Winter color. Drab, dreary, bleak, gray. By February, with few flowers in the gardens and no leaves on the trees, the winter palette can seem pretty subdued. But winter insists that we come in a little closer and open our eyes wider to discover its secret charms. This old wooden typesetter’s tray provides the perfect tableau for appreciating the minute blessings and tiny treasures hidden in the winter landscape. Bring a little something home with you from your evening walks and Sunday hikes. Each velvety tuft of moss, perfectly spiraling pinecone, and cluster of jewel-toned berries will be a quiet testimony to the beauty of nature that constantly surrounds us.
1. Drawers or trays were used in the last century by typesetters to sort letters and symbols. You can find them easily at antique or junk stores, or on eBay. They seem to be in infinite supply, and they come in lots of shapes and sizes, each with a different pattern of dividers. Ours cost about $20 at a flea market.
2. Fill your tray with objects found on your winter wanderings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
• Leaves and feathers: Even in the dead of winter, you can still find leaves with a bit of their fall color left in them. A delicate feather has almost magical beauty whether the bird is elaborately patterned or more subtly attired.
• Seeds and flowers: You’ll be surprised by how abundant berries, nuts, seedpods, and hips are, even in the deep freeze of winter. Looking for these important food supplies will give you new empathy for the birds and other creatures that stay busy foraging all through the cold months. Save a dried flower, maybe something from a summer garden or a bouquet, to remind you of the warmer times behind you and still ahead.
• Pinecones, stones and discarded items: Pinecones, the seedpods of coniferous trees, vary from species to species and change dramatically in appearance through the seasons. Stones and shells can bring a surprising range of color and texture to your display. And don’t overlook found objects made by humans. A piece of old glass or even a rusty bolt can have an intriguing visual story to tell.
• Twigs and bark: Look closely at the stalks and twigs of plants. Some, like these boldly striped ones, have riveting colors or patterns. Bark, whether papery or rough, is another lovely texture to include. (Your treasure box shouldn’t be limited by “look-don’t-touch” rules.) Including moss and lichens not only adds unusual color, it entices tactile exploration.
Change your display often. Let it evolve. Allow it to reflect your close-to-home rambles as well as far-flung travels. Most of all, let it mirror the changes in the landscape as the seasons move along.