Monday, April 13, 2015

Are they collectables, or collectibles?

 It might be hard to imagine a story line that unites the items in these six photos.  In fact, I'm still working on the story.  Let's just say for now that I've been accused of being a "pack rat."  In one sense, I suppose I should confess.  After all, I do hang on to things that to others might seem useless.  However, as a biologist who respects wood rats, I need to point out that the stereotype "pack rat" demeans this imaginative creature, known to biologists as various species of Neotoma.  Rats aside, this introduction to my story includes a couple of photos of a tiny abalone shell, a couple photos of one of my favorite photos (that I didn't take), an ebony letter opener, and one of my favorite books, now out of print.  To be continued....
If you're an abalone diver, or a tourist who has viewed the hundreds of mature abalone shells adorning fences along California's North Coast, like me, you probably have an image in your mind of a "normal" size for abalone, say 5 - 8 inches across. So, the particular appeal of a tiny shell, such as the 1 3/4" specimen in my photos, is in the stimulus provided by contrast.
In a similar vein, a few days ago I came across a student at my college who was staring, jaws agape, at a large, black bird grazing on some errant food scraps.  he muttered "My God, that's some mutant crow!"  It turns out he's from a Central Valley, where the normal size for such birds (actually Crows) was around half the size of this particular bird which was a Raven.  The student was having a similar experience of contrasts from the "normal."  I recall another such experience.  I grew up in Massachusetts where I spent many a day walking through grassy fields and fixing the impression of grasshoppers as being entertaining insects mostly around an inch or less in length.  Years later, when I first encountered dead Lubber Grasshoppers in college dissection labs, then alive on the roads in western Texas, I was "blown away."  They seemed to range from 3 - 5 inches and were actually kind of scary when they landed on you. So, I "collected" this shell and have it for a number of years.  It stirs lots of memories.

One of my favorite photos that I did not take is the one above by one Kurt Klevin. More later.  Time for a break.

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