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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Picking Up After Mother Nature…

row on row of gold

In the Valley the other day I found a feather. Not much of a find, you say, especially after that big wad of cash I found on 4/1, but nonetheless I picked it up and carried it home. I had to, you see--force of habit from those long ago days of boyhood. Back then I was always picking up after Mother Nature, stuff she left lying around cluttering up the countryside perhaps because Ma Nature abhors a vacuum. In those days trash from fast food joints was years away; no unsightly white paper sacks with red and golden arches on them; no cardboard buckets bearing the image of a goateed gentleman with a black string tie throttling his adam’s apple. And certainly no plastic clamshells, bottles or milk jugs. What I drug home were real treasures, curiosities born of the natural world. I had a special place for this detritus, my own Ye Olde Curiosity shelf, a jumble of artifacts any country boy would envy.

Through the dust of years I can see that shelf now, and I am sorting through its riches: an oriole’s sock nest, a stem gall from a stalk of goldenrod, the ossified talons of a dead owl, the cotton tuff tail from a cottontail rabbit, a chunk of blood-rusty jasper, a June bug with crisp-dried legs that would cling like Velcro to your flannel shirt. I had back quills from a putrefied porcupine, saved aside for exotic Christmas ornaments (stick a couple dozen in a styrofoam ball and you’d have a decoration that might have come from the Dark Continent). That shard of gentle blue? A half shell of a robin’s egg. A piece of driftwood in the shape of some animal. A snail? A bluegill? Brass shell casings of various calibers ejected and cast aside from hunters’guns. The skull of some small mammal, its dental structure perhaps a skunk’s? A clay bowl made Indian style, fashioned from the local clay banks and fired in the coals of a campfire. In a small, plastic box with a snap lid were flakes of flint and broken arrowheads, a stone bead, a small scraper, and nestled comfortably among the chippings was the chitinous tail of a rattlesnake, eight rattles and a button.

And there were feathers, too: a tail feather from a pheasant rooster, a wing feather from some large raptor, an eagle maybe, sturdy as a branch, a long, slender and black feather from the tail of a magpie, tiny pinfeathers, each a splash of blood, and yellow-tipped tail feathers from a cedar waxwing. And three or four topknots that once bobbed about on the heads of California quail, each bound together with sewing thread.

The Good Book states (I Corinthians 13:11) “…a man [should] put aside childish things…,” but don’t you suppose that means toys only: trikes, skates, model planes and cars, yo-yo’s and hula hoops… pistols, cap and water… and pea shooters?Birdshell Certainly curios from the natural world are exempt, else I wouldn’t have brought home this near perfect feather, gray and soft, a black band across its tip, a marvel of master craftsmanship: a tail feather from a pigeon or more to the fact, an Eurasian Collared dove.Tickle your fancy “Friends of feather, flock together” so I tucked it into a vase with other assorted feathers from jays, crows, flickers, pheasants, and plumage from yet to be identified avians.

And that shelf of oddities collected by a curious boy? Well, married life would not allow such a public display. But there is a certain desk drawer…and a certain plastic box…and Mother Nature still discards her trash…. Let’s sift through some of it now. What can you identify?nature's trash

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  1. you have beautiful treasures. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

  2. Thanks, R. Bee. Yes, Mother Nature's trash is another man's treasure. Thanks for reading.