I’ve mentioned my early childhood leanings to ornithology; still there, tho not as a profession. I kept my sanity (well …) on board ship on my antarctic adventures by getting up early for bird censuses – albatross, shearwaters, storm petrels, penguins, …
But this was balanced by other fascinations with the natural world. A pet raccoon, snapping turtles, flushing pheasants from the hedgerows about home, fish in the river, small streams & abandoned gravel quarries, & the Big Lake. And rocks.
Not sure how it actually started, but I had 3 shelves in my basement bedroom, 8 or 9 feet long, organized for my collection. Perhaps first with Lake Michigan beach pebbles, but eventually my participation in family vacations was built around what might be added to my collection. Lead ore from a visit to Galena Illinois, quartz geodes from road cuts in Southern Indiana, Amethyst & beach agates from the north shore of Lake Superior.
A vivid memory was a gift from my “uncle” Jim Lindenthal, my dad’s best friend & work colleague, who would riffle through the feldspars they imported for clays for electronic ceramics at the work they shared, and bring me rare treasures; the prize a thumb-sized perfect crystal of golden-yellow beryl, heliodor, from a feldspar quarry in Maine; my first connection to Maine, later my home for 26 years.
My dad was of the sort to build it yourself; at one point, his own airplane, in our basement; why buy something if you can build it yourself for twice the price? Tho he was good at scavenging & actually keeping cost to a minimum. One year for Christmas he built (we built together, he was great at that) a lapidary machine – for slicing, grinding, finishing & polishing stones. We frequented rock & mineral shows for inspiration, and to add to my collection. Onyxes, tiger eyes, green aventurine, agates, to add to my local finds of Lake Michigan Beach & Kettle-Moraine glacial drift stones.
4th grade was a pivotal year for me. Following a string of Miss Anthropies as elementary school teachers, I scored Miss Stewart. I clearly recall the day, in class, bored with the material & staring out the window, a small piece of black jade in my lap I had laboriously shaped from a sawn slab into an even elipse and sanded into a cabochon with successively fine sandpapers, now working it to a satin finish with a rouge cloth, apparently fidgeting with my hand in lap in the classroom. I’m sure not knowing what all this hand-in-lap activity might portend, my teacher asked to see my hands. Terrified my treasure would be confiscated, I showed her gingerly, & she exclaimed “beautiful! Do you like rocks? What is it?” (examining it closely) She brought in some of her collection the next day, & so began my first full-day, and first devoted, participation in school. I Loved fourth grade, nearly enough to attend school most days.
I titled this post “rocks,” but perhaps it should be titled, like all of these posts, “connection.” Dad, “uncle” Jim, Miss Stewart, golden beryl, black jade, these rocks at the time a fascination with the natural world & admired for their immediate physical beauty. Since my walk on the edge, the intimacy of that relationship has grown, & I’m finding in them a connection to those slower rhythms of life and an integration with Connection, interbeing with Others.
Whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, or spontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they are aware or unaware, whether they are not aware or not unaware …