We are all rock collectors at heart. A tiny stone polished smooth from wear and tear in a stream bed, from the ocean or just from years of rubbing between thumb and forefinger in your pocket.
The summer before I went to college, my mother and I took the cash saved for the my first year and went to Spain. “We’ll figure out how to get the bills paid.” she whispered as she showed me the tickets. My father and mother were beginning the painful unraveling of their marriage and I was numb at the prospect of going away to school. We were in pursuit of the impossibly perfect Spain of Michener’s THE DRIFTERS; fleeing reality for a moment to lose ourselves in another land.
On a windy coastal road, we stopped to tour the ruins of a castle. Though there were signs declaring fines for removing ANY stones or artifacts, I bent and tucked a piece of crumbled, ancient brick into my pocket. It was my touchstone through the difficult years that followed. Always warm to the touch and almost crumbly soft with age, just holding that stone brought back the sun and freedom I had felt on that trip.
I have stones collected from West Coast beach walks with Hanni. A bowl of her favorites, gathered on Agate Beach, sits on a window sill by the breakfast table and I often sift through them absently as I watch the birds at the feeder. The individuals have lost their meaning but as a group, they slide through my fingers with subtle shifts of color and texture.
When my brother died, I was given his jewelry box. It held his dog-tags from military service, a few inherited odds and ends, and a piece of quartz. The stone has no meaning to me. It is smooth and creamy white but I have no memory of its origin or significance to him.
Today, with five dogs in tow, Hanni, B., Wilson and I hiked to Quartz Mountain in Temple. It is hardly a mountain, though the view of the surrounding valley and distant mountains is impressive. This massive vein of white stone has pushed through the crust of the earth and barred itself to the elements. In places it is snowy white and smooth – almost marble textured.
Lichen grow in luscious blooms though I would need help identifying them from my buddy over at nhgardensolutions to truly appreciate their presence. Some of the outcropping was stained dark red from minerals or soil leaching. We easily scaled to the top and stood in awe at the landscape beyond.
I brought back a small, glittery chunk that caught my eye just as the sun broke through the clouds. Again, probably illegal, but don’t we all collect small pieces of the earth as mementos? I challenge you to check the junk drawer and not find a single prized stone…