Monday, September 3, 2012

Mineral collecting- a new Twist on an old Hobby

I have always loved rocks. I remember smashing rocks as a child, the sting of a stray chip hitting my cheek, the flash of sparks when I found pyrite in the mix. I remember losing a thumbnail turning over big rocks in a creek on my grandmother's property as a wee one.

I must have been a prospector in a past life.

Geology has always been my weak science. I have always been frustrated by mineral identification. In every other regard I am pretty much a science geek, I remember when Trivial Pursuit came out and I would win by making sure I landed on a green (science)spot because I could answer almost all of the science questions. Forget Literature, Arts, History..can't remember the other one...I could answer one in five of those, so given enough turns I would eventually get those other ones for my piece of the pie.

I remember telling my mother as a small child that I had found gold in  the back yard.

"That's not gold, that's mica," she said.

Maybe I was an alchemist in a past life, because I remember about that time mixing bathroom chemicals behind the locked door. A little hand lotion, a little of this, a little of that. It's a wonder I didn't make chlorine gas and that would be the end of the story...I do remember the plumber coming and getting accused of putting stuff down the toilet and plugging it up, but the plug looked like cotton balls and surely I hadn't considered that worthy of my alchemy experiments. More likely my sisters flushing their tampons....

I remember going to a new school when I was about 6 years old, and someone raised their hand and asked to go to the labratory.  I could envision beakers and distillation equipment and sort of a still like device (ok, maybe I was a bootlegger in my last life) and I thought that must be more interesting than whatever the teacher was talking about, and the classmate had been readily excused to go there.  I couldn't resist.

I raised my hand. "May I go to the labratory?" My diction was very precise, and the teacher caught right on. 

"Where do you want to go?"

"The labratory, to see the experiments! You just let someone else go."

The teacher chuckled.  "She asked to go to the LAVATORY, the bathroom, the restroom"

I was so disappointed.

I didn't understand the concept of calling it a "restroom" either.

no wonder kids in America want to spend classtime in the halls-who wants to go into the smelly bathrooms? Everyone wants a restroom from a boring teacher.

Sorry Miss Somerville, but the only other thing I remember from that year was the first day when you showed the slide show of your trip on a 747 to Disney World, and how to spell photosynthesis. And how to grow beans in a cup, that was fun.

Miss Somerville didn't teach us Geology, unfortuneately.

Actually she must have been a terrific teacher because I remember that much. I don't remember anything specific from the next two years. Except I became a leader of a gang...not in the way it means now.  I even made up my own words for my own language, but couldn't get anyone else to learn it with me.  They were too busy learning the multiplication tables.  I still struggle will 11X12 I must have been writing my own language at that critical time.

I grew up, and contined my love affair with rocks, often picking up pieces that caught my eye and sticking them in my pocket, quartz being my absolute favorite.  I dont' remember what ever happened to them all, either chucked out in the washer at the laundramat, or left for roomates or landlords to deal with, apologies to them...

Later as a homeowner, I showed skill at laying flat stones for patios, most likely because the house I was raised in had a stone patio done in two parts. One was beautifully done and original to the house, the second added on later with sloppy masonry. I loved it so much as a child, I offered to scrub it for allowance and wrinkled my knees scrubbing and hosing it to sparkly clean and then having to haggle the value of the job with my mother...

I remember one partner scoffing at me when I crouched along our drive dipping in a seasonal stream with a wok.

"What are you DOING?" he enquired.

"Panning for gold," I said.

"There ain't no gold in there," he scoffed,

I found a couple teeny garnets and discovered one of the rocks up against the culvert was covered in fossils from about 300 million years ago.  He wasn't impressed, so I put the wok away.

In the years since then, other sparkly bits have caught my eye, and it's always the same from whomever I showed it to:  "Mica"

Later years I rode my horse on a big land preserve where there was an abandoned Mica mine.  Big chunks of dark glassy flaky mica.  Mica, ok...

A homeowner again, I have continued my fascination with rocks. Certain times the house has reached critical mass and I have evicted all the rocks.  I stink at rock wall building, but edged all my perennial beds with rocks that have caught my fancy. The small pocket ones end up in the house, and are eventually placed outside the back door which has currently reached critical mass so I have started a couple other places to pile them.

I moved from quartz to what I thought was red quartz. I have a couple of choice chunks in the random piles on my desk. Even though when I did some research I discovered it was probably cinnabar, an ore of mercury.

 I started lugging home metallic bits. Oh boy, now I am bringing home lead and arsenic yum.

I couldn't resist. The shine put stars in my eyes. Who cares if it is mica? That looks like gold..I can't identify it since my geology training has been limited to, "It's just Mica."

Internet research isn't cutting it, but I did learn that the only county in the state which I grew up in that has significant gold the county that I grew up in.
Mom, I told you that was gold in the backyard.
The ex stopped in for a visit today and I had him take a look.
"remember when you laughed at me and the wok?" I asked.
"Looks like Mica to me,"  he said.

Then he added,
"Maybe it's time to befriend a few geologists in my department."

"Stairway To Heaven"
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
Led Zeppelin