I collect owl stuff, okay?
That’s just a voice in my head on top of Clara. You probably have one or two of your own. And I’m asking you here; does that sound belligerent? Do you detect a note of defensiveness? Am I concerned that you might consider my collection stupid, uninteresting, trashy, or worst of all, laughable? Am I imagining showing you around my house, tensely waiting for a positive response to the liberally scattered owls staring, in their famously bug-eyed ways, at our progress? When said positive response hits the audible range, shall I relax because I feel, however faintly, “They get me?”
Ho hum. Of course I am not like SUPER tense about this, no; just a tiny bit. But I am aware the irascible owl-stuff-den-mother-me is sometimes there, lurking behind my smile, waiting for you to A. notice there are too many owls here and B. express an opinion on the matter.
It is interesting to watch my internal guidance system work, like the gauges on an instrument panel, as I show folks some of my collection. Do you, the owl collection viewer, read flat, no needle movement, on the owl collection meter? Or do you, say, ask me where I obtained that cute plaque? When I texted a photo of my stuffed owl to my granddaughter, she said “Adults don’t have stuffed animals!” The emperor’s new clothes… is that what everyone’s thinking about my Theena, including the 5 year olds?
If the response seems positive to my owls, the collector protocol says I will have no need to run a witness-for-the-defense tape. I have a whole closet stuffed floor to ceiling with these defense tapes (facsimile above). The newer recordings are, I suppose, CD tracks or MP3s. The older ones are the most troublesome and numerous, though, and are probably actual tapes, cassettes and VHS. I’ve been collecting them for a while, and decades of that while, I was married. So, like Jacob Marley’s chain, it is a formidable collection. Note: I have found no defense whatsoever for an adult going to bed with a stuffed animal, so that’s good. I highly recommend doing things that you are at a loss to defend.
Not that I will usually play a defense tape out loud, mind you. That would be too undignified; and certainly the owls would glare at me. As we tour together, instrument panel lit up, I may be endeavoring idiotically and futilely to see my owls through your eyes. “Hmmm… that one is pretty cheap porcelain, maybe I should donate that one. This one is hung too close to the other.” And all that sort of crap. Or maybe, since I am a consummate know-it-all and everyone knows it, someone will ask me what I know about a type of owl portrayed. I worry lest I fall short in their eyes when the Wizard of Oz curtain is pulled and there is nothing there but an old lady who collects cheap figurines.
But then again, perhaps you, the touree, ask, “How did you start collecting owl stuff?” and that would probably be in a bright, cheerful tone that means I can relax; no defense needed. It’s the silent ones that are thinking dismissive or derogatory thoughts about my owl stuff, and nothing I can respond to there. So then I’m back to doing it in my head.
Oh yeah, since you ask; reasons for collecting owls. The initial impulse was a feeling of connection with the feminine wisdom principle, and the owl is an embodiment of that, thus Theena’s name. Next fact; I collect smallish things, and figurines especially. I have a collection of sand tray figurines, for example, hundreds of them, from Elmo to Medusa. Small things don’t take up too much room. I hate big, heavy things in part because I like to change things up in my environment.
Which brings me to the third, and ultimately most absolving reason for my collection; gifting. You know how it is, at least with a lot of women; we are awesome the way we do the whole gifting thing. And not just friends and sisters-of-another-mother, but sisters and sisters-in-law and daughters and daughters-in-law, in my case. The ones that get gifts but don’t give them are not even included here. You’ve got a minimum of 2 gifts (sometimes a card suffices) to dig up a year, per friend or close family member; birthday and Christmas.
Some valiant members of the club also come up with Valentine’s Day gifts, Easter baskets, hostess gifts (very common here in the Midwest, when they bring candy, flowers, wine, baked goods, a dish towel, or really anything, adding a little note of love and appreciation sometimes), and/or traveling gifts (like when they go on a trip and bring something back for you). Just thinking about it is overwhelming right now. But no worries, we have all year to do it. You can save some gifting events by never go anywhere notable.
So really, it helps a LOT when someone comes up with a theme or two, but that’s not a thing you can fake (hopefully). Then we compulsive gifters are not groping in the dark. Personally, I consider myself a good gift receiver if I somehow provide some guidance to the gifter, though this is truly a subtle thing. It’s not cool to be like “Listen up! Here’s what I want for my birthday!” or “I do have an Amazon wish list…” My children already know about that last, but then most of them are not women. The subtleties of the feminine gifting game can be daunting to impossible for the some of the non-fair sex, just sayin’. Don’t want to exclude them here.
But as usual, I digress; because the subject of gifting is a fascinating one to me. Why is the subject of gifting most important to the defense? You probably forgot that I was even making a point, such is my consummate skill at distraction, but I usually make sure to get back to it. My tip for all you collectors out there is, if you want a really good defense for your collection, then you deflect by make somebody else responsible. I’m sure that behavior needs no elaboration, since we are all in touch with that emotion. You can just throw your hands up helplessly; “People just keep giving me all this owl stuff!” Deflection shield employed.
Moving into a lower layer of my owl collection angst, we find the matter of collecting itself. In a country where many experience abundant opportunities to have and to hold, the collection urge is perhaps normative. Whether it’s music in the cloud, or shoes, or guns, or wine, or pillows, or likes on our Facebook page, collecting is all the rage. Perhaps you, yourself, have never felt anything but happiness in regard to collections in the theoretical sense, and then good for you.
However, I grew to adulthood in a pretty counterculture situation. My Mom, for instance, a sort of Bohemian or pre-hippie I suppose, scorned the cranberry glass and crystal her mother gifted her. And one of the theoretical tenets of hippiedom, a culture I joined with in my youth, was non-materialism, surely. “People who collect stuff are just gosh-darn materialists“, is the concept that proceeds from that hippie stereotype, and materialists are not spiritual. Thus did Osho/Rajneesh shock contemporary New Age spiritual seekers (and others, of course) with his collection of Rolls Royces.
However, as time and experience had their ways with me over the years, I figured out that’s not really the case; it’s not true that people who collect stuff are categorical materialists. Because, as I always say, it’s not what you do, it’s who you are when you do it. “Materialist” is meaningless unless it implies that people are attached to their stuff; they prop up their identities with physical objects. Ownership matters. In a culture like ours, I’d sure like to meet the one who doesn’t do this to some wee extent.
So, according to my book, the old negative judgment of materialists doesn’t hold water, since we’re all doing it. It just makes people with spiritual aspirations all uptight, wondering if it’s OK to have 2 mugs instead of 1, if it’s OK to own a car, or apparently whether or not it’s OK to sweep the goshdarn floor.
Attachment to “stuff”, from my perspective is, simply, a lack of flow, that free essence of the art of gifting. Though I love my owls, I have no illusions that they do anything for me but bring delight. Each one gifted brings to mind some certain donor or fun day of adoption. They came to me on the winds of change, as it were; they shall, like myself, leave on another gust one day.
If one should break, I know it’s the correct moment for it to pass. Nobody would steal them, so no worries there. I don’t expect to go down in history as an owl collector, to get into the Guinness Book of Records, my obituary reading, “Colleen owned the most valuable collection of owl stuff in the freaking world.” Which is theoretically a joke, but the child in me believes it might be a fun objective. She’s liable to get excited about impossible stuff, though, because she doesn’t care if it ever happens. She’s happy already, just thinking about it.
So the issue with having a collection of ANYTHING is there in the owl collection courtroom, but only applies in that specific old school spirituality group, for a person can be more attached to a ratty futon or a marijuana stash than I to my owl collection. And here I rest my case. You may step down from the witness stand. Thanks for listening, and checking out my owls. In this forum I have no fear of negative reaction, as I don’t expect any at all.
I recommend owls; I recommend collecting; I recommend materialism. It’s humbling and in that way good for the soul. But mostly, I recommend loving something enough that you want to pat it before you pull up the blanket, enough that it brings loving smiles when you unwrap a gift, and enough that your mind and heart want to defend it against attack, real or imaginary. And so it is.
This lady’s a little more ambitious than I am …