A Cabinet of Countryside Curiosities For All
Curiosity is the cornerstone of any creative mind.
An inquisitive nature that refuses to take things at face value. A soul that looks deeper into the world around them and spends time reflecting, thinking, processing. Curiosity is a blessing (and can also be a curse) but is also a trait that garners immense riches when applied to life outdoors.
It is curiosity that forced me outside into my garden on chill winter mornings in November, as I chronicled the tiny changes in the garden at a time of year I used to consider ‘dead’. It is curiosity that has seen me poring over the tiniest of flowers and plants in the garden, as I become romantically entwined with a specific plant, rather than worrying about the state of the lawn.
But it is also this inquiring soul that has seen me start to amass a rather wonderful collection of curiosities, as I build a nature table made up of objects that are natural, beautiful and full of intrigue.
‘Cabinets of curiosities’ date back to c. 1600, and were collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined in Renaissance Europe.
As we move into more modern times, these became collections of many different forms, from archaeological and religious relics, to works of art, antiquities and of course, objects of natural history. And for the curious mind, the outdoors offers a rich bounty of different curios to feed the soul and fire the creative within all of us.
Interestingly enough, these were rarely actual cabinets, with the term more loosely referring to an area of a room. Alas; the curious mind digresses…
In a world where real meaning is often being eroded through apathy, technology (or both), there’s something wonderfully human about collecting different objects from the outdoors. They require slow, considered saunters to discover them; a natural curiosity applied to a walk or time outdoors, free from the frenetic demands of modern life.
They are tangible, unfiltered and real, and I urge every one of you to start building your own nature table, or natural ‘cabinet of curiosities’ to stimulate the mind and nourish the soul.
On one level, they are aesthetically pleasing. From the delicate veined patterns of last year’s hydrangea leaves, to the vivid hues of green and yellow lichen, there is a natural nourishment that comes from having a collection of natural ‘objects d’art’ to look at. They may be ‘everyday’, but every day they also give forth new views, perspectives and thoughts.The delicate strength and sheer variety of materials in a bird’s nest, or the smooth lines of unidentified vertebrae: these objects bridge the curious mind to an uncensored and raw reminder of the real, natural world around us. To hold these objects is to connect with nature in a way that is getting lost through smartphone sanitisation.
And lastly, they each represent something of true meaning. I still remember the sheer excitement on my daughter’s face when we found an abandoned ram’s horn when pottering about near a stream. The empty crab shell, colours jaded now, that represents a time of sheer joy and connection on a beach on Anglesey. These things are far more than a collection of interesting objects: they are markers of meaning.
We live in a consumer society where we’re constantly told to amass, multiply, and collect. That human desire to collect is not to be denied. I just urge you to indulge that motivation in a way that (for me at least) feels infinitely more rewarding, stimulating, and indulging of our natural curiosities.
A nature table is a thing to be embraced. And even if you live in the heart of a city, there are a thousand different objects just waitingto be found if you’re curious enough to seek them out.