“When we are collecting books, we are collecting happiness.”― Vincent Starrett
Losing interest in proceedings my mind wandered and was ignited by the idea of collecting. Curiously, this had no remote link to the lecture I was in.
Intrigued, I began following thought webs as they spun in seemingly random patterns. My mind’s eye posed snapshots; images of rooms full of collectables, articles I’d read and interviews I’d seen with crafty and committed collectors.
I wondered, with the astounding diversity of collections, what compels us to collect things― stamps, coins, teapots, snow globes, dolls, Elvis memorabilia, matchboxes? Is curiosity, interest or habit the driver? When did it all begin?
For a short time as a child I collected stamps. I was introduced to it by my father. While it wasn’t something I chose on my own my interest was definitely piqued by his old album of small pieces of paper from all over the world. I remember receiving bags of mixed, used stamps every few months, some still attached to envelopes, from a club I joined. I would spend hours gently removing the torn envelopes, arrange the stamps by country, date, cost. In retrospect, it was a relaxing pursuit. I could do with some of the calm it bought me, now.
Some stamps were beautifully decorative, others simple and plain. The shapes too were a source of interest, for among the small and large squares and rectangles of all sizes were triangular stamps. There was a fascination too in wondering who had purchased that stamp, who had received a missive with the stamp glued to the envelope. Of particular interest too was looking for the first edition stamps and envelopes printed in Australia. My father would take me to the post office to purchase these beautiful mint condition treasures. It was nice to share an interest together. Why it lapsed I don’t know. Age, school, lack of real drive and passion. Perhaps a combination.
I haven’t collected anything since, though I do love teapots and sweet antique tea cups and I have several of each but I wouldn’t class it as a collection, merely an interesting display in a cabinet. I do have a habit of picking up shells on the beach and random seed pods and dead leaves that interest me. I have a few glass vases and pottery bowls filled with these treasures. Maybe they are collections after all? I wonder?
I have seen incredible collections compiled by people who have dedicated their lives to sourcing different versions of a single item. I love the look of a collection. I admire the dedication and the single-minded focus. I’m lazy. I don’t have the dedication to follow through as some do.
Collecting has a history. The Egyptians collected books at the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family, had the first private art collection. Of course our museums and art galleries are collection houses.
A Preston and Child crime novel introduced me to the idea of a “cabinet of curiosities” which was common among scholars, with the means and opportunity to acquire unusual items, from the 16th century onwards. Some of these collections were quite hideous indeed.
In time, with advances and improvements in the general standard of living and the emergence of leisure, more and more people had the means and opportunity to begin collections. But the question remains — why do we collect?
It’s at the core of the human psyche and there are several reasons collecting is a hobby pursued by many. As you might suspect, collecting often goes hand-in-hand with an interest in the objects collected and what they represent. For my friend, blue and white porcelain antiques reflect an interest in an age where delicate, beautiful objects of quality were produced. There is an enchantment that emanates from a room of blue and white antiques.
Collecting is relaxing. Tending to a collection is meditative. It can take the collector away from the stresses of life and provide a meaningful and satisfying pastime. I’ve visited a few model train expos and it is evident too that the social connections forged through a shared interest can be strong.
Then we go to the other end of the spectrum where compulsion is the motivator. I’ve often thought of myself as obsessive and so have tried mightily to avoid or give up habits that see my compulsions escalate. I know for sure if I’d not found Pinterest my love of tea cups and teapots would drive me, and my husband, to distraction and financial ruin. Pinterest allows me to collect without financial outlay, without having to worry about space, or breakages or dust.
A little tidbit that captured my attention is the link to our past. As hunters and gatherers we were primed to collect food and supplies for survival. Interestingly too, collecting is linked to memory and the making of meaning. The human brain, adept at cataloging and organising information, associates meaning with objects.
My reverie into collecting was refreshed when, delighted, I came across the tribute (below) to collectors everywhere at the Swell Sculpture Festival. Do you have a collection? I would be interested to know what drives your passion.
“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” ― Twyla Tharp
It was a cool, slightly greying afternoon. Yellowing leaves from the ageing Jacarandas dropped in our hair as bird song and wind filled our ears. High on the hill, overlooking the city, my friend and I, the only visitors, descended the scaffold stairs into the brick architectural space of a former water storage unit and the weight of the day vanished.
The historic Spring Hill reservoir has been transformed again. I wrote previously about this public space hosting the Underground Opera and the transcendent experience sound, in the gothic space, has on a listener. I returned this week to be mesmerised by light.
Open mouthed we stared from on high at the magic woven beneath us. Arriving on solid ground we felt like kids in a mirror maze, removed from the world above. Daylight from the door overhead and a small table lamp provided enough light by which to tentatively navigate our way. At first, without the path lit to discern our course, we gingerly inched along feeling as though we might come to a mirrored dead-end. Becoming marginally more emboldened we picked our way through the suspended electroluminescent wire framing, that mimicked the shapes of the architecture, and felt a renewed sense of arrival in each segment of the space.
I could not explain how I felt at the time. Several days hence the best way to describe it is —dislocated. I felt dislocated and disoriented. I felt not quite myself. There was a sense of it at the edges of my consciousness that only now I can liken to Alice swirling down the rabbit hole.
This free installation continues until the September 23rd and is well worth the visit. I have since discovered the Brisbane City Council has commissioned three artists to present another installation in the Reservoirs that will use sound, film and kinetic sculpture. No doubt, they too will cause visitors to reposition themselves in a familiar historical space.
Brisbane artist, Meagan Streader’s work is exhibited nationally and internationally. It reflects the minimalist art of the Light and Space movement and reveals the pervasive role of light in governing physical and social navigations of fabricated spaces. Pushing the limits of light within sculpture and installation, she manipulates, reinterprets and extends upon the boundaries of constructed spaces. Through site-specific interventions, her multidimensional use of light re-orientates the viewer’s relationship to the existing architecture and scale of space.
In life we wait.
There is a distinction between the kinds of waiting one is required to abide.
There is waiting that must be endured such as waiting for—a bus, an appointment, test results, news from a lost loved one …
There is waiting that is observed with tolerance. We wait for the traffic lights to turn green, the kettle to boil, the pizza to arrive …
Outside these watch checking, magazine flicking, foot tapping, finger drumming, carpet pacing moments of waiting there is anticipation—a different kind of waiting. Anticipation flutters, it tingles. Anticipation contains expectation—like the countdown to a holiday or a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend.
Today’s prompt took me back to the top of Brinkley Bluff on the Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we waited in anticipation for the sun to set.
Two Images juxtaposed —
ethereal, cheesecloth clad, crystal waving souls
to unexplored realms
faces raised to the light,
smiling in joyful anticipation
black suited, anxious bodies
riding steel contraptions
to the next meeting,
thumbing messages into small devices.
Never stop learning because life never stops teaching. Anon
As an educator I love learning. Not all lessons are learnt in a classroom nor taught by teachers. Life has a wonderful way of teaching us new things. Today I was pleasantly surprised, through a small detour in my routine, to learn about a type of printmaking called collagraphy.
Collagraphy is a form of printmaking where the artist creates prints from ‘plates’ upon which they have adhered textured materials in the form of an image. Lithography, in contrast, begins with the artist chiseling the image out of the plate from which they wish to create prints.
Ink or paint is added to the plates. Once printed colour can be added to emphasise details at the artist’s discretion.
Artist Jacky Lowry is currently showing an exhibition, Western Wonders, of her collagraph prints at the Caboolture Regional Art Gallery.
I am soaring after this quick lesson and immersion in her work.
Who will educate me next?
Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to. Alan Keightly
I’ve climbed a few mountains in my travels. I’ve scaled the 1237 steps to the Tiger cave temple in Thailand and made my way up several other steep staircases to magnificent temples, castles and rooftops all around the world, but the hardest climb I’ve ever made was up just 28 wooden steps in Rome.
My journey up the Scala Sancta, the Holy Stairs, also known as Pilate’s Stairs was one made on my knees.
The Scala Sancta are housed in one of the most important papal sanctuaries in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up indoctrinated in the Catholic faith but was never aware these stairs existed. By luck and a Lonely Planet guide-book, I discovered them on a trip to Italy some years ago. Early one morning I set off on foot to locate the very unassuming building that houses this treasured relic.
It is thought Jesus climbed these stairs, once part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, on the day he was sentenced to death. The stairs were later transported to Rome by Saint Helena, she secured a number of other holy relics also. The Holy Stairs were housed in a few places before the current sanctuary. The marble has been covered with wooden treads to protect them from wear and at certain points there are little glass windows that offer a view to the marble beneath and to stains, thought to be the actual blood of Jesus.
The truly devout will think poorly of me, for I had not worshipped in a church for many years nor had I knelt in prayer for some time, though my faith was strong. Having travelled across the world and appreciated the peace and quietude of other sacred and blessed places, I felt moved to join a small number of morning visitors up the stairs.
What I didn’t realise, despite my sincerity and solemn approach, was that to truly pay homage, to honour and respect the sanctity of the chapel and the man to whom it stands in remembrance of, one had to go slowly, with deep reverence. Each of the faithful climbers offered a prayer on every step. Not a short and sweet prayer but a decent, well-considered prayer. Many worked rosaries in their hands. I later discovered many climb the stairs to be forgiven for sins and seek favour with God.
With a genuine respect I proceeded, offering some long memorised prayers alternating with personal prayers of gratitude and thanks. It was a humbling and moving experience.
At the top of the stairs is a private, papal chapel adorned with 13th Century frescos and a 4th century painting of Christ, thought to have been begun by Saint Luke and completed by an angel. This Sancta Sanctorum, is viewed through a grated opening.
Descending is much easier with a set of steps on either side of the Holy Stairs. These can also be used by those interested in viewing the chapel who do not wish to or cannot ascend the Holy Stairs on their knees.
Once reserved as a place for popes the Scala Sancta and the Sancta Sanatorium are now open to the public for a small entrance fee. When visiting ensure appropriate and modest attire is worn. Arriving early in the morning there were no tourists in sight. In fact the whole piazza was empty.
It is easy to be critical and questioning when faced with monuments of faith. Is the story true? Did a man called Jesus climb these stairs? Were they once part of a palace in Jerusalem? Are they stained with blood? Whose blood is it? Regardless of faith, regardless of belief or facts; historically and anthropologically this experience made my mind buzz with intrigue. It served as a gesture in humility a chance to count my blessings and reflect on the sweetness of life. I hobbled away more enamoured with life than before my visit, which is saying something — I was in Rome after all.
Have you been somewhere that moved you to experience the world in a different way?
This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is for the topic:
Here’s the prompt the good people at The Daily Post offered:
Today, take a moment to notice the structure of everyday things around you. Note the lines, freckles, and tiny hairs on your arm, and imagine the biological blueprint that created them. See the bricks of a building, and realize that they were individually placed there by another person. Then, share with us a photo of the structure of something wonderful. We’re eager to see details through your lens.
There are examples of structure all around us. I am fascinated by the intricate way things fit together and work in conjunction with each other. I marvel at architectural structure and the process of building but my focus today went to the natural environment. With so much on offer I could not settle on one image, nor do the several below fully sate my curiosity.
Looking into the micro structures of life
“Houses are like the human beings that inhabit them.”
— Victor Hugo
I have owned only two houses in my life. The first for seventeen years. It was heart wrenching to leave having inhabited the space for so long, seen my children grow there and begun my married life there. It was my first really grown up thing to own.
It flooded you see. After a huge renovation that transformed the house it was inundated with filthy flood waters in 2011. While others left the area, part of our house was still habitable but changed. The sense of peace and tranquility we’d established felt sullied. Each time the rains came, panic rose in my chest. Would we flood again?
So having loved that space and the surrounding area we made the difficult decision to leave. Four years on, I feel really comfortable and settled. I inhabit a new space. A large, open, light space. On a hill. Each nook and cranny of this space reflects our personalities. It’s comfortable and convenient, close to the city and facilities yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle with a forest close by.
Now, my beloved and I find ourselves at a new juncture of our lives. Nearing retirement, with a moderate debt still in play. We have discussed ways to become financially independent. One solution is to downsize. My anxiety levels rise at the thought. I feel like I belong here. There are so many positive reasons to stay. There are so many features of where we live we couldn’t find elsewhere for a fraction of the price.
We’re at a crossroad.
I know it’s only a house we inhabit and that it’s the people you are with that make life full and worthwhile. I do know that. I also like comfort and beauty and space. It is more than just the house too. One becomes settled in a place, part of the landscape, especially when that landscape appeals to the senses, as the river did (before it flooded) and the forest now does.
There is another element in our mix. Do we stay in this city, my beloved’s hometown, or do we move to a much-loved holiday destination in the Blue Mountains? Crossing state borders as well as a new threshold.
Why is it so hard to make these decisions about a material possession? Well, I think it’s because, for me at least, my home is my safe place. My retreat from the world and a place I can craft to express myself. A house is not just a place to inhabit but a place that creatively reflects who we are. Location too plays a role, as mentioned earlier. Where we live is as much an extension of us, or we become and extension of it, as much as the house itself.
What is special about the place you inhabit?
I woke early, eager to read the one word prompt that would focus my writing attention for the day. The word — synchronise — conjured images of elegant swimmers with noses pinched, swanning about impossibly blue pools. I thought fleetingly of time too and bronze cogs revolving in an elegant dance.
I put aside my thoughts to meditate a little, after which I drew an oracle card. My intention was for a message to shine a light on my day. After shuffling, and before selecting a card I offered up a few words—”Blessed be“. When I turned the card a delighted chuckle rose from my throat and into the crisp morning air.
My card was ‘The bee‘, with a much needed and timely message.
Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, was at play.