The majesty of small things

Hummingbird nest, DuPage County Illinois–held together with sticky threads from spider webs.

Think, for a moment, about the tiny treasures in your home. Is it the aesthetics of these beauties that you like? The stories connected to them? Maybe both? If you wanted to hold one of these finds in your hand right now, where would you find it? Stuck in the back of a drawer or out where you can see it?

1901 spoon, 4 inches long


Maple seed pods


3 inch tall face, carved into the handle of a hand-crafted broom

Unadorned by deep-pocketed branding campaigns and maybe just sitting there in all their unassumingness, tiny, beautiful things have a way of turning a tabletop into an altar, a corner shelf into a shrine.

Handcrafted pottery, Petoskey, Michigan, 2.5 inches tall

My own small gems hold history, craftsmanship, and warm imperfection, having come about either through the work of human hands or the determined handiwork of Mother Nature or one of her industrious creatures. I love the way these wee treasures telegraph their own fundamental sense of completeness, as if to say, This is all there is, and it’s enough. 

I find that I’m able to bring a concentrated, saturated type of attention to a two-inch tall forged brass bell, with its scattered spots of tarnish and intricate leaf motif, in a way that’s just not possible with, say, the Taj Mahal, Grand Canyon, or any number of the more expansive splendors. Too, small spots of magnificence— just-opening seedpods, hand-carved broom handles—have a way of inviting any one of us out of the abstracted world of our own over-churned thinking and planting us more deeply right where we are, smack dab in the middle of the here and now.

Circa 1945 5-inch hand-crafted paintbrush
3-inch glass disk, a gift from a now-longtime friend

How to be what Saul Bellow referred to as a first-class noticer?  Small things can be particularly gratifying to notice, worthy of full, undivided attention and found quite literally everywhere, quietly regal in their presence and often bringing with them, if even for a moment, a welcome, much-needed diversion from whatever it is that’s laying claim to you right now.