I used to take my dad’s hammer out to the backyard to look for good rocks to crack open. Scratching through the leafy detritus in the woods behind our house or in the azalea bushes which held promising specimens among their gnarly roots, I would heft a few hopefuls onto the driveway and strike them repeatedly with the hammer, the vibrations coursing up the wooden handle into my arm, sharp metallic strikes splitting the air, assaulting my ears. Eventually, a crack would fall open to reveal the core. Some offerings would be just what one would expect, much the same inside as on the outside, rusty brown gray with flecks of earthy color here and there. Others revealed the surprise I was hoping for. Nondescript smudged buff exterior belied a spectacle within, as if someone had taken a snow globe and poured its glittery crystals inside an ordinary rock, hidden from all but the most curious excavators.
I recently surmised that rocks might be my favorite non-living thing, and memories of driveway geological forays gives me reason to note that my fascination is not new. Along those lines, my family was recently persuaded to accompany me to a rock and fossil show at a local convention center. There I settled on two specimens out of thousands to take home: a swirling, speckled orb of Ocean Jaspar – reminiscent of a dappled planet, and an egg of butterscotch-burgundy Carnalite – both harvested from Madagascar.
Returning to the show the following day I roamed the banquet, this time choosing 14 polished hearts – one for each of my students.
That Friday, the day before spring break, I invited my students to choose a heart rock at the end of class. They oooh-ed and aaah-ed, looked, touched, and each closed fingers around a small, dense parcel of earth tucked in the hollow of their palm. Perhaps unnoticed by most, it was a brief encounter with Mother Nature, offering herself to anyone who cares to notice beauty in an ordinary rock and the comfort of a smooth stone in hand.