Text by Ariella Rogge
When I was a kid, I used to collect things. Rocks. Feathers. Dead butterflies. Dried Flowers. Pretty leaves. I kept most of these treasures in a secret drawer at the very bottom of an old antique dresser in my room. The butterflies and feathers were in a cigar box lined with tissue paper. The rocks were in special envelopes. The dried, pressed flowers were sometimes preserved with tape, but–more often than not, they were in envelopes with cards and letters that my grandparents, great-grandparents and parents had given me. I also had a weird assortment of tiny bones–more than likely mouse bones or bird bones–but where they came from, I have no idea.
And then I went to camp.
Suddenly my treasures were quartz crystals from the Crystal Beds, a flake of Topaz from Pilot Peak, a teeny-tiny pebble of Amazonite (only found in two places in the world! The Amazon and Florissant, CO!), something called jasper and lots and lots of sparkly Pikes Peak granite. I had a rock from each summit, sometimes sealed in pre-addressed stamped envelopes for my parents, with the address crossed out and the name of the mountain and elevation written above it.
In addition to the geology, I began collecting camp memorabilia in my drawer. Our invitation to the JC Dinner. The quotes I read at Vespers. My “Howdy, My Name is Ariella” stickers from Opening Day. Address lists from each summer. And then the “plane letters”–really simple notes from my camp friends, counselors and others who wanted me to know (especially once I was no longer going to be with them 24/7) how much they would miss me.
Photos from camp, postcards from camp friends in St. Louis, Denver, Chicago, and some notes from my school friends also filled the drawer. Soon the cigarbox of butterflies was tossed out. Soon the tiny bones became jostled to dust. And, not too many years into camp, the drawer was full–but the experiences and memories kept growing and collecting.
So now, instead of picking up the rock or pressing the flower (though I still do it sometimes), I stop and really try to capture the essence of the moment. The smell of sun on granite in the spring…it is the soft echoing smell of summer days in Florissant. The sound of robins chirping in the trees…reminding me of the cacophony of spring birdsong in the Midwest. The shimmer of a unique rock underneath a slow-moving stream…a humorous reflection on the time I collected a bunch of rocks and shells on my first visit to the Pacific, then kept them in water, in a vase on my desk because when they had dried out, they didn’t look as pretty (the vase, stones, shells and sea glass subsequently turned green and algae-filled).
It is the little things that we should be collecting right now. The little moments of laughter, the warmth of the sun, the first scent of petrichor after a rain, the new spring grass, the first flowers, Aspen catkins and the changing length of days. These are the things we can slow down and notice. These are the collected experiences and memories of a full, rich life.