On the crowded desk of my home office, a blue and white Chinese vase holds a bouquet of peacock feathers, their seemingly unreal vibrant colors and patterns gently gyrating in the path of the floor fan.
The arrangement is a recent addition to my desk, itself a messy, disorganized place that holds not only my writing in progress, but other memorabilia of my life, my "comfort" things.
I had plucked the peacock feathers from a moth-eaten blue felt hat, circa 1930, which had been nestled in tissue paper within a black lacquered hatbox from the same era, for a very long time.
The hat in the box (it's a non-sensical story; Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat" comes to mind) was one of numerous trophies gleaned from what my husband and I still consider the most daring adventure of our life together: the purchase of a house at bank auction some 25 years ago, a house we had never been inside.
Sunset Lodge, a curious little bungalow that had been moved, intact, 100 feet from the path of the post-World War II construction of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge and Route 128 into Gloucester, was home to an eccentric, elderly antiques dealer, our neighbor when we'd moved back here 10 years earlier.
At first, we politely befriended her, and then cautiously avoided her when we learned she didn't like kids playing on her property. She mentioned once that she kept a loaded pistol on a shelf inside her front door to "keep herself safe." She routinely backed up her old Cadillac at top speed down the dead-end street long after she was unable to turn her head over her shoulder.
After her poor health and eventual demise, the house sold twice, in rapid succession, never occupied by either owner; the bank stepped in, and then, so did we.
For the next couple months we worked to clean it out, while the house was an indoor playground for our family. Both treasures and junk abounded.
We spent the hours of many days in the hot, stuffy attic, unearthing memorabilia from The Great War, collections of antique buttons, hundreds of books, boxes of postcards stuck with 1-cent postage stamps, old tools and typewriters, artwork, rugs, photographs, magazines, glassware, lighting fixtures, dishes, vintage clothing, and, especially fascinating to me, a tower of hatboxes.
We got the place in shape and rented it, fulfilling for a time the investment we had sought; eventually, we sold it. Of the many amazing things that had made their way into our own house, only a couple of the hatboxes remain.
The boxes themselves are works of art, and I've held on to them all these years, perhaps as tangible proof that a whacky investment in real estate and adventure actually visited our life for a time.
When I took the boxes down from a shelf for their annual dusting, I peeked inside, thinking I might salvage at least the vibrant green, blue, and turquoise feathers from the blue hat, arrange them in a bouquet.
In considering where to place the vase, fearing that exposure to the light would make the feathers fade, I burst out laughing. I realized that the poor peacock whose life was likely sacrificed for his feathers had strutted in the full sun for all of his time on earth.
And now, almost a century later, his feathers were brighter, more glorious a testament to one of God's creatures than any part of me would be in 100 years.
I vowed to be their keeper; I would admire them for the rest of my life.
Susan S. Emerson is a regular Times columnist.