It started with laundry, with washing the winter coats and packing them away. When I emptied Plum’s pockets, I found a collection: a pinecone, a mountain of sticks, a rubber snake, a couple of pennies, eight small stones, a crumpled Pokemon card and a jumble of other small bits. It was a fairly typical collection for Plum, but I was surprised to see just how many things he’d managed to fit in. There were 22 sticks between two small pockets and I hadn’t noticed a thing! We’ll chalk that up to the distraction of moving house. Laughing, I arranged it all on the kitchen table and snapped a photo to send to my mom because I thought she’d laugh, too. I also posted it on Twitter, because that’s what we do these days, isn’t it? I can’t say I did that expecting much, because it was only a pile of sticks, but something about it resonated with people because the photo went viral. It’s now had upwards of 15,000 “favourites” on Twitter, about 5,000 “likes” on Facebook and heaps of attention. Newspapers have been in touch and every time I looked at the screen, there were more comments from people all over the world.
You never know what will catch the eye
Many people wrote comments about their memories of their own kids or their own childhoods. They predicted that my collector would grow to be a naturalist or a botanist, an ecologist, an archivist, an archaeologist or an artist. Some commented on the lack of technology or character-based toys. Others said that I’d been lucky not to find anything slimy or living or dead. I tried to comment gracefully or at least to acknowledge comments, but there were soon so many, it was overwhelming. So many beautiful and funny thoughts, all sparked by my small moment of silly maternal humour and sentimentality.
The comments that came closest to the heart of the matter for me reflected that Plum’s collection was evidence of a deepening imagination. That’s how I see it and that’s why it is precious. In each of these small objects, he saw something of value. Each one was chosen and cherished.
Eugene Peterson describes imagination as “the capacity to make connections between the visible and the invisible, between heaven and earth, between present and past, between present and future.” He goes on to say that “for Christians, whose largest investment is in the invisible, the imagination is indispensable, for it is only by means of the imagination that we can see reality whole, in context.”
Imagination isn’t making things up. It is seeing things that are and understanding that they are more than they appear. We heard this preached as the post-Easter message, as the truth of the gospel unfolds around the disciples like a complicated blossom. I see it, too, in my little son’s pocket collection. His sticks were all the same length – about four-year-old palm-length – and, when I asked, he told me that length was good to hold. He reaches for security and comfort. He is learning trust and strength in little things. And what we learn in small things, we seek in big things.
Spring is a rich season for seeing more. I’ve been planting seeds in our new garden with my daughter and, together, we’re looking ahead to growth. Here in May, we see the turned soil, the warming sun and the rain, but as we imagine the summer and the fall ahead, we see more. We see flowers and food. We see our friends around the table, the sliced tomatoes and the beans. We hear their laughter. We see the work and the waiting and we know the warmth and celebration ahead. This, too, is a lesson in trust. We look and we hope to see.
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