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THE PAST AND FUTURE: There is a collector in all of us
I LOOK at the magpie and I see a very common bird with white and black feathers. What is intriguing is perhaps the stuff that a magpie collects painstakingly to put into its nest, bright things usually.
Like the magpie, there is a collector in all of us. Collections of coins, matchboxes or stamps are quite unfamiliar to those born after the millennium but they were the stuff that some people born before the millennium were proud of. But the innate desire to collect is still prevalent judging from the mountains of stuff people usually bury themselves under when consumer culture milks the "magpie instinct".
How else can we explain the number of souvenirs that we have collected from our travels that were "must-haves" once but now lie sadly on the dusty shelf or, worse still, in a box in the attic. The wise collector could very well develop into the indiscriminate hoarder if he is not careful.
So we collect for the past and for the future.
I like to collect memories. I had scrapbooks, diaries, albums and letters. Then I progressed to floppy diskettes, CDs and data stored in cyberspace. But everything has a lifespan.
The scrapbook became moth bitten, the floppy diskette became obsolete. Even memories kept in the head become faint over the years as Alzheimer's disease looms forebodingly.
I like to collect plans for the future. Things that I wish to have or to experience in five to 10 years' time. That cottage, that certain style of living, that trip round the world, that moment when children have secured successful jobs and that day when I have enough money in the bank to live happily ever after. But the best of plans will always remain plans until they are actualised. Even the best of plans can be destroyed by unseen circumstances, leaving us feeling shortchanged.
So I have consciously decided to make a magpie's nest of the present. But that does not mean that I have stopped remembering the past. I still painstakingly collect moments that have meant something to me, especially photographs. I still plan for the future. But I make it a point not to forget to add the beautiful things of the present into my magpie's nest.
The present is the morning that you wake up and know that you are still alive and that there is a bed to sleep in and you can smell the fresh sheets about you. It is to look from the window to see the grass growing in the backyard, the wild birds fighting over the seeds that you put out for them, the bins that store yesterday's rubbish and the job that is waiting for you.
The present is the afternoon when you are still at the office and there is work to be done that guarantees your paycheck at the end of the month. It is the afternoon when you are sick in bed and need that rest. It is the afternoon when you have cooked lunch and the aroma of roast and stew permeates the whole kitchen.
The present is the evening when you are driving back from the office and there is traffic jam but the music in the car continues to play. You see others caught in the jam because it is the rush hour and you are thankful that at least people are working and there are jobs and people are not hungry. The evening is when there is dinner prepared for you because you were at work and someone else minded your children and home while you were at work. The evening is when you come home to be with the people and animals that you love.
The present is the summer when you feel the heat, the autumn when the leaves begin to fall, the winter when the ground is cold and icy and the spring when life begins again. It is that song, that movie, that book or that cup of coffee that you enjoy by yourself or with someone dear. It is remembering to make that phone call or write that note or tell someone that you love him and appreciate what he has done for you. The present is also that nagging cough, that worrying sore throat or that miserable runny nose.
The present is life.