Bring nature inside and enjoy small elements of beauty

#595 in a series of true experiences in real estate
November 2009, Hills Newspapers

This is a good time of year to start a nature table. Begin by picking up the first beautiful fall leaf you come upon. Bring it home and lay it on a table or fireplace mantel or window sill. Then if you come across a pod or silky grass or pebble that you want to look at more, bring that home too.

Remember how there were nature tables in the younger grades at school? I remember a blow fish on mine, all blown up with spiky scales or quills, he was placed on a large piece of construction paper. No doubt there were other items there as well, probably shells, maybe a cow jaw bone, certainly leaves and pine cones. I must have already had a bent toward collecting such things and bringing them home because I’ve been doing it all of my life, but I didn’t think to make a nature table until fairly recently.

I acquired an arts and crafts sort of bench that fits easily on a living room wall and I began to lay treasures there. Very fun. Branches are good, some with gorgeous chartreuse colored moss. Eucalyptus pods are one of the most beautiful things I know. The colors in the leaves, the very fine speckles and edging and curving central rib – breathtaking. Japanese anemone seeds that bloom fluff almost like cotton plants move me every time I see them. Acorns, too, with caps and without them.

Fallen pine needles in small tufts or still attached to little branches are wonderful. Feathers are maybe my favorites. Single feathers that came from some bird flying above – favorite? Oh how could I say that? There is a poem that I learned and love: “A Feather is a Letter from a Bird”. I think of it everytime I find a feather. I keep small found feathers with my bills in an envelope marked “feathers” and every once in awhile I get them out and put them on my window sill.

On the nature table right now are two very fally-aparty bird nests. I got them from my cousins in Napa. One nest had been built by a not very adept pigeon across beams in a barn. The nestings were so loosely woven that the eggs fell out and crashed, and then she left. This nest is rather large, maybe 15 inches across, made of twigs and squiggly-shaped brush of some kind, and there are horse hairs included too, with redwood “leaves” on top.

I have quite a few bird nests, most put away in boxes because, like feathers, I can’t throw them away. I don’t know what I will ever do with them. But everything else I let go after awhile when I’ve stopped looking at them and responding to them everyday. I recycle the leaves and conkers and buckeye balls, twigs and moss. I do keep any seashells I happen to get.

You don’t have to go to a farm or a forest or beach to get materials for a nature table. A walk down almost any street anywhere will have something to offer. The leaves from the street trees in Montclair, for example, are fabulous. I like them all year but when they turn brilliant reds and yellows in the fall, I pick them up and almost swoon.

A friend just brought me pods from a large plant in her yard. I think it might be a century plant. She showed me what she had discovered when she peeled open a pod. Inside are flake-like seeds, almost like lemon seeds but flatter, some all creamy white but others shiny ebony-black. When we removed some seeds, the pod casing is striped zebra-like. These parts are all on the nature table now. The pod is becoming lighter as it dries. Some of the black seed flakes I put in a tiny dish.

The designs in pods and leaves and feathers I find always make me think of other designs in nature, the colors and figures of lizards and fish, for instance. Such spectacular beauty is available for me to see in aquariums and museums and to those who go, on hikes and at the ocean. But immediately outside my door, completely easy, I can have and keep my fill.

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