From Where I Sit
Volume 21 Issue 18 2013-05-17
Several years ago I became interested in rocks. During walks down our country road, I started noticing what was beneath my feet—and like a magpie, I was attracted to those with a bit of glitter or shine. But because I was an equal opportunity collector I also pocketed those rocks and stones with interesting shapes and colours.
In the tall, clear, cylindrical vase that now holds the smaller rocks in my collection, you’ll see what looks like a black Smartie wedged among angular, striated, or speckled stones. Some are larger and some are impossibly small. I pop two or three in my pocket during each walk. Once home, I scrub them with a nail brush to remove surface grit, revealing their beauty. Some look best when they’re wet; the colours are more vivid. The fist-sized ones sit on top of a bookcase in my office.
Having a gravel pit on our home quarter section has made rocks come alive for me. When huge construction equipment is digging holes 15 feet deep, one can really see the colour range of what lies beneath the surface. The strata include rich black topsoil, layers of rock and sand, and finally clay at the bottom of the hole. The rock layers are coloured with an artist’s palette of earth tones: browns, sienna, ochre, and grey.
Too bad I didn’t pay more attention during science class. Then I’d know how and why these formations happened where they did. I’d understand the differences among geologists, petrologists, and gemologists; or minerals, crystals, and gemstones. I’d know whether I should invest in a rock tumbler or accept them au naturel as God created them.
In the meantime I refer to books to round out and refresh my knowledge. The most recent addition to my library is the 1986 edition of A Field Guide in Colour to Minerals, Rocks and Precious Stones. A couple of sentences grabbed me: “There are some 3000 different minerals, composed of 92 chemical elements, from oxygen to uranium. Of the known minerals only a small number—some 40-50—are generally rock-forming, e.g., quartz, feldspar, mica, pyroxene, amphibole and olivine.”
That’s probably more science than I want—or need. I should be able to happily observe and collect and appreciate the rocks I stumble across without knowing a thing.
And yet I can’t leave well enough alone. Someday soon I’ll invite myself over to the home of a retired geologist. The local newspaper reported that he set up an exhibit during the school’s education week program. Had I known, I would have been there. Now I need to sweet talk him into giving me a private showing (and answering all my questions!). He won’t know what hit him, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka's first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.
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