Middleway Medicine

Something Worth Collecting

My family and I take our summer holiday at the coast. We typically land at a campground in the redwoods, spending our days surfing, hiking, kayaking and walking the beach. For many years, I would wake with the sun and walk the beach looking for agates and jasper that had been polished by the sea and sand. Over time, I collected quite the assortment of treasures that I display in glass mason jars on our window sills, or in our garden beds. My wife used to joke that she was a “rock widow” when we went to the coast because I would disappear for hours at a time, leaving her on her own. After years of seeking treasures to carry away and store, my interest has begun to shift. 

Collecting things can be quite hypnotic. We find something beautiful, something that calls to our sense of fancy and we make a mission of expanding our hoard. After all, we reason, if something is beautiful, more of something must be even more fulfilling. So we collect. We collect stamps, stones and shoes. We collect Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch Kids and junk. It is easy to hoard when you live in a culture of abundance, but sooner or later we start to buckle under the weight of it all. Our collections swell until we can no longer see the beauty of the individual pieces. Then we start to collect collections. Where does it all end, this seeking to find contentment in things outside of the self? 

Summer is the season of fire. Fire doesn’t claim ownership of things. Fire is passion, discovery and creation. Fire is insight and wonder. In Chinese medicine we say that the first step to achieving balance in our lives is to move stagnation. Only when the things that bog us down are released, do we have the room to tonify, or build up the things in ourselves that truly nourish us. Fire burns away all of the things that don’t serve us: the dead remnants of another time, the collections of things that weigh us down. New life, new inspiration can only really happen when we have created room for things to root. Like a forest after a fire, life often grows best when there is space to let the sunshine in. Mother Nature knows that there is a time to grow and collect, and then there is a time to let go. Summer is a good time to ask yourself what it is that you carry that doesn’t serve you, and allow some things to fall away. 

After years of collecting stones, my focus has begun to shift. Now, I often walk by rocks that I would have grabbed and carted away. I have also begun taking some agates that I have sequestered in my home and taking them back to the beach, where I strategically drop them in front of a person walking along the beach a little ways behind me. I have come to discover that it is not the ownership that got me so excited about finding treasures, it was the discovery. Sharing this experience with others is something worth collecting.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button