I have been fortunate to have spent my life in a place where there is plenty of greenery, with exotic birds for neighbours.
When we were small, I remember walking around with my friend, picking up things from the ground. We pressed leaves and flowers and stuck them on the pages of an old notebook, along with little stones, feathers of birds and strange looking seeds. We would try to identify and write down the names of the things we collected and took turns taking care of it. It smelt a little, but we were very proud of it — it was our little treasure chest.
Yes, we were advised not to pick up things from the ground. But we picked them up nonetheless. A hobby that has never faded away. To this day, my cupboard overflows with boxes full of seashells, stones, seeds and feathers.
My friend would eventually give our scrapbook to a science teacher in our school. It upset me for a while, but then she probably knew it was better to let go, than to hold on. I tried to recreate the collection, but I ended up throwing it away — apart from the stench of rotting plants, it was the tiny insects which had turned the feathers to dust that made me discard it.
Since then, I have taken extra care of my feathers, keeping the soft delicate ones in an airy box. The larger ones occupy pride of place atop a bookshelf, alongside photographs of family and friends.