The one thing that I remember from the study of sociology in college, one man’s tidy is another man’s mess.
Keep that in mind. It really sets the understanding for the differences in how we all see the world.
My brother, Lin, fell in love with Sylvia in college. She is one of the most spirited people in my life and has inspired my thinking in uncountable ways. Sylvia officially joined our family when I was 19, marrying Lin in her hometown of Richmond, VA, so I’ve known her for most of my life.
I watched her create a family from scratch and raise two great kids. I watched her become so many things: a great cook, an artist at the potter’s wheel, a doting mother, a caring wife and loving sister. One thing that she has maintained through all of this is her free-spirited ways and her constant interest in the uniqueness of the world around her. She finds almost guilty pleasure in the tiniest of things; their monetary value meant little if they attracted her.
Over the years Sylvia started collecting more and more, snatching up things that struck her fancy and represented cultures other than her upbringing echoing the varied and interesting places she and Lin lived over their lives together.
From deep inside of West Virginia to three years in Venezuela to a decade in Tennessee and, now, Florida, pieces began appearing on their walls and floors and in outside gardens.
While in Knoxville, Sylvia began to get deeper into the collection business. Picking up items that she imagined for someone other than herself, unsure for whom sometimes, but sure that it would please someone she loved sometime in the future.
At our Christmas gathering, Sylvia would bring out items and work the room to find the right person to match to the right piece.
Their basement slowly crowded in with the excess of things yet given away, a point that caused Lin to lament the fact on occasion that he’d lost room for any storage of his stuff. He humored her until their move to Florida called for downsizing. They spent a good deal of time culling through the piles in preparation.
I imagine the difficulty of that process. The article by article decision that meant in letting go of a piece of clothing or artifact, she had to let go of the story behind it, the reason it attracted her attention in the first place. A heart wrenching process for sure.
Remember one man’s tidy is another man’s mess.
Sometimes, when you wait, you see what appeared as a mess to you turns into a full-blown work of art before your very eyes.
That’s the case, as it turns out, when Sylvia’s collection and my eyes came together during our visit to their home in West Palm Beach this spring.
All about their Florida ranch home, positioned in just the proper place, appeared item after item of collectibles. I have grown to know many of them over the years, but many were new to me and all perfectly placed.
I took pictures all throughout their home, focusing on each individually, from small carpets, to wall hangings, framed and unframed, to small sculptures. Later, upon opening my photo library on my phone the photos showed up as small icon-size images inside my iPhone gallery. As I saw them integrated together as one image it revealed the patchwork of combined beauty as a holistic vision that inspired a wonderment of the human spirit of design reflecting a life.
I now see the result of her lifetime of collection raised to the level of its ultimate purpose. The true art behind her mission turned collector into treasure hunter.