Many, many years ago, I let slip to my family that I wanted to be a beekeeper. At the time, I was reading Sylvia Plath; her poems are full of bees and beekeeping. And the bee is a constant symbol for Emily Dickinson, another of my favorite poets. Somehow, keeping bees (though I don't know how anyone can "keep" a bee) seemed romantic, and, besides, who would pass up all that honey?
That, of course, was before I did my research and discovered how much time and effort beekeeping requires. Trust me...I have six books on bees and beekeeping, and I know I don't have the time to properly look after them. But the notion is still one I harbor. I'm thinking about getting Mason bees to satisfy the urge. These bees don't make honey; they live in paper tube condos instead of hives, require little attention, but are good pollinators for gardens. And I need them for my gardens.
But, the damage has been done. My sisters, who love to shop, have been giving me "bee" things--garden ornaments, birdhouses, bird feeders, candleholders. This week, when I stopped to visit my mom, she gave me a bag from one of my sisters. I'm now the proud owner of a bee chip-and-dip set! The only thing I've contributed to this unplanned collection is a bee windsock that hangs in a tree in my backyard.
Most of my "collections" were unplanned. I have two shadowboxes of thimbles--my former mother-in-law started that. I have masks--my aunt started that. I have China cups and saucers and green teapots--I think I started those. I bought most of my teapots in the flea market in the French Quarter over several years. My friends scope out the China cabinet, and then I get these wonderful little gifts to add to my collections.
My biggest collection, as you might guess, consists of books. I have more books than I can count; I still haven't unpacked all of them. I don't have the bookcases for them, and, to accommodate them, I need built-in bookcases--floor-to-ceiling--in every room of my house. Some of them are so old (before acid-free paper) that I'm afraid to open them because they might crumble into bits. Some of them are irreplaceable--they've been out of print for ages.
I know--I can find nearly anything in print on the Internet. But that doesn't quite equate. I like the leisure of sitting in a comfy chair, reading a book. The Internet is great for research, but, for pleasure, I'd rather engage in the physical act of turning the pages.
I wonder where this urge to collect comes from. I don't take my things out of the China cabinet or the shadowboxes and admire them. Really, I hardly think about these things until I have to pack them to move. Then I wonder why I keep them at all. What they do, though, is evoke memories, so that, when I take them out and look at them, I remember who gave this to me and when. They are the tangible evidence of my connection to people who are important to me.