Special features within existing architecture can impact how you experience the rest of your life outside the space. For me, I keep a shelf of natural wonders. I found a simple piece of wood on the street in Capitol Hill back when I lived in Seattle, and impulsively brought it home.

I'm not sure where the idea that it would be my shelf of natural wonders came from. Maybe from those 18th century curiosity cabinets? In any case, once I had this space in my home, I noticed that I became more aware of the natural wonders in my environment.

A stone sparkling with mica came back from a backpacking trip with my sister in the Great Smoky Mountains, near where I grew up. On a foggy Northern California beach I instinctively put two little seaweed floats in my jacket pocket. A tiny canoe of a seed pod in Phoenix.

Sometimes the natural wonders are fragile or don't last long. Flowers wither, sea creatures sometimes mold, brittle leaves crack into tiny pieces, a huge cone from a spruce warms in the heat of the house and explodes into sharp petals.

Sometimes a visitor connects with one and it's time to let it go to a new home. The shelf is constantly shifting and evolving, as with the rest of my life, things must leave to make space for new things to come in.

The Pacific Northwest has so many cones - I doubt I would have noticed them half as much if this shelf at home hadn't been keeping me on the lookout for new types that I hadn't seen before.

You could built a shelf of natural wonders yourself, you know. Clear off a windowsill or existing shelf. Or keep an eye out for wood and build one like I did. And after you've installed it, go outside and find that first thing. A stick, a twig, a stone, a leaf, a feather.

Pacific Northwest Pinecones - Amelia Greenhall