Gifts I Have Been Given

I'm not talking about Holiday gifts, birthday gifts, or end-of-the-year gifts. What I'm talking about are random "I saw this and thought of you" gifts. We all have a personality that shows through our actions, our words, our "decorating" style, and what we get excited about. I obviously get excited about nature. My desk has an assortment of pine cones and other fruiting bodies from different tree species. I enjoy looking at them and I will use them to illustrate form, function, diversity, and patterns. On a side table I have a series of jars of sand, labeled with the beach from which they were gathered. On this same table are rocks and minerals.

My husband is obviously my biggest gift-giver, but students and colleagues have joined in. Here are some of the random things I have been gifted this year:
  • Porcupine quills: This one is not really a gift, but the story is fitting for the post. Collecting porcupine quills from a road kill is something I have done in the past. After being hit by a car, the quills are spread over the road so there is no need to pull them from the dead animal. Porcupine quillwork is perhaps the oldest embroidery practiced by the Native Americans. I have also seen some amazing earrings created from porcupine quills. So driving along Rt 11 in NH one day we saw a road killed porcupine up ahead. My husband glanced over at me and said "You want me to stop, don't you." I just smiled and he pulled over. My son & I collected a handful of quills that were on the edge of the road.
  • Santana CD: OK, so this is not a nature-related gift, but it was something random from a student who knew I liked Carlos Santana.
  • Falcon pellet: This my husband brought home from his job site. He was working on the roof of a building that had a falcon nest. When he presented this to me he was as excited as a boy with a fancy new toy. It was charming.
  • Virgin Gorda Sand: Sand, a small rock and a sea urchin from a student's vacation.
  • Bird carcass: This was also given to me by my husband and also came from the work site where the falcons lived. It was stripped clean of flesh and splayed out in a grotesque figure of death. I could not get as excited about this gift as others because I was not sure how to sterilize it. He had brought it to me because I had been lamenting that I did not have an assortment of animal skulls for my biology class.
  • Live cicada bug: Brought to me by a chemistry student because I had assigned an insect collection project to the biology students.
  • Large quartz crystal: About four inches in length, this crystal was found in the basement of a worksite by my husband. It had been painted on one side, as if it had fallen out of the wall, and is fairly battered, but a beautiful crystal nonetheless.
  • Dragonfly: Found dying by the stairwell by a student in school, it came to me because of the insect displays in the hallway.
  • Paper wasp nest: Given by the school nurse, it is a piece of a large nest she discovered in her yard. It is saturated in wasp spray and presents all the stages of wasp development. The wasps appear frozen in time, emerging from the cells, as they were killed by the pesticide before they could fly away. It is grossly fascinating. The nest is a darker color than was original because of the insecticide application.

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