What It Means to Be an Acorn Collector

Choose Creativity
5 min readOct 22, 2022


Written by Marina Krim in honor of the 10th anniversary of the deaths of Lulu and Leo Krim on October 25, 2012

My little Leo, aged two, was an acorn collector. Have you ever thought about what that really means? Let me share with you what I’ve learned over the past 10 years about acorn collecting.

Leo and I used to spend our fall mornings meandering down West End Avenue after the crazy rush of school drop-off. He would pass the time filling his pockets with acorns so small they seemed custom made for his little hands.

Leo, the acorn collector

Lulu, aged six, was a collector too. We spent a week-long vacation in Nicaragua collecting dozens and dozens of large sand dollars on a mostly deserted beach. I can still remember Kevin’s incredulous expression when we told him that we’d be packing all 100 of them in our carry-on to bring back to NYC.

Lulu, our beach lover, finding treasures

Since the deaths of Lulu and Leo 10 years ago, we’ve been thoughtfully rebuilding our lives despite the crushing terribleness that will hover in the background of our family forever. Our authenticity, resourcefulness, intuition and patience have all contributed to navigating us through this. But, as we always say, it’s the deeper teachings of Lulu and Leo that bring meaning to it all.

Lulu and Leo were collectors of found objects. Inspired by them, collecting has continued. It has become a family habit at this point. One of us will naturally find something interesting almost everywhere we go. Through the years, our collection of found objects has begun to pile up. So I felt it made sense to devote a very large floor-standing cabinet (found on the sidewalk and then repainted!) in our NYC apartment, deemed the Cabinet of Curiosities, to these interesting and playful findings.

Our Cabinet of Curiosities

If you want to learn about the Krim family, the Cabinet of Curiosities is the best place to start. It’s like a cluttered, quirky, dusty museum of our family adventures and memories. When we have visitors to our apartment, it’s the first place we start on our tour. Our kids’ friends, curiosity peaked, are captivated by what they see — picking up unknown pieces and asking a million questions. They are always surprised to learn that none of the objects have been bought. Each piece (we call them “specimens”) is tied to a story — a meltdown, a wrong turn, an unexpected experience, or just a typical day in our lives.

Bone collecting in Abiquiu, NM

Of course there is a Lulu and Leo connection to many of the specimens — you’ll find Leo’s acorns and Lulu’s sand dollars; a jar of cast-iron door knobs from our old Victorian home in San Francisco where Lulu and Nessie were born; hundreds of baby sand dollars (they were not alive, don’t worry) we collected with Nessie while celebrating Lulu’s 9th birthday in Point Reyes, CA; a fallen branch from Lulu and Leo’s Tulip Tree at Storm King where we spend every October 25th anniversary.

There are the treasures we’ve found in our home state of California — tiny mussel shells from my hometown of Manhattan Beach, our kids favorite place; piles of obsidian rock from the mountain where Lulu learned to ski; a charred tree branch from a wildfire in northern California’s wine country; salt deposits from Death Valley, a soul-searching trip we took a few weeks before the Lulu and Leo criminal trial began.

From left: Obsidian from Mammoth Lakes, CA; Salt ball at Badwater Basin, Death Valley; Heart coral in Kauai

Then there’s the stuff we collected in New York City — a rock found by Felix in Chelsea that humorously looks exactly like a potato; a hawk feather from our beloved Central Park; a stack of glass bottoms of wine bottles collected at low tide from the shores of the East River in Astoria; an authentic orange MTA lantern forgotten on the platform by a subway maintenance worker and snagged by a proud Linus.

And of course, there are the goods from our travel adventures (we like to travel!) — huge scallop shells from Cancale, France; a rusted bolt from the Panama Canal; the stinger of the scorpion we ate in a busy mercado in Mexico City; that @#$%! horse shoe (and the sibling drama that came along with it) from Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

From left: Black sand from Southern Iceland; Half hearts at the Rio Grande, NM; Scallop shells in Cancale, France

Our Cabinet of Curiosities represents an old life merged with a new life and all the memories in between. Its shelves are alive with our creativity, our connections, and the moments that have bonded us. To be a collector is to be present, curious, scrupulous, peaceful, patient, and respectful of nature and our planet. These are all the things that I see when I look at our Cabinet of Curiosities and think about what it means to be an acorn collector.

And, it’s why we will always insist on lugging home all those sand dollars!



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