04 Feb 2021

Gather nature and tradition with these memory jars


In the spring of 1961, there was a meeting with my mother and my second-grade teacher, Miss Marion Pierce. Not about grades nor classroom conduct. My mother wanted to know why every afternoon I arrived home with my pockets filled with little pieces of paper. Miss Marion was happy to report that she had noticed playground behavior that involved my policing the yard for bits of rubbish. Mother was concerned that the behavior was OCD. Miss Marion found it charming, admirable and a much better exercise than jungle gym antics.

Onward to middle school, my pockets were soft denim receptacles for unusual rocks, acorns, locust skeletons and seed pods. Thankfully Lady Bird Johnson took over the helm to keep America beautiful, leaving me time to become a naturalist at age eight.

While my friends had jars of marbles and little green plastic soldiers, I had jars of God’s wonderment lining the ledge of my desk. My father, a forester, was always bringing me amazing finds from the woods. Snakeskins, arrowheads, dixie cups planted with unusual botanical specimens. I still have a sarracenia plant that was collected by him in Camden County in 1965.

My mother coined the name Kirk’s Discovery Jars. And the name stuck.

As my nieces and nephew grew older, they were indoctrinated into their uncle’s natural world of discovery.

On Thanksgiving afternoons for decades, after a bountiful lunch, my entire family hiked at our farm west of Savannah, tracing the fields and pastures. Gathered from the hedgerows were abandoned nests, pods, dried berries, mossy twigs and feathers. Along creek beds were collected chunks of mica, arrowheads and smooth stones. All returned home to ironstone bowls and jars for us to remember the day throughout the season. The most prized specimens sometimes found a place on a bough of the giant cedar Christmas tree. 

On your next walk, look down for little jewels of nature. Pocket them and take them home to a special place of honor. I love collecting antique blown glass apothecary jars and old blue Mason jars for that purpose. Artfully layer specimens, paying attention to texture, color and pattern. Use a chopstick to move and adjust elements, being careful not to pack too tightly. Each specimen deserves to shine and complement its neighbor.

Make the memories of your walks part of a personal plateau tradition.

Remember that traditions are really just memories so special that after time they are woven into the fabric of family remembrance. And memories are best when shared.

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