Exploring the Past (without time travel)

I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ve already arrived my seventh exploration in this thought experiment I’ve undertaken. It has really been an enjoyable experience and I’ve learned a lot along the way about being an explorer of the world, learning how to look at everything around me through a qualitative inquiry lens, simply experiencing the things that I normally would barely notice.

There are a total of 59 explorations in How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith, and by now I’ve read through them all several times. When I started this journey, I intended to complete only 8 of the 59, and with only two explorations left to go, I’m finding it more difficult to choose. While this is still my intention, I think I may return to this thought experiment later on. Perhaps I could repeat some that I’ve already completed and see what different lessons I can learn, or I could simply return to the explorations that I’ve marked with my blue post-it notes but haven’t completed.

Regardless of where my future exploring takes me, this week’s exploration is taking me into the past, albeit without a time machine (the TARDIS was otherwise occupied this week).

Exploration #6: Archaeological Dig

This week asks the explorer to go back in time by collecting “objects that relate to your childhood or inspire memories” along with a brief story about each.

Lesson #1: The present isn’t the only source of data.

Just like I did last week, I chose to make some slight modifications to this exploration by including my husband, Jeff, in this archaeological dig instead of just myself. We’ve been spending a lot of time going through old family items lately and thinking about what items around the house will be moving with us this summer, so this exploration felt timely.

Lesson #2: The best study is a timely study.

Considering ours is a family of two, I thought it would be fun to look at three items from my childhood, three items from my husband’s childhood, and then an item or two from our time together. In a way, it’s like a narrative history of our paths coming together.

My History

Whenever I think about objects from my past, there’s one that is always the first to come to mind: Kitty. Kitty is a small stuffed animal cat who purrs when she moves. Her fur is a little matted, her eyes are a little beat up from several trips through the washer and dryer over the past 20+ years, and her mouth is half missing, but she still purrs when I pick her up. Kitty went everywhere with me when I was a kid, and every time she was lost, I was devasted until she was found again. Today, she lives a peaceful life of retirement on my book shelf hanging out on my shelf of classics.

As we’ve been getting ready to move, we’ve been thinking about what furniture will go and what we should just sell and where it should all go. My husband and I each have a couple of items that are sentimentally important and must have a special place in the new house. Mine is this rocking chair. I remember spending Saturday mornings sitting with my legs over the arm, reading a book or watching cartoons. My mom tells me this rocking chair has been passed down through the women in my family for about five generations or so. When I first moved to Texas from Ohio, I wasn’t able to bring it with me, but just a few summers ago we drove the truck for a visit and brought it back along with a few other items. I’m excited to see it in the new house.

My final object for this activity is a cross-stitch that my mom made for me so long ago that neither of us can remember how old I was. I distinctly remember it hanging in my bedroom at the same time as the dinosaur wallpaper, so I must’ve been in the single digits. In case you couldn’t tell from the first item on this list, I’ve always loved cats. I have a vague memory of picking this pattern out and begging my mom to make it for me. When I moved to Texas, it came with me, and when I adopted an abandoned orange kitten a few months later who turned out to love staring into my fish tank, it was like the image came to life.

Jeff’s History

When I asked my husband what artifacts from his childhood he still has with him, his first answer was his baseball card collection. He started collecting them when he was just six years old and still adds to the collection now, though he only adds new cards once every year or so.

He also has a Sega Genesis in his closet that he got for Christmas when he was ten years old. He grew up playing games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, and Mutant League Football. The part I found the most impressive is that the console still works, though it’s been probably 5 or 6 years since he’s last hooked up. (It occurs to me as I write this that we’ve been married for about 5 and a half years. Interesting coincidence?)

The last item in this dig through my husband’s history is a baseball that Nolan Ryan signed for him at an Astros fan event when Jeff was eleven years old. The event was at the Astrodome, arguably one of the coolest stadiums (that we both believe is a shame the way its been neglected in recent years). Nolan Ryan has always been Jeff’s favorite ball player, and this signed baseball is so important that it’s locked in his dad’s safe. Therefore, the picture here is a baseball signed by another of his favorite players at the same event, Art Howe.

Our History

In considering artifacts from our shared history, I’ve quickly realized that most of our memories have been in the things that we’ve done, not the things that we’ve owned. If I were a slightly more sentimental hoarder, I might have a box full of ticket stubs from the concerts and plays we’ve gone to together over the years, but I did find a couple of important artifacts.

Lesson #3: Life is lived in the experiences.

This picture shows a few items our cruises, the first of which was our honeymoon. The tile was painted for us in Cozumel, Mexico to remember our cruise and our swimming with dolphins excursion. The bear on the next shelf wearing a Carnival Breeze t-shirt is named Herbert the Hebert, and we had a great time taking pictures of him all over that honeymoon cruise. The ship captain bear beside him was a more recent addition from our fifth anniversary cruise this past November.

In the years since we first met, we’ve visited several Houston breweries and done several pub crawls, collected way too many beer glasses in the process, not that I can ever turn them down. My favorites are always the themed glasses that we’ve collected at the end of pub crawls, but we also have several glasses for specific beers. Arguably the best beer glass in the collection is the one from our wedding.


One of my initial reasons for choosing this particular exploration was simply that this is the kind of thing that we’ve been doing these past few weeks anyway. However, the simple act of writing down short and simple descriptions of some of these important artifacts has been a surprisingly thoughtful and reflective experience.

Lesson #4: Even if it’s simple, write it down.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, one of my goals in this whole journey has been to grow accustomed to noticing the things around me that I wouldn’t otherwise see. All of the artifacts described in this exploration are incredibly important to me, my husband, or us both. And yet, they’re items that often go overlooked in the regular hustle and bustle of daily life. As I’ve reflected in several of these explorations, one of the best lessons to be learned here is to…

Lesson #5: Slow down and take a close look at what’s all around you.

One thought on “Exploring the Past (without time travel)

  1. Eh? Is this post incomplete? I was having such a fun time reading it, and as someone who employs the use of his journal regularly, I can really agree with point #4 of jotting things down. Even the most mundane things will give us great insight sometime down the road. Anyway, thanks for this post!

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