The Rock Gene

"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." Johann von Goethe

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It was inevitable that I would spend all my life working with and writing about gemstones and jewelry. If there is a rock gene, I have it. Probably on every chromosome. I’ve been putting rocks in my pockets as long as I’ve had pockets to put them in. Some of the rocks on my window sills have been with me since third grade. There’s the rose quartz from Cranbrook Science Museum, with its unforgettable fluorescence exhibit of ugly daytime rocks that glowed in the dark. I have a limb cast filled with quartz crystals. The boy who sat next to me in third grade gave it to me when I told him how pretty it was after “show and tell.” (It’s sad to think that although this rock has sat on windowsills and desks ever since, I don’t remember his name.) I have a quartz crystal half encased in what looks like cement that I found in the vacant lot across the street from our house.

The decision makers at my dad’s companies would have fainted had they known how many boxes of rocks they paid coast-to-coast cartage on. My dad would have fainted, too, had he known. Although I didn’t know about genes at the time, instinctively I knew my dad didn’t have this one, and would not have shared my estimation of the rocks’ importance.

Except for my father, though, the rock gene runs like a gem-tree kudzu vine along my paternal line. A couple cousins also decorate with rocks. One of them once shipped a couple (large) rocks from her parents’ farm in Tennessee to my front porch in Oregon. (Heaven only knows how many she carted home for herself.) My father’s sister requested I bring her stones from every place I visited in Greece. I brought some home for me, too.

It’s a miracle I managed to save any rocks from my childhood. Once, when my paternal grandmother came to visit, as a love gift I offered her a rock from my rock collection. She took them all. The trauma of it still requires therapy.

I must make clear that the rocks in my collection are, for the most part, not gemstones or fine minerals. They’re rocks. Rocks with mixed mongrel pedigrees that, for some reason—whether color, pattern, size, texture, or shape—made their way into my pocket.

I’ve picked up stones in Japan, Greece, Turkey, England, Michigan, Canada, Brazil, and Italy from the top of Mt. Vesuvius. I have rocks from the Namib Desert and the Grand Tetons. I have the gold I panned at Knott’s Berry Farm. I have fossils from Fossil, Oregon. I cannot go to the beach without coming home with sandy pockets of rocks. I even buy rocks from souvenir stands. (Goldstone? Apache tears, anyone?) Friends give me rocks for gifts. I appreciate them.

My nephew, however, does not.

One Christmas, when he was about seven, as part of his Christmas package, I sent him one of those healy-feely gift store stones, the ones sandblasted with symbols or inspirational words. This one had his zodiac sign cut into it. All kids like rocks, right? And how cool is it to have one with your own star sign emblazoned on it? I certainly never had a rock like that. Not because I didn’t covet one.

My brother reported that, when my nephew opened the package, he turned the stone over in his hand a few times and said, “A rock? She got me a rock?”

I’m quite sure we share no genetic material.

One thought on “The Rock Gene

  1. Hello cousin,

    I’ve been reading some of your stories here. I had to reply to this one. As you know, that “rock gene” is quite prevalent in me too. I have rocks, rocks and more rocks, everywhere, from everywhere.

    When we bought the house where we live now, we came to the conclusion that all the grass around the pool had to go. We tore it all out, put down weed guard, and I had a big truck load of river rock delivered. Well, a couple actually. We ended up doing the same thing in the middle part of the yard a couple years later, when I built garden boxes. It’s been over ten years and I’m still finding rocks I like in the yard and adding them to a large saucer I set up for the “special” rocks! If I wander around back there after it rains, when all the rocks are still wet, I inevitably always find more to add to the saucer.

    Chuck and I like to wander around in thrift shops, Salvation Army stores, craft and antique shows, and the like, and he says all I ever buy is rocks and wood. We were at a thrift shop last weekend and, true to form, I did just that. They had some kind of trivet, I guess you’d call it. It was made of ugly white plastic, discolored and beat up, but in the center was, what I thought was, I beautiful slab of polished granite about 8 inches square. As I examined it, I noticed a hole in the plastic in the bottom. I started pushing on the granite slab through the hole and it moved. Hmmm, that will come out of there, I thought. A little while later Chuck saw me carrying it around and wanted to know what the heck I wanted that for. “It’s two dollars,” I said, “leave me alone.” When I got it home I pried the granite slab out, cleaned it up and put some felt pads on the bottom. It’s sitting on our counter. Chuck even said, “that is really cool!”

    There was also an aquatic display someone had made for sale there. Plastic aquarium seaweed, little wooden fishes, some Christmas lights, all attached to a piece of driftwood. A really neat piece of driftwood I might add. The lady wanted $10, I offered her $3 telling her I just wanted the driftwood. I got it for $3. When I got home I stripped off everything and uncovered a gorgeous piece of driftwood. Not sure what I’ll do with it, but I like it. It will find it’s place.

    Rocks and wood!

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