Nuts are my stepping stones from one moment to the next. Nuts carry me from downtown Seattle to a beach sidewalk in Zihuatanejo to a hillclimb in Valparaiso. Splices of a life, displaying the commonality of humans. We all need nuts yet they remain mostly invisible: in cars and desks and bicycles and cell phones, big nuts on tankers and little nuts in glasses. The mysterious hidden helpers that hold it all together, and then you find these guys strewn all over the street, discarded. So I collect them. I have an orphanage of nuts, a bowl of senior housing, nuts that have served their purpose and found the gutter. Each nut, with the same essential look, looks completely different. It’s a lesson in getting to know something so well that you understand it intrinsically.
Nuts have become my folklore, my own talisman of good luck. Finding a nut always causes me to pause and reflect on what I was just thinking. Each one becomes a sign of grace, that I’ve been touched by the intricate pattern that connects everyone. Having an awareness of the individual nut isn’t the point, I’m interested in the connection – the moment of spotting one, stuck in the mud between a crack in the ground, bending over to dig it out, maybe stopping traffic for a moment, giving me pause to smile and think another one, what a great day. It’s a Thoreau moment, a chance to part the curtain and see the matrix. This isn’t walking with my head down, scouring, searching, demanding that they present themselves to me. It’s being one with the walking, being one with the pavement, being one with the nut. They appear to me because I’m not looking for them. I’m talking, I’m walking, I’m appreciating the clouds, and then I glance down right at a nut. And so far, without exception, I feel childlike, a simple joy in spotting a new old friend. Once in my hand it gets turned over and over, feeling of it, the weight, the texture, the caked dirt from the road slowly falling away.
People will ask what I’m doing, what I plan on doing with this nut. But it’s not about what I’m going to do with it; it’s what it does for me. It no longer serves its original purpose of holding a tangible object together, it has passed over to the symbolic, the iconic, the metaphor. Now it holds everything together. By looking at a nut I’m reminded that the whole world can be found in the smallest piece of the world. When I can’t get my arms around the big picture, I see the nut and realize the simplicity of the issue. A book is made from words, all different, but all words, like a string of nuts.
When I bend down to pick up a nut, it starts a conversation with the person I’m walking with. It becomes a point of entry into a deeper discussion about the world. With some people we’ve veered into discussing materialism, how wasteful our culture is. With some we’ve begun discussing idolatry and how religions divide us. With others the conversation turns to what they collect and what those items mean to them. Each nut carries its own story waiting to be told. Some are bandages, given to friends who are going into surgery. Others are wishes, given to friends celebrating birthdays. One was a promise, given to a boy that I asked to be my husband. The cool thing about these nuts is that even if they drift back into oblivion, slip behind the cabinet or wiggle into a space between the molding and the hardwood, they are still bandages, wishes and promises. They will always carry their purpose. Let go of the object, and finally own the meaning deep inside of you. No matter how useless they may appear strewn across the pavement, they hold our dreams and radiate our stories of moments passing.
I have begun to put these words together to form the story of the nut, which I believe is intimately intertwined with the story of the philanthropist.