No one ever thinks about the virtues of a rockhound. They are easily amused on long walks down rural gravel roads, you can buy them the discount Roadside Geology books at Barnes & Noble and they will be supremely happy, and they make good travel companions because they are fascinated with rock cuts on the mountain passes and never complain about not being at the destination yet. I first became a rockhound in 1995 when licking rocks in a freshman geology laboratory along with 20 other individuals with like-minded goals. You read that right, we were licking rocks. I can't remember if it was because we were trying to taste salt or if we were trying to make them fizz, thus helping us in our identification task. For clarity, there was no ongoing pandemic at the time. I doubt they're licking rocks this semester.
The love I developed in that laboratory for the natural sciences has stuck with me and provides me a respite from the cares of the world. A quick jaunt to a rock outcropping can solve just about any problem that I've ever encountered and today was no different. To the south of our house is a trio of hills that mark so many things for us. They determine whether the yearling heifers are in or out of the pasture they should inhabit and we can gauge how thick the fog is or how strong a storm is based on our ability to see the hills framing the skyline. With the late autumn sun setting in the west, I headed out for a jaunt with a camera and no phone in tow. The pheasants squawked, a hawk cried out, and the shadows became longer as I covered the mile across our pasture to get to my goal.
Danish Cowboy told me a long time ago that if I chose to dress in all gray and brown during hunting season, then I should probably also learn to quickly zig and zag if I hear gun shots. His advice is always helpful and since he was out hunting with our kids, I truly did have second thoughts regarding my outfit on this particular day.
As I walked, I thought about a lot of things, but the one that kept returning to my mind was the artist's shop in my Missoula, Montana where I found a necklace that wraps around my neck on the days I need it most: in small typewriter font it reminds me that "an eye for an eye will make us all blind," a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that I have always found to hold value.
The human condition is not one of kindness always, but you better believe that I strive towards it every day. Some days I succeed, oftentimes I don't. We learn from the experience of our interactions with others, speak our values, try to understand the other person's perspective, and then we take the high road, the one that moves us onward.
See that pasture below the rock? I lost my camera bag there for a brief while this afternoon. I attached my favorite lens, promised myself that the spot where I was leaving the rest of the equipment behind was open enough that I could find it easily, and then proceeded to walk a quarter of a mile away with no real sense of where I had left it. I didn't care while I was on top of the hills because the volcanic rocks with their peculiar angles and outrageous beauty captivated me. The rocks break apart in small pieces year by year as the wind and rain wedge in to their crevices. The rattlesnakes inhabit them, the yucca grows amongst them, and they mark the daily passing of life as I look out the kitchen window at their presence. When the rocks have broken down small enough, many of them end up on my windowsill, not brought there by a young child, but by my own hands, each of them providing me with a memory of the time that I was able to get things worked out in my head with a walk and a camera and an open mind.