Sunday, February 10, 2013
Rocks in my Heart
When I was 4 (fifty-mumbly-mumble years ago) the family moved to Palo Alto so my father could be part of a project at Stanford University. My parents loaded up our baby blue Country Sedan station wagon and drove from Silver Spring, Maryland, out to the west coast. I still have vivid memories, and a ton of stories about that trip. My father learned to slow his driving speed as we drove past cuts the newly built highway had made into the land. The geographical layers were exposed, creating a classroom where my mother taught us to distinguish geologic columns (or what I called "rock layers" at the time. If the slice into the earth was particularly stunning, the old blue wagon pulled to the side so a certain rock enthusiast could explore. One time, as we scrampled over the shale and sedimentary rocks, my father gave a rather embarrassed explanation to a highway patrol trooper who thought we were a vehicle in distress. I don't know what my dad said, but I heard a roar of laughter from the super-sized trooper. He slapped my dad on the back, and said, "Gotta to keep 'em happy. It pays."
That trip was a rock hunter's heaven -- caverns, the Badlands, southwest, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Rockies, . It was also the beginning of my mother's love affair with the Grand Canyon. Her rock collection grew that summer, with bits of earth and rock she collected as we travelled. It set the pattern for later trips, when the souvenirs brought home were minerals and stones.
She never stopped collecting. Her children, friends, and even friends of her children brought her rocks, sand, and bits of dirt from all over the world. There was the hunk of obsidian that got pulled up in a fishing boat net off the Pacific coast, sand from Goa, geodes from caves in the midwest, pebbles from the top of a hill in India. It was an astounding array of bits of the Earth's crust. And it travelled around the country as she moved from Maryland, to Missouri, to South Carolina. On that steamy August day, when her moving van arrived here in Charleston, the movers lugged her boxes up the 15 stairs to our front porch. She hadn't labeled contents, just rooms on the boxes, because between her books, and her amateur geologist stash, she was afraid that they'd charge her more for the move. I stood on the porch, offering iced tea and cold water to the perspiring men. One fellow huffed up the steps, face bright red, cords on his neck straining. He grinned at us and laughed. "Whatcha got in here, lady? Rocks?" As a matter of fact...
Bumma and I talked about what to do with her rocks when she moved on. She always meant to label them all, but didn't get around to it, though could tell me where each one was from and what it was. I should have written it down, but didn't. We used to joke that maybe we should leave them all in a heap in the back yard, to confound future geologists. What she wanted, though, was, when we were ready to part with them, that the collection go where it might spark a love of rocks in someone else. She wanted people to be able to learn through those wondrous bits of earth.
Ruthe's rocks are all now in boxes, except for a few chosen by family members to keep as memories. Next week the collection moves to a new home, at Ashley Hall, a private school, where my parents sent me to high school when we relocated to Charleston. My mother once commented how different Ashley Hall was from her public school back in Brooklyn in the 20's. She wondered what her world might have been like if her education had taken her to such a place, if she'd had the opportunity to enrich her mind in that environment when she was a girl.
It makes me smile to think that my mother, after all these years, will indeed be going to Ashley Hall, to be a part of learning.