Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rock collection

When I was a child and he was somewhere in the process of building or repairing the home he never finished for my mother, my father put in an order for gravel that was delivered by dump-truck and unloaded in the sideyard north of our house. I think my father intended to use this gravel to finish the driveway, a wide swath of bare earth in front of our home that entertained giant reflective mud puddle pools in the spring and often iced over for use as a private skating rink in the winter. But like so many of his best intentions, this hill of stones just sat around, purpose unrealized as my father's TBI personalized anything I can remember about childhood that my mother's dogmatism did not. So, this discarded treasure—my father's gravel load—became my plaything.

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.


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