Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rocks in My Head

We moved to Attica, New York in the summer of 1953.  I had just turned seven and our parsonage was located on the edge of this tiny town, in a Leave it to Beaver neighborhood.  The Tonawanda Creek meandered at the bottom of a huge clay cliff behind our house and the mixture of neighbors was right out of a sitcom:  the rich folks at the end of the street with an extensive orchard of lilac trees, the reclusive former teacher with the stark "modern" house that did not even face the street, the kids, the teenagers, the dogs, the cats, and the mysterious elderly couple next door.  I do not remember their name but I will never forget their home and the priceless gift they gave to me.

This couple had a lovely garden, festooned with beautiful rocks, gazing balls and vessels.  They traveled frequently so I rarely saw them, but I used to sneak peeks at their magical side garden.  One day they invited me inside and gave me a tour. I remember being in awe of the museum-like interior.  They collected vases from all over the world (from dollhouse scale to taller than I was!) and they collected rocks and minerals.  My eyes must have been like saucers.  Then they presented me with this precious gift that still inspires me to this day.  They gave me a massive chunk of white quartz with shiny black crystals here and there.  It was so huge I could barely hold it in my two little hands.  Oddly enough, though, this rock seems to have shrunk over the years because now it fits easily in one hand.

My first rock - 1953
This rock has moved with me almost a dozen times and my love for it sparked a love for rocks and minerals of all kinds ever since.  I believe it also helped to inspire my dad to collect rocks, and lug them back for me from many trips.  Since his death I have inherited his favorites (also survivors of many moves).

Last week I joined a rock group (I have always wanted to say that!) - actually a Facebook group of rock hounds and collectors.  This has prompted me to photograph some of my small but much-loved collection and dig up some memories.  As time goes by I have become increasingly tired of dusting and re-dusting my collections and I have been trying to protect everything in display cases, or in the case of small rocks and crystals - I have been framing them.  Hey, I am a framer and a collector - it is a perfect matching of my interests.

Geologea was my first attempt at framing part of my collection.  In my hoard of materials was a wooden box, fashioned with a rounded spine to resemble a large book.  I cut down an worn old gold-leafed frame to fit inside this book, fitted it with glass and suede walls, and placed my little loves inside.  I can add new ones and rearrange them any time.

Geologea, 2004
The smooth pale green speckled stone has delighted me since my grandma and I both spotted it at the same time on the shore at Lowbanks, Ontario and I snatched it up first.    I have always loved it because it reminds me of the color and pattern of the fabric in one of her dresses.  My best friend in junior high school gave me some of these crystals.  The slab of lace agate was a gift from a high school friend (her dad was just getting into rock cutting).  Some I purchased from a rock hound friend when he was broke  and in need of money.  Some of the fossils I found in the creek bed.  I love them all!

Specimen card, circa 1955

I framed the specimen card  after I realized that the thin cardstock that I had been holding and oogling for so many decades was finally starting to disintegrate.  I used to recite the names like a mantra:  Rose Quartz, Pyrites, Chalcedony.  Magical, mysterious, beautiful and ancient.  

Rock collecting has snuck into my dollhouse scale roomboxes.  Madam Tabitha is a rock collector and she displays them on the shelf in her parlor.  She has recently added a few new specimens.  She loves to rearrange her large bowl of rocks, crystals and shells, and she is also very proud of her malachite pyramid.

Madam Tabitha's Parlor

Madam Tabitha's shelf

Madam Tabitha's collection
Alas, my legs no longer allow me to clamber around in slippery shale creek beds, or wander for miles down rocky beaches, struggling back with pockets laden with great finds.  But rocks still seem to find me. Terrapin Station in Buffalo is a sweet source to buy small specimens and I have found a few pretties at Lily Dale.  A few years back a friend gave me a generous gift certificate good for anything in the Galleria Mall.  Now, I hate malls and avoid them at all costs - but hey, a gift certificate is a gift certificate.  I searched through many stores: clothing - ack,  jewelry - ack.  Then I found The Nature Store.  It was like a museum with price tags.  I was in Heaven!  Of course my friend looked at me like I had lost my tiny mind when I told him I had bought a rock with his gift certificate.  (I think he was hoping I'd buy lingerie.)

Current and perennial favorites
In the photo above the striped specimen in the top left was one of my dad's favorites.  He found it in the Southwest.  The round black half sphere has always been a mystery since my late partner Kim saw it at Terrapin Station and said, "Wow - Mar would love that!" and Barry gave it to her to give to me.  I have already told the story of the white quartz, and the petrified wood in the center has been with me almost as long.  The sphere is a recent find at Terrapin Station.  The starburst crystal is part of my inheritance from my dear friend Barbara, and the ammonite never ceases to transport me to another time and place.  Even if I had a room full of ammonites, this would be the most loved.

I guess I will always have rocks in my head.  I still have dreams of finding piles and mounds of pretties or stores full of them.  But until money falls from the sky I will be happy to play with the pretties in my collection that have been in my life for decades.  Rose Quartz, Pyrites, Chalcedony - nice mantra, eh?