My mother once told me the story about how, as a girl, she and her sisters collected rocks and sold them roadside during summer months, sometimes turning a few cent's profit. I tried to follow in her infant entrepreneurial footsteps, but I'm no good at capitalism. Instead, my roadside stand added to a long list of reasons I was the odd kid in the rural neighborhood, and I amassed a shoebox collection that remained beneath my bed. I picked out dozens of igneous and metamorphic rocks—each chosen for some detail I found fascinating: a unique color, an odd texture, or a particular structural distinction. Sometimes, I'd take a hammer to them, breaking open one after another, hoping to find a geode inside, or to fleck off the glittering quartz that often fissured the center of stones. Mostly, I loved how the surfaces came to life under the stream of water in the bathroom sink; seeing my reflection in something stable somehow comforting.
Maybe I was pretty odd—a different sort of stone. The sort that defies gravity; a daydream basalt floating over the ugly weight of immovable obstacles. Occasionally I was flinty, but more often that not, crumbling, like pumice, or disappearing, like sandstone. Definitely metamorphic any way I cracked. Maybe some of the grit got stuck between my toes, because these days, I've stopped hiking for destination. I'm feeling much more grounded. Anymore, I wander mountain paths, both groomed and game trail, on principle of experiential merit and that childhood collector's streak. Along the way I'm gathering pieces for a new shoebox of sorts. Only these rocks aren't anything that would store neatly. In fact, I couldn't lift a single one if I tried. By necessity, this new rock collection is pictorial. But they are still individually unique, precious, worthy of my inner child's admiration.