Nature is the greatest artist

#621 in a series of true experiences in real estate
May 2011, Hills Newspapers

I’m forever picking up beautiful little sticks with moss attached, leaves, seed pods and such and bringing them home to look at up close. Not long ago we were walking through a parking lot when I saw a scattering of pine needles. They looked quite long, longer than usual, and because I wondered about them and then got to looking at the ends where they are bound together, I brought a handful home. They still sit on a small table in my living room, and sometimes when I walk by, I look at them again and am surprised by their design, the slim-ness and brown-ness and how sleek they are.

I like sticks a lot, especially twigs I find on the ground, often under oak trees. I can count on finding quite a few patches of mosses (I guess they’re moss) in grayish greens and sharpest citron-green and rusty red. Frizzy, sticking-up types and a thicker one, more ruffly; it wraps and hugs the twig it’s on.

When we visit my cousins in Napa, we always walk around the property and laugh and talk as we trip over the rough ground. Everyone knows about me already, and so they call to me, “Look Trisha, here’s an oak ball, want it? Ooh, acorns, really big pointy acorns – and a white feather!” And they rush them over to my hands.

Often when we leave Napa, the car trunk is filled with nature-y items; some of them I’ll keep for many months, certainly until the next season. As long as it is fall-like outside or raining and wintry, laid on various tables and shelves at my house will be my collections. Bird nests are a favorite. Not often, but occasionally, someone will find an empty nest and give it to me.

Nests are wondrous. Some are made of slender grasses flown one by one in the mouths of birds and woven into shape. Some have horse hair or dog hair included. There is hardened mud in other nests. I wonder how the birds got the mud there? Tiny plugs of sticky mud transported over and over again?

I look at all of these items for as long as I still see them. When I find they are no longer visually exciting, I let them go. Most of them, anyway, but not the nests. They’re too intricate, took too much effort to build, I think, so I keep them in boxes and get them out again another day. But the leaves and twigs, waist-long “hair” fallen from birch trees, pine cones, those I put back outside.

I used to bring home pumpkins in the fall. When my kids were home, we’d cut jack- o’-lanterns which would rot after a few days and then we’d discard. Once I cooked the pumpkin to make pies. But I don’t buy them anymore because I can’t seem to let them go. Orange pumpkins have sat on my front porch – such an appealing color and shapes and texture – for months, but somehow, they don’t look right when spring, at the same time, is breaking out in pink and white.

Spring is here now. Just look at the sharp clean green of the tree leaves that are being just born. The birds are singing. Plant spears are coming up from the ground. Daffodils dance. To remind myself of spring, to commemorate springtime, I like egg shells.

I want to suggest to you that next time you use an egg, rinse out the halves of shells and put them where you’ll see them often. I have half a dozen sitting on the window sill over my kitchen sink. Mine are white and are incredibly beautiful to me. Pure and clean, the essence of new. I laid plain white paper under the shells – nothing quite like white on white. Maybe you wouldn’t react the same, but just in case you do, you could try it and see.

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