The Nature of Things

It started with a seashell, most likely picked up on the shores of the Mediterranean, or maybe later, on a Cape Cod beach. I, like so many others, like to collect things. Throughout my life, I’ve collected keychains, magnets (still collecting to this day!), shot glasses, and so much more. As I started to move into hoarder status (and smaller apartments), I had to start purging...and stop collecting.


Collection of seashells from Playa del Carmen, Mexico / Perfectly intact sand dollar found on the beach in Santa Monica, CA / A beautifully broken shell from Gleneden Beach on the Oregon Coast / The tiniest of shells plucked from the shore on Vashon Island, Washington

At some point along the way, I started collecting not material things, but objects from nature. I’m not sure how it started...or even if I did it intentionally at first...but I soon had an odd collection of things I had found in nature during my travels. Since I love the beach, and tend to vacation on or near one fairly often, I have amassed a collection of interesting-shaped seashells, and some that just captured my attention for one reason or another. But, I’ve also managed to pick up some other interesting items.

The first time I visited Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, Italy as a teenager, my father, sisters, and I climbed up to the crater. I remember thinking it was a bit anticlimactic. I imagined that I would be staring down into an abyss of darkness where I couldn’t see the bottom. I got this idea from watching the early 90’s gem Joe Versus the Volcano starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (yes, really). Boy was I disappointed. The crater was not only small in circumference; it was also full of volcanic ash that reached close to top. I probably could have slid down it and safely made my way back up (I did not actually attempt that). Regardless, it was pretty cool to be standing on the top of a volcano with chunks of volcanic stone littered about.

We picked up a couple, maybe more than a couple, in all different sizes and squeezed them into our carry-on's for the eight-hour flight back to Boston. As far as I know, I don’t think there are any laws against taking a piece of lava (I mean, it’s Naples, there are no rules), nor do I think it would have any negative effects on the volcano itself. That being said, I displayed a small piece on my desk, while my dad used one of the larger rocks as a door stop.

alt My tiny piece of lava from my first climb up Mt. Vesuvius

What makes these pieces so special is that they are something tangible that connect me to the places I have been in a deeper way than any magnet, t-shirt, or other typical souvenir would. I’ve brought a little piece of each place home with me.

Below are a few more special pieces from my collection:

alt A couple of shells and a rock from Inish Mor, Aran Islands, Ireland / A rock from the famous rocky beaches of Nice, France / Striking red rock from Malmo, Sweden

alt A jagged piece of Carrara marble collected from the road on an excursion up the mountain. Particularly special as this was the town I lived in for the first few years of my life.

alt Purple sand from Pfeiffer State Beach in Big Sur, CA / A collection of stones from Moonstone Beach in Cambria, CA

Happy collecting travelers!