As the years pass me by, I find that the number of objects within my possession begins to accumulate. Each item encapsulates within itself a story, akin to an outward manifestation of my inner journey.
– Agnes Chew
The couple met in their thirties in Houston. He took her to a gem and mineral show on their first date. He had started collecting and wanted to impress her with his knowledge. But her father was an armchair archaeologist and had taught her well. He had met his match, and they found in each other a common passion.
A Shared Passion
They married and moved to Northern California, settling in an old cottage in a redwood forest. On their travels, the couple collected stones from many places, all shapes, sizes and colors. One more beautiful than the next, each signifying a time and place in their life together. Their passion for stones of the earth expanded to stones from space as meteorites caught their eye. They bought books on rocks, fossils, gems and various kinds of minerals.
They had two children – a tow-headed boy and girl four years apart. The kids became interested in rocks as they watched their parents’ collection grow. The couple gifted their children with stones, teaching them to revere their beauty and significance. He even wrote a story about meeting with a mineral dealer where he bought meteorites to encourage the kids’ interest in space and its possibilities. He wrote a screenplay and submitted it to Disney.
One year she went to work creating displays for The Nature Company, where a whole new chapter opened on entomology. Their collection expanded to include the study of bugs in all their varied shapes, sizes, colors and beauty.
But deep down in her heart, she was an artist. So she began to capture animals on canvas – yet another passion. Today, paintings of deer, horses and dogs cover her dining room walls, as well as the walls of her friends and clients who have purchased her paintings of four legged creatures.
They also collect antlers shed by deer on the hillside where they live. She places them in a deep brown bowl that sits on the piano where he plays by ear and has a great memory for music and numbers. Alongside the antlers, an array of family photos in beautiful silver frames is grouped above the piano keys.
Plants and Trees
When they moved into their old cottage, the front yard was empty and stark. She bought books and studied plants and trees and, with his help along the way, they transformed their hillside property into a verdant pink and purple oasis.
They taught their children to revere not only stones, but animals, trees, plants and insects – all living things inside, outside and above their home on the hill. Through the years, the kids collected treasures and piled them in a large glass bowl on the coffee table for their mother.
The Family’s Challenge
Then, two days before Thanksgiving in 2010, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Months of the heaviest chemo and radiation took a toll. The glass bowl on the coffee table was filled to the brim with paper, clay, wood, mineral and stone hearts either found or made by her children.
Her son, an artist, is passionate about origami. He filled another bowl with tiny paper storks he made during his mother’s illness. In Japan, storks are symbols of wishes for health. The colorful storks worked their magic. Today she is vital, healthy and strong – gardening, cooking, serving her community and walking their big yellow lab Casey on the mountain.
Lives of Heart and Meaning
Their children have grown up and moved away, but return often to the memories and beauty of the home where their parents taught them to revere nature and the gifts of the earth. This is truly a home where the entire family continues to share what has heart and meaning in their lives – beginning with each other.
I am privileged to have known this family for many years. During all seasons, I’ve loved visiting their home, which is filled with the many soulful collections I have described and admire. It seems everywhere I look, there are sacred objects from nature displayed in bookcases, on walls, tables tops and the piano. It is truly a rare and authentic example of a soulful place created by the inner journey and creative souls of the people who call this 100-year-old cottage in the woods home.