A few days ago, I walked down to the mailbox and found a beautiful, five point antler in the damp grass. Treasure! I often pick up smooth stones, tiny crab shells, tumbled driftwood, clumps of beard moss, and other little bits of nature. But the antler… I felt as if I had found the king’s crown! Never before have I stumbled upon an antler.
Only the tip of one elegant point had been damaged. My neighbor studied it. Upon finding no sign of hungry mice, he concluded that the deer must have chipped the antler against a tree. Perhaps. Then, he handed my prize back over.
I did not know mice eat antlers, though. Sheds are full of calcium and minerals, so said my neighbor. I read more. Many animals–squirrels, foxes, porcupines–chew on antlers for nutrients. How efficient and perfectly sensible nature is. By summer, creatures of all types have devoured the antlers shed to the forests and fields.
Back in the Ozarks, I had a deer skull that haunted my bookshelf. I remember finding it in the woods near a dry creek bed. I did not want to touch it, so I lifted it up on a stick before marching home. My granddad told me to bury it in an anthill to get the last little bit of flesh off it. Not wanting to disturb a colony of ants, I left the skull on the downstairs deck to be picked clean by whatever came along.
Sticks, stones, and bones. I would be perfectly happy if someone brought me a pine cone as a gift. These bits of nature fascinate far more than anything people can make–no. That’s not entirely true. Art, in all its forms, holds my interest just as well. To me, though, nature is as much art as it is anything.
That is precisely why I insisted on my husband helping me when I found a lovely piece of driftwood with a smooth arch. It is not a small piece of driftwood. We carried it together. Along the beach, through the dunes, through the pines, along the road, all the way to our home. All because I desired a reference for a painting I’m working on.
What treasures do you find in nature?