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Possession Is Nine-Tenths Of Nothing




Acorns and seashells and nests.  Pebbles and starfish and seeds.  Antlers and feathers and twigs.  Scattered over bookshelves and mantles and tabletops, they are the harvest of hundreds of hours spent wandering.  


I run my fingers across the downy feathers and through the silky seeds.  I clack the antlers against each other, conjuring a scene of young bucks jousting in the moonlight.  I hold the shells to my nose and somehow breathe in the ocean.  


I was never someone who picked up moss and bits of fur.  I was not a child who came inside at the end of a summer day sweaty and dirty, her pockets full of bark and discarded exoskeletons.  I was a girl who spent her afternoons, her Saturdays stretched across the bed in her green and blue bedroom, the one with shag carpet, reading Heidi and Little Women.


But at some point, well into adulthood, I started picking up snake skins and abandoned nests.   I began filling vases with broom sedge and honeysuckle.  I began littering the coffee table with maple leaves that eventually dried out and crumbled into dust.  It was as though observing, experiencing, enjoying nature was not enough.  I wanted to possess it.


Over the last couple of years, confronted with the reality that nobody is going to want any of my material possessions, my collected tangible property, my  stuff when I have been, as we say, gathered to my people, I have begun divesting myself of said stuff.  Large numbers of books, entire sets of dishes, an inordinate number of blankets and throws have found their way to shelters and thrift stores and recycling bins.


What has not been thrown away, however, is anything I picked up from a road, a beach, or a fence row.  


Sunday was a perfect spring day made more perfect by the absence of caravans of ATVs chugging up and down my road.  After the Braves secured a come-from-behind victory with a three-run homer and just before the back nine at the Masters, I decided to take a walk.  It was a dawdle, really.  An amble.  A purposeless perambulation.  If I expected to find anything it would have been a feather fallen loose from a turkey vulture or a cluster of tracks where a herd of deer had danced their Saturday night away.  I did not expect to find a quarter.


It was lying nestled in the soft treads of a recently passed tire, heads up, George Washington looking not the least surprised to have been dropped from a pocket so far from civilization.  I vacillated a moment on whether to pick it up, not so far removed from my former profession that I didn’t remember tales of coins being laced with fentanyl.  Convincing myself of the unlikelihood of such a scenario, I picked it up and dropped it into my pocket, fiddling with it all the way home.


It was a couple of days later that I figured out what George, the father of our country and he who could not tell a lie, was telling me:  Picking up that quarter made it mine, but picking up an acorn, a pine cone, a ladybug never will.  The sand dollars and sweet gum balls, the holly sprigs and dried hydrangeas, the turkey egg and wasp nest will never be mine.  They can only loved with the tenderness reserved for that which can not be possessed.


Copyright 2024


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