E+E column: The simple pleasures; a stick collection

(I have recently had the pleasure of being asked to write a weekly column for the Monday edition of the Exeter Express and Echo. As they don’t publish the columns on their website, I’ve decided to post mine here every Wednesday.)

The mind of a small child must be a most wonderful place to be; simultaneously incredibly simple and completely unfathomable. Isaac has been collecting sticks. The collection snuck up on me with no warning. He always picks up sticks, wherever we go – even if we’ve just popped out to the shops, somewhere you imagine there to be no sticks, he seems to return clutching one triumphantly. I started to realise that these sticks were scattered around the house, building up in the most inconvenient places, the stairs, dining room table, kitchen sides… I declared that all sticks must live outside (a kill joy I know). Isaac was pretty unfazed by this declaration but did request a vessel to store said sticks. In fact, it was at this point that he first uttered the phrase ‘stick collection’. Although, actually, what I think he said was ‘my collection of hitting sticks’.

So, a suitable container (broken seaside bucket) was scavenged and now the stick collection (of whose use is apparently for hitting) now lives in the garden, conveniently located right next to the back door when it is constantly being kicked over, sticks reclaimed and somehow finding their way, yes, that’s right…back inside the house. But who’s to argue with such an easy collection. Sticks are free, they’re everywhere. And the process of finding and claiming them seems to be one that requires much thought and produces unending joy. In fact, so skilled at choosing just the right stick is my son that, at Forest School (which as you might imagine, takes place in a forest – a place abundant with sticks), he was the target of much envy from a small friend having chosen apparently the most desirable stick in the whole woods.  To our untrained eye, they are all much of a muchness. But from the skilled perspective of a three year old boy, apparently they are incredibly unique and distinguishable. Is it the length? The girth? The species of tree or bush from which it came? Or does it depend on what use it is intended for – marshmallow cooking, fire lighting, painting, or indeed…hitting?

So the stick collection remains (mostly outside). And grows… Perhaps when it comes to fire season this winter, some of them might find their way into the burning pile. Only in the interest of keeping the collection to a manageable size of course. But on the whole, how can I deny the simple pleasure of keeping and building a stick collection? If only as adults we could take quite as  much joy from such a small and easy thing.


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