Tonight I opened the “domestic box”; the box in which I packed away all the books, pamphlets, souvenirs and such that I collected on the road trip last year. Thankfully, I’d had the foresight to organize it a bit when I was laying over in Sacramento between road trip and the international leg, so everything is neatly in chronological order, rubber-banded into little stacks.
In one corner of the box I found a small white paper bag, a few inches square and about an inch thick. I picked it up and was surprised how heavy it was for such a small package, and wondered what on Earth could be inside. Unfolding the top, I reached inside and pulled out a small stack of magnets.
Now, generally speaking, I’m not a collector. Not for lack of desire, mind you. The problem for me as a collector is mostly that I have too many interests, and thus lack the long-term focus to be a true collector of, well, anything.
When I was a kid, there was a school program to get kids involved in stamp collecting. No doubt sponsored by the Postal Service, they brought in handouts and little bags of stamps, and got everyone in class to think that collecting stamps from around the world was the absolute coolest thing in the world. So, like the rest of my class, I started collecting stamps, asking for expired ones from my parents and relatives, and eventually amassing a few dozen from all around the world. I didn’t grow up to be come a philatelist. Like the rest of my class as well, it wasn’t long before I lost interest and reverted to my normal hobbies, which mostly involved making up adventures with my Star Wars and LEGO toys).
My stamp “collection”? I still have it, stuck in a box somewhere, never having taken the time to take it to a stamp dealer to see if anything in the collection is worth anything. Who knows? Maybe I have an unknown fortune in there.
So I’m not a collector. Like most folks, though, I had a few magnets on the fridge at my last apartment in L.A., most of mine from National Parks. There was one from Yosemite, with 1930′s period art, a couple from Death Valley, etc. Right now, they’re no doubt stored in a box labeled “kitchen” somewhere in storage.
So while I may not be a collector like blog-friend Homer-Dog (check out the widget on his blog that shows off his impressive magnet collection), I decided when I started the road trip to pick up a few along the way. I gave myself one hard and fast rule, though: I’d only buy magnets from National Parks. No national monuments, battlefields, factory tours, tourist sites, museums, or anything else. Keep it simple, and maybe it’s a collection I can actually stick with, my thinking goes.
I walked over to the fridge with my little magnetic stack and started placing them on the door. I’m not really trying to “move into” this place, since I don’t know how long I’ll be here for, but I figure a few fridge magnets is a simple enough decoration. Plus, no damage to the walls that might negatively impact my deposit when I depart.
After I’d arranged the magnets, I stepped back to take them in. It was the first time I’d seen them together, and I had an unexpected rush of emotion. I don’t know the cause. Maybe because I knew my year of travels was over. Maybe amazement at the places I’d been in those few months on the road. Maybe awe at the diversity of our world.
Whatever the reason, I definitely felt emotion in my chest, and found I had to lean against the counter for a few minutes as it washed over me.
And yes, it’s true. There’s one magnet in the picture that is most decidedly not from a National Park. What’s the fun of a “hard and fast rule” if you can’t break it now and then?