“Gather: To cause to come together; convene.
To accumulate (something) gradually by means.
To collect into one place; assemble
To draw about or bring (one thing) closer to something else
To summon up
To attract or be a center of attraction for”
“a person who gathers; ‘they were a society of hunters and gatherers.'”
I have so many awesome and insightful memories of my late mother-in-law (who was, hands-down, the most passionate and erudite woman I know, someone who just accumulated a database of random, but useful knowledge in her information brain bank). One interesting tidbit of info she said (I barely remember the context, but it always struck a chord) that somewhere in her findings, she said biologists and anthropologists conclude that men and women still have in their biological makeup, the need to “hunt” and “gather” in their DNA. That might seem quite obvious in some circumstances. Obviously one of the universal and stereotypical complaints of husbands about their wives is that there’s way too much “crap” in the house. Uh . . . DUH! WE GATHER, COLLECT, ORGANIZE (well I hardly do actual “organizing” part, but I would say most women are known as excellent organizers!) and SAVE crap too. Yes, there’s always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, it seems true enough.
As my mother-in-law and I brainstormed together we realized, yes absolutely, we both are obsessed with gathering stuff! She LOVED all cleaning supplies . . . yet she had a cleaning service come every 2 weeks to clean her house. But anytime we went to The Container Store she couldn’t help herself and she would buy all those orange funky sponges or mops that looked like some Sesame Street character designed by some Danish industrial line, and while paying for them at the cash register (and no they weren’t “cheap,”) she would sheepishly grin at me that they were so “pretty.” She also obsessed about shoes – there were 4 closets filled with them. And she was notorious at work for having piles and piles of paper, folders, files, you name it, scattered around her office, but ask her where something was and she would carefully pluck a sheet from the MIDDLE of a 5 inch pile without a blink of an eye and silently hand it to you.
I, on the other hand, am an “artist.” I can’t help but gather as much crap as possible because 3 years later– I really will see it as the perfect found Target patterned paper for that art piece I can now use it for– so I can’t help it! Not only gathering supplies, I LOVE books and magazines. Obviously, I tell myself, I’m just fulfilling my creative impulse to fill as many drawers, tubs, boxes and sketchbooks as possible with my images that catch my eye for future projects, piles of torn pages from magazines and books. I can’t ever through those away.
I have amassed (no joke!) I believe over 1,238 bookmarks in my firefox browser alone, mostly on art, artists, design, interior design, travel and of course favorite bloggers websites. I have hundreds of images I collect over the internet from favorite artists I like. I also have thousands of random images I keep of my own artwork from over the years, art from museums I’ve visited, random shots of random things I though pretty, and from every single international trip, I’ve taken thousands of things I thought were interesting . . . which coming home I asked myself, “wait . . . why did I take a photo of that again?” I have every single piece of music composed by Beethoven, (obviously LOVE classical music), as well as almost every single DVD series from the past 10 years at least from BBC or PBS British Classic Drama! I’m obsessed with books – but not just the normal romantic or historical fiction kind no — I always hunt through the art, design, craft and photography sections seeing if there is anything interesting in there. I always start in the magazine sections — this gives me a clue to what I’m interested in at the moment (like what music you want to listen to sets the mood!). I love the ancient mysteries and New Age section and occasionally skip through the cookbooks to see if there’s something interesting that I would love to aspire to cook but pretty much hardly ever do.
But it’s not jut STUFF, it’s other immaterial things too like ideas, information, stuff to research. I LOVE brainstorming sessions. With my mother-in-law, we were the world’s brightest think tank solving all the world’s problems over a mountain cookie and twin Starbucks hot chocolate! She routinely watched the daily morning shows, which we realized too are just a smorgasbord of random info pulled together mainly for . . . a woman’s audience! She also loved reading every Economist issue front and back as much as a good historical novel about Elizabeth the I.
The worst though is that I’m also quite messy. I have “reminder piles” I call them lying around my house. They could be clothes I need to fold or hang or want to wear in the next couple of days. There could be shoes at the front door, dishes in a pile for putting in the dishwasher, books, random papers, anything lying about that “reminds” me that I need to do something with it. I gather everything and anything! If I don’t see it I literally don’t remember it. My husband gets uber frustrated with me! He remembers everything . . . in his HEAD. And I cannot remember a thing unless I see it in a pile of stuff that I’ve gathered together.
This rant also does relate directly back to my artwork and painting process. It’s messy but there’s a purpose to it. When I work I get everything out at once and work on all pieces of artwork, bouncing around in my “piles” of painting and paints. Gathering different media to collage into. I like having all my paints out, my brushes everything so I can see them and make decisions quickly based on what I see. I always leave everything “out” until I finish all of the paintings. Then I pack everything up at all at once to clean and put things away. That’s the way I cook, that’s the way I do laundry, that’s the way I work on projects. I realize I tend to wait and wait until things pile up and I gather enough stuff to do something with it.
And on top of those things above you may think, “well that sounds like anyone, everyone has their interests, their quirks and their unique habits about acquiring random stuff physical or digital.”But the female gatherers are unique — if you are doubtful, just look at all the fabulous blogging women out there! They “gather” everything and anything that’s beautiful, useful, informational, decorative, fashionable, unfashionable, vintage, new, kid-related, cooking-related, crafty, DIY projects, technological, etc. you name it! Thousands of successful and thoughtful blogs on whatever topic is fascinating to them with their own unique spin is an enormous resource out there right now. It’s damn impressive actually! And we all eat it up! Why Pinterest is known for being 90% women who are gathering images of everything from travel to weddings to cooking to house paint.
So, yes, we women, have it in our blood pointing to the inevitable factoid that we ARE GATHERERS. I embrace this! It must be because we love learning new things, new ideas and new ways of doing something and then we love sharing it! We communicate, share, learn, share and communicate. It’s a fascinating network–we gather for each other, learn from each other and then bring back new insights to the whole. It’s a very enriching and healthy process! And the more we learn, share and grow, the smarter we all are.
So, I have formally decided to embrace this label. It seems a word that has so much potential for me. The possibilities of gathering and then piecing together to see the bigger picture gives my brain ultimate pleasure. I finally realize it now and stop blaming myself for my compulsive behavior. The more I research the web, the more I’m sincerely blown away by the creative worlds I want to be a part of, the people I would love to connect and meet with someday, the ideas that blow my mind and make me inspired, and the stories that touch my soul.
I am PROUD to be a “gatherer,” and so should you.