They’re pebbles. So what? You may say. But these pebbles are not just pebbles. There is one that is long and black and opaque like a triple sized licorice flavoured jellybean. I pulled it out of Great Slave Lake when I was at the first Arctic and Northern Jamboree just outside of Yellowknife in 1968. I gave it to my mother to add to the other treasures I had previously given her from family trips to Lake Huron; the Gaspésie; P.E.I. ; and Nova Scotia.
Mum kept these pebbles in with her sewing stuff and when I was still little and she was sewing I would pretend I was a doctor I would play at her feet and hum and rub these tiny cold pebbles up and down her calves “fixing her” like a doctor would while she operated her little Singer sewing machine or darned socks or sewed patches on pants that had been ripped to shreds by some stupid adventure I may have imagined I was on while at once defying the laws of gravity and common sense and the limitations of cotton or denim.
All the pebbles had several things in common: They had to be smooth and be interesting in some way other than just that they were from a place I had visited. Some had stripes, some were opaque like the first one in this essay, some had a bubble or a tiny flaw caused by erosion. There was a flat one that resembled driftwood. All of them were cool to the touch and viscerally pleasing to me and a little inside intimacy I shared with my mother.
Eventually the number of stones outgrew the sewing kit and my mum moved them to a desk drawer and she kept a few of her favourites in a tiny brass replica of a clawfoot bathtub on the top of her writing desk.
When my mum grew old and started downsizing, she offered her pebble collection to me. I accepted.
I had had my own treasures. My dad had brought me a piece of petrified wood from a business trip to Arizona. Turned my world around to think that wood could actually turn to stone, much (I imagined) like the witch Jadis turned the fauns and dwarves and creatures of Narnia into stone. There was also smooth beach glass and dried samples of butterflies, a Cicada shell, a sand dollar from my Papa’s trip to New Zealand and there were odd feathers and an empty broken Robin’s egg.
As I outgrew the nest and lived in places other than home, these first treasures of mine did not make the cut of being necessary. I had new treasures. A nascent record collection, a stereo, a guitar, and books. Boxes of books. Shelves of books and images to hang on the wall.
One of the first posters I remember owning was a poster of Dennis Hopper on his Harley giving the camera his middle finger.
I had seen Easy Rider with my cousin Thom and I related totally to the outsider, rebel, counter-culture images in that film. The poster is lost to history now, although I just Googled it and got the image above. My mum took the poster down when I first left home to go to University. I guess she didn’t want guests who would stay in what had become the “extra” room to be greeted by a middle finger.
Another significant poster I had is one that I stole. It was Allan Ginsburg’s poem “Howl” set in a very psychedelic print . It was on the wall in a rec. room at a hospital and I remember coveting it and then making my nefarious plan to make it my own. I never actually displayed it. Perhaps it was shame from not getting it honestly or maybe it was just too much to see every day. I do remember recognizing the idea that having something for my pleasure alone robbed others of the opportunity to discover it, but that was after the fact.
I also had a treasured image of a Rhinoceros by Durer. The Rhinoceros party was my favourite political party as a teen-ager. They were absurdist and irreverent and satirical. Everything you would want to govern a country.
I have several objects that have historic value to me only. My great grandfather’s carved Book Of Common Prayer. My Grandfather’s father was a Stone Carver in London England in the late 1800’s.
I have had so many silly objects that are important only to me. Among them a bust that had a light inside (probably used to display brassieres) We fondly referred to it as “The Tits”. They eventually became damaged and were left on the curb in the great upheaval. I also have odd and unusual shaped boxes that I would put old keys and other treasures in.
I have a brass fire hose nozzle that is dear to me. I intend to make it into a lamp one day. I have used it as a candle holder.
Bought it at an apartment sale in 1983 when I lived on Aylmer street in the heart of the “McGill Ghetto” (older residential neighbourhood filled with University students that has homes typically partitioned into small cells). They are solid brass, so quite heavy.
For some reason I don’t throw out sunglasses. This is most of the pairs I have owned since I was 18. One pair at the bottom of the Sacko river. I have always worn the same model (Ray Ban Wayfarers).
Bigger rocks that are perfectly imperfect.
The tub with guitar picks and feather
Such random items bring me joy. Bric a brac. I have lassoed comfort and fond memories in these odd treasures. On the surface these items have zero value. They are not the only things that bring joy and truth, but to me, they are souvenirs of infinite renewal and beauty. I love them and do not wish to part with them, but I will let go of them. When the time comes for me to leave this life and return to dust, They will lose their magic, but may catch someone else’s eye.