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.

Collections with heart and meaning fill this family home
Collections with heart and meaning fill this family home

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.

A stunning collection of gifts from nature embellishes the bookcase
A stunning collection of gifts from nature embellishes the bookcase

New Collections

Ancient fish and dragonfly fossils from earth combine with meteorites from space
Ancient fish and dragonfly fossils from earth combine with meteorites from space

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.

A snake spine tops a collection of books about treasures from the earth
A snake spine tops a collection of books about treasures from the earth

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.

A collection of deer antlers fill an elegant bowl on the piano
A collection of deer antlers fill an elegant bowl on the piano

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.

The big bold lab Tucker age 5 a long ago treasured friend
The big bold lab, Tucker age 5, a long ago treasured friend

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.

The kids collection of treasures for their mom
The kids collection of treasures for their mom

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.


Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 11 comments
  • Maudie K.

    Wonderful !
    Enjoyed this..mucho !
    Just happens to be gem show,now in Tucson..largest in world.
    Every country,is here…Tucson,is full to the brim…not, one hotel/motel room available…local home owners…rent rooms for this agent..
    Come next year so, you too can experience! 💋

  • Kirby Kendrick

    Oh my, oh my….just when I thought Linda’s prose had reached the heights, she enchants us all with this true-life fairy tale of hope and love. I am forever a fan of Linda’s blog!

  • Caroline Thibeaux

    Love how you put it all together.

  • patricia zinn

    What an absolutely beautiful story with the very best outcome. Thank you all for sharing, and formatting the writing with lovely vignettes of the family’s collections.

  • Carol Kendrick Womack

    I love your blog! and the beautiful rooms that you create. I love color, rocks, plants, animals, and grandchildren.
    Thank you for sharing!.

  • Nyla Puccinelli Moore

    Love reading your blogs!! They have really touched my heart.
    This family you wrote about seems so filled with sincere love for
    each other. I am so happy that she recovered from the cancer and she is able to continue with her creativity.
    Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with lots of hugs and kisses!!

  • Lynn

    Linda, this is a magical story of the truly creative life lived with love, and the tale you wove caught me spellbound. As I read, I kept thinking, what will happen next? Thank you for sharing another rich example of soulful living through your words and images. Bravo!

  • Sarah Hughes

    I love visiting homes that reach out and touch your soul. And every time you go in, you discover something new. What a magical love story.

  • Renate

    Happy Valentines Day! You are so special to many of us…………..


    Great comments on a splendid and touching story. Thanks as ever to you Linda.

  • Barbie

    Linda you are one with a magic touch and a soulful heart , it definitely shows in your blog. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful friendships and happy endings with us. Can’t wait until the next one!

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