my harried pace
with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me,
amidst the confusions of my day,

The calmness of the everlasting hills.

 

Break the tensions of my nerves

With the soothing music of the singing streams

That live in my memory.

Help me to know
the magical power of sleep.

 

Teach me the art
of taking minute vacations,

Of slowing down

To look at a flower;

To chat with an old friend or make a new one;

To pat a stray dog;

To watch a spider build a web;

To smile at a child;

Or to read a few lines from a good book.

 

Remind me each day
that the race is not always to the swift;

That there is more to life than increasing its speed.

 

Let me look upward
into the branches of the towering oak

And know that it grew great and strong

Because it grew slowly and well.

 

Slow me down, Lord,

And inspire me to send my roots deep

Into the soil of life’s enduring values

That I may grow toward the stars
of my greater destiny.

~

 

Obstacles or Opportunities

 

Boulders litter the area in front of our lakeside cabin. Someone once bemoaned their untidy presence and voiced the wish that they could be removed. Like icebergs however, what is visible above the layer of mulched needles, bark and leaves is only a miniscule portion. Moving them would be an impossible task and so they remain in place. Our front yard will always be au naturel.

 

Finding a level spot between the rocks to balance a lawnchair can be an inconvenient challenge but scaling their height or using them as stepping stones in a game of ‘Tag’ or ‘Follow the Leader’ — that can be a lot of fun.

 

Life is full of obstacles and opportunities. Sometimes knowing “which is which” is just a matter of perspective.