Accidental Collage {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 9}

A piece of history was set to be put out for the garbage if we didn’t come pick it up, this giant music box handmade in the 1920s right here in my state. My husband and his dad drove 20 hours round-trip through swarms of cicadas to bring it home.

We had hopes for curing its tone-deafness, to tighten the strings to perfect pitch, but one look at the piano and our tuner friend said it was no use.

So, we gave in and opened the upright grand to hollow it out and make room for my keyboard. Hinges creaked and the smell of history rose up, the aroma of old wood soaked in with years of smoke from burned dinners and moisture from flooded cellars.

We loosened the yellowed keys and the felted hammers and pulled them out one by one. We plucked tired strings on the heavy harp. Inside, tucked between keys or hiding in the cavity behind the damper and sustain, there was treasure, an accidental collection of items: a 1930s postcard swirled with fancy cursive, a tiny green pencil with hardened eraser, old coins and a matchbox car with chipped paint.

When I came across Real Simple’s article “Lost and Found” a few weeks ago, I started wishing I’d kept the little collection discovered on the inside of the piano. It’s art really, the way some things group together on accident in natural time capsules.

Author Judith Stone tells of how writer’s block had her pacing in front of a dresser. In manic procrastination and avoidance, she opened a junk drawer full of random items from her travels.

There were “scraps of ornamental paper, a tea canister lacy with rust, baroque buttons, appealing shards of crockery, mate-less earrings too pretty to pitch, a Burmese candy wrapper.” She found herself turning over an old bamboo sushi box and gluing bits of memory to the back of the box. It turned out so pretty that she put it in a frame. She goes on, “Feeling strangely refreshed, I returned to my deadline work and finished it. Sticking stuff together had gotten me unstuck.”

In a bout of writer’s block in my first trimester of pregnancy earlier this fall (we’re due April 4 of next year!), I wanted to keep writing. But what could I write when every bit of energy was going to beginning that beautiful life and no ideas were flowing? Fatigue and nausea had me cratered in the couch.

I reached over to the coffee table and picked up Keri Smith’s How to Be an Explorer of the World”. From here? An explorer of the world? And then activity #1 gave me permission to write right where I was sitting.

With my pen, I took down an inventory of everything I saw on the floor: Elliot’s drawing of the spider version of himself. My husband’s high school marching band trumpet, dented and tarnished. The Swazi grass baskets that I didn’t even haggle for because they were such a good deal with my exchange rate. The replica of Rodin’s “Eve” that marks our time out spot. A lone drumstick. Toy train tracks. Dirt and crumbs. A balloon losing its helium. A houndstooth pillow from the couch. Two kitchen towels, makeshift blankets for Farah’s dolls. A Beatrix Potter book. Leather flip flops found as a pair…a rarity. The schoolboy’s backpack. A barrel hamper lugged downstairs by children in need of a pretend rabbit hole.

Just like we pulled the surprise collection out of the dust inside our old piano, I found a collection of curiosities right there in my living room. Even when I felt low like the balloon on the floor, life continued to happen around me (and in me). The fun went on even when I didn’t have the energy to guide it, and the floor inventory in my journal helps me remember that.

These accidental collages capture time and place and show us the art of the moment and the mess.

{Take down a written inventory of something ordinary in your environment: your floor, your bookshelf, your junk drawer. In the accidental collage, what theme or metaphor do you find coming together? What internal thoughts/feelings can you relate the collection to? Share your findings and any links in the comments below.}

This is Day 9 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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13 thoughts on “Accidental Collage {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 9}

  1. Did I somehow miss the news that you were expecting again until now? Congrats, Darcy! So fun for you and Craig! (and the kids). And glad you are no longer experiencing the writer’s block. :)

  2. Thanks, Tristi. We’ve been telling people in person up to now, but this is my first mention of it on the internet. :) I’m feeling soooo much better than a month or so ago…physically and mentally.

  3. The photo of your first baby in front of the piano is the perfect accompaniment (ha ha) to the announcement of baby 3 (or Baby G, as I like to call him/her). Now we need a photo of the top of the piano – along with the piano key sunburst and the family initials.

    I’ve been enjoying this series. You always come up with something interesting to say.

    • I really, really wanted to do a super long post including all that, but my word count was laughing at me. So, looks like sometime soon I’ll need to write Piano Part II. :)

  4. I love this idea. I do a similar exercise with photos, capturing the random “us-ness” of our house. From where I sit at my dining room table now, I can see a small shelf on the righthand wall, only a foot and a half wide and a few inches deep. It houses two empty wine bottles – “the Show”, the brand is called – with brightly colored labels of a horse and rider. There is a Fiestaware cup with swirly handles, piled full with old wine corks. We write the date and occasion on them sometimes to remember. There is a wine glass with a platinum rim full of the same, and sticking out of the top a jack-o-lantern face made of a paper plate, orange paint and black construction paper cut-outs for the face. E must have made that a year or two ago; I found it as I unpacked our decorations last week. The wine glass sits next to a note in a beaded frame, the note that it came with almost 7 years ago to the day. It reads, “Amanda and David, Welcome to your new home. May it provide as many happy memories for you as it did for us. Drink a toast to your new life…” We found the note, held down by the shiny-rimmed glass, sitting on the built-in hutch in the dining room when we walked through the door that first day.

    • This is what I’m talking about! Such meaning can pour from the things that gather in our everyday environments. I love how the cork collection is filling cups and almost spilling over. Such a great way to mark happy events and the passing of time together. And the framed note…isn’t there some kind of special bond between those who lived in your home before or after you? I know I feel it (http://messageinamasonjar.com/2012/09/20/when-i-cannot-write-a-story/). Thanks for writing the exercise…great stuff you’ve shared here.

  5. Firstly, congratulations sweet Darcy!! I wondered when I saw a couple of snapshots from the conference… ;)

    Secondly, I LOVE this post. Love it.

    Thirdly, the innards of our kitchen junk drawer… A bag of Sharpies of every conceivable color, a book of Hoop&Yoyo fun lunchbox notes, the turquoise and green paisley return address stickers that were my first ever eBay purchase, a tiny capsule with my Chloe’s lost baby teeth, our Christmas card from 2010 that I love to see all year round, Tropical Punch LipSmacker gloss, pencils for creating and learning exercises. There are the toenail clippers for our new golden pup, a lone acorn rescued from the washing machine once upon a time, scrap ribbon from Chloe’s school picture hairdo, Elizabeth’s multiplication flash cards, one of Henry’s much-loved matchbox cars.
    The list could go on and on. And although I have a smidgen of guilt over its eclectic contents, I do treasure the haphazard collection of life tucked within this drawer. And I also notice that while it may seem messy and is even called the junk drawer- none of it is junk to me.

  6. Pingback: A Tale of Teaming Up {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 13} | Message in a Mason Jar

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