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  • Writer's pictureZibby Wilder

The Collectors



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.


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Michael Fisher-Vallen
Michael Fisher-Vallen
Jun 14, 2021

Well you can only guess what I collect…it’s my way of persevering an often misunderstood or idealized past. Being ever the architect I think collecting is just a part of our nature. As I’m aging my collecting has winnowed down to vintage trailers, books about architecture, and an amazing California pottery. I just hope these things find respect in their future…for now as I see it I am only the caretaker of these things. Like your puka shells someday all of my collecting will find it’s way back to stardust. Thank you Zibby I really love your writing!

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Zibby Wilder
Zibby Wilder
Jun 14, 2021
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Thank you, Michael! You know I am a HUGE fan of you and your work as well. I hope you are doing well up in those mountains and I think of you every time I see (what I think is) a little glint of aluminum reflecting up my way!

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Jan Roskelley
Jan Roskelley
Jun 13, 2021

Thanks so much for this, Zibby. It's beautiful and the timing, for me, is perfect. I recently gave away many, many boxes of books. Most of the books were my husbands. I have been sad about it but I like this way of looking at giving them away. They will find a new place and it will be fabulous. I think I will expand my "release journey" to the rest of my collections! xo~

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Zibby Wilder
Zibby Wilder
Jun 13, 2021
Replying to

Letting things go can be just as beautiful as it is difficult. But if anyone can find the beauty in this, it's you. Love you, Jan!

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Vic Kent Marshall
Vic Kent Marshall
Jun 05, 2021

hi. i just found your blog and am enjoying your writing, stories, and photos of New Mexico & of your collections. i just became a resident of NM & am in search of my "place" or my personal connection to the land, the people & the rich history. thank you for sharing your story, it is instructive and inspiring.

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