I've never been much of a collector, mostly due to the fact that for most of my life I've never been long in one place. After carting my grandma's glass collection through seven moves around three states, I finally sold it to a collector. The sno-globe collection that grew from gifts of co-workers ended up at the Goodwill. I've even purged my precious collection of books, keeping a special few and knowing if the others are meant to come back to me, they will.
All that said, I have always collected other things–things that I know were never mine. They stay with me for a certain amount of time before they are returned to where they came. A handful of agates from the Oregon coast moved with me for 15 years before they decorated the graves of two very missed kitties. A large jar full of feathers collected since I was a child was released into the wind to honor a friend. A basket full of itsy bitsy, nearly perfectly-round, black stones collected over the past 20 years sits on my bookshelf waiting for its determination; until then I revel in the coolness of those tiny pearls when I run a hand through them. Formerly scattered bones now pile in discreet corners, whispering stories while waiting to move on.
I think I started collecting things like this because I loved my mom's approach to collecting (which does not apply to antique juicers): collect it, love it, let it go. When I was younger we would collect puka shells from our favorite beaches along Ko'olina Point and put them in a large glass urn in the kitchen. When it was full we'd thank them for their beauty, take them to the ocean, and pour them back in. It was a good feeling to be able to let them go.
The first time I went to Abiquiu I was surprised to see the little piles of collected nature scattered across the property. Mostly because I was glad it wasn't just me who did it but also because it gave me a better understanding of how Georgia's mind worked–what she saw as beautiful in a small, veined stone or patterns of fontanelle decorating a shard of skull.
Maria described this thinking, in a way, after a walk with Georgia:
Georgia: That feather is so feathery - (of a white sand puff) - but I like it because it is also tough.
Maria: Strength and delicacy are two different things.
Georgia: Strength with delicacy are the ideal. One of anything is no good.
Maria was a collector too but what she collected was something different - and, in a way, something without words to describe. You could say she collected memories, but they are more than that. You could say she collected stories but again, hers are more than that. You could say she collected people but again, not really accurate. What she collected was so much bigger than I have a description for...it's like she collected history. She didn't just have keepsakes, she had complete inventories of the people she knew and the times in which she knew them–especially Georgia and Dorothy.
Whatever we might call such a collection, I am so thankful she gathered it, protected it, and then passed it on so that I, and others, could find it. It's more than a collection, it's a treasure.