Friday, August 5, 2011

Of Interest Only to Rock Collectors and Moonstone Fanatics

Passing through one of our fine Cambria shops recently, I was impressed by the words of the proprietor as he described the virtues of our local moonstones. Though I've been collecting these rocks for years, some parts of his pitch were new to me, and I knew there were  geological "misconceptions". But I kept my mouth shut. Who am I to interfere with a hard earned sale in this economy? Most everything he said fit roughly with my knowledge of the subject, and his now enthusiastic customer was ready to buy. To tell the truth, I felt like buying a few of his moonstones myself--even though I have dozens. Talk about salesmanship!

My interest in moonstones began a few years after my wife and I bought a modest home in San Simeon. Walking the beach one afternoon, I saw a small round object nestled against a cliff. Holding it up against the rising sun revealed a perfectly rounded stone, sea-polished and near gem quality.

I took my find to a rock shop and asked them  to drill a hole and insert an eyelet so I could attach it to a chain and give it to my wife. "No problem," they said. After three weeks, l finally got it back, delayed they said by “technical difficulties,” something to do with a diamond bit of proper size, the correct vise, etc. Though slightly scratched in the process, this stone has since become my wife’s favorite piece of jewelry and she will happily tell you about how I almost found it in time for her birthday.

Visiting that same rock shop recently I heard the owner talking on the phone, telling a potential customer that they could no longer drill rocks or install "screw eyelets" because they didn't have a drill. Having visited the back of the shop, I knew this wasn't exactly true. For some reason, drilling a hole in my little rock had now become too tall of an order.

Why? The “”moonstones” found on our beaches are a subcategory of common quartz known as chalcedony (same chemical composition as quartz, SiO2, but with crystals so small they are invisible to the unaided eye). This broad designation includes almost any rock capable of capturing a rock collector's attention while walking the ocean's edge: agate, chert, flint, and jasper. That's why when anyone asks me to identify a local rock, my rule is to just say "chalcedony". The only exception would be anything rough like sandstone or anything green and therefore probably serpentine, our state rock.

And don’t even get me started on how to tell serpentine from jade or jadeite. More often than not, identifying a rock is contingent on the identifier and the context. Find a green rock in a San Simeon tourist trap and it's jade, find an identical rock on the beach, take it to the proprietor of that same shop, and it's serpentine.

But getting back to moonstones, I’ve learned that “true” moonstones don’t come from around here. The “true” moonstones, the gem quality stones prevalent in the jewelry shops of Cambria, just can't be found on our beaches. Tourists, believing they are buying a a gem unique to our area, instead pay for a variety of feldspar. Though this mineral (much softer and more easily worked than the stone we locally refer to as a moonstone) can be found around the globe, there are only two locations where the real feldspar moonstone can be found in California, Inyo county (specifically, Death Valley) and the Rialto area (east of Los Angeles).

This is not to say that these non-local stones lack beauty or are unworthy of the prices tourists pay for them. Most specimens are superbly mounted, professional cut, and possess a clarity and inner brilliance (chatoiance) that is only occasionally found in our local “moonstones”. Cambria's moonstones are actually agate, a banded variety of the all inclusive chalcedony family.

But the merchant whose sales technique I admired that afternoon was absolutely correct about one aspect of local moonstones: they are unique to our beaches. Certainly, agates can be found on many Pacific beaches. An internet search for "beach agates" will reveal organizations solely devoted to finding them in areas as far north as the Oregon coast. I have studied the pictures of these agates closely. Yes, they usually display the inner banding that is characteristic of agates. None of them, however, shows evidence of the white calciferous swirling that, I believe, is unique to Cambria "moonstones". But these swirlings sadly disappear if the rock is polished for any length of time, resulting in a product about as exciting as an ice cube.

So why I am interested in a rock whose uniqueness is only skin deep? And why work with a stone that is so hard? It's a 7 on the 10 point Mohs hardness scale while feldspar is only a 5. And this explains why I'm always buying saws, grinding wheels, and drill bits—all of which are diamond coated and a tad expensive. At the businesses where I replace these tools at such a frequent and for them, profitable rates, proprietors often ask me what kind of material I'm working with. I smile and say, “beach agates”. Then they shake their heads in amusement--and happily take my money for new equipment.

In fact, some well-meaning members of a local gem club have heard about my plight and handed me free samples of stones like opal, which are so soft that I can hand shape, polish, and drill them to completion in under thirty minutes. One would have to double or triple this time when working with agates (only sapphires and diamonds are harder).

"We choose to go to the moon and other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” said JFK  if I remember correctly.   And, working with moonstones is certainly all that.

But it has been my pleasure (or curse) to work with these remarkable stones and learn how to shape them, slice them, and especially how to polish them until (with my wife's help) they became beautiful necklaces and earrings. Though everything we make and put on consignment at Cambria’s Among Friends involves local treasures, not everything involves one of these local "moonstones". But I would gladly challenge anyone to find something similar to these special pieces of agate/moonstone/chalcedony jewelry that we occasionally display there.

So not only do I persue a difficult and expensive task but I have the nerve to brag about my results. Fair assessment, I suppose.

Racking my brains for an explanation these behaviors, I have but one explanation:

Growing up, I recall many occasions when my father asked me this question, usually with a hefty amount of frustration in his voice:

"Johnny, why do you always have to do things the hard way?"

"No idea, Dad."

Stubborn in San Simeon, 8/5/11

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shaping People

Someone once asked me if I shaped my rocks before I polished them.
"Of course."
"How do you choose their shape?"
"I whisper to them and they tell me."

I was kidding.
The fact is, I start by removing rough edges, grinding away at cracks and valleys.  Then it's quite obvious how to shape the rock.

Perhaps this is something like being in a relationship with a loving creator.  Only He knows our shape from the start.  But he gradually smooths us, patiently removing uneven surfaces until it becomes quite obvious, even to ourselves, what our perfect shape will be.

Not that I know a whole lot about the subject.  Just thinking.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celebrating Bin Laden's Death

I have only this to say:
We should celebrate the lives of good men while they live rather than the deaths of evil men after they have passed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back in the Saddle--Split Assignment, Middle and Grammar School PE

Dear Dad,

So, you decided to work part time in at the coast?  That’s cool.

You sound like you don’t really want to do it though?  I'm sure it wont take up too much of your time so that you can still gather rocks in your spare time.  I didn't think you would ever want to teach P.E., but I think that’s really cool.  It was in middle school that I actually started giving a crap about being in shape.  I got the presidential physical fitness award both years, and ran the fastest mile I may possibly ever run, 6:30 or something like that.

I hope everything else is well and will talk with you again soon...

Love, Matt.

Dear Matt,

The day was splendid (a word I may never have used before). 

In the morning I watched middle school students mess around with badminton rackets, admittedly a bit tedious, too much like teaching high school, always having to deal with negative behaviors. But after lunch, I was sent to a grammar school (didn't know P.E. was offered at that level) which was a real treat.

Love those cute little kids and their needy questions: could you tie my shoe? Do you think I need a band aid? (and) May I please go to the bathroom?  First through third graders, something tells me you don't have to worry whether they are meeting someone to sell drugs, bust heads, or deface school property).

And just standing on the playground/grass area of a coastal grammar school was like a piece of heaven: a view of the ocean over the ridge of houses to my left, woods leading to Hearst Castle straight ahead, green hills with undulating grass to my right.  You put forty kids on a field, ten in each corner wearing different colored streamers like in flag football. Then a whistle is blown and they all run madly screaming toward the middle.  Imagine Braveheart done with munchkins, but they never, ever stop running.  When one child loses a flag, he goes down on one knee until another student brings him a replacement (ripped from someone else).  The child receiving the flag says "Thank You" and gets up to create more mayhem.  I asked the regular P.E. if there was a point to the game.
"No.  And yes.  They run around relentlessly, burning up energy, and learn to share.  Their teachers get a break to plan and consult with each other and the students return to class calmer and more ready to learn."

Made sense to me. 

The day seemed long, probably because it was filled with so many new experiences.  If the regular teacher's back injury doesn't get better right away, I could possibly work through Friday at around $100 dollars a day.  By then I  think I will break even with all the test fees and such I forked out to get back into education.  Any assignments after that will be play money.  Hmmm....more rock grinding and polishing equipment!

How could it get any better?  I get to wear sweats tomorrow just like a real PE teacher.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Richardson's Rules of Safe Beach Behavior (final version, whoever wrote this needs help with multiple personality disorder)

Believe it or not I have, on several occasions, been accused of being antisocial. Go figure.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. I sincerely care about people and my love for them is clearly demonstrated in the guidelines provided below. You see, the weather is warming in the San Simeon area and local beaches will soon be teaming with tourists from afar.  It is precisely because of my CARING and PRO-social nature, that I provide the following rules to ensure that our guests have a coastal experience that is both positive and safe.

After all, the beach is a wonderful place to visit, whether for recreation, reflection or the regenerative affects of walking peacefully along the shore. But absolute jerk-offs, lacking any awareness of their surroundings could easily find themselves in a world of hurt.  Now, I have no particular hatred for such individuals (at least not much).  But it's so sad knowing that the only award that these people can ever hope to achieve will be prefaced by the name "Darwin".

But I digress from from my good intentions.

Rule One: The ocean, unlike certain people, does not hate you.  On the other hand, it does not give a rip what might happen to your sorry ass--especially if you don't follow rules like the next one.

Rule Two: Never, turn your back on the ocean. This is like putting a sign on your back that says, "Kick Me" except that the results in this case are colder, much colder.  I know this seems like a contradiction having said that there is nothing malevolent about the ocean, but you know there are days when that old fart Neptune can't get a tee time.  So he screws with people's head, manipulating waves to pass the time.  Which leads us to the next rule. 

Rule Three: I understand how enthralling it is to walk the water's edge and collect small treasures, sea shells and attractive pieces of driftwood. You should understand, however, the very moment you see that penultimate rock or piece of sea glass, the one that is beautiful beyond anything you could ever imagine, something bad is about to happen. The next wave will crash down hard on your hopes, leaving you both disappointed and drenched.  That beatiful beach bauble is as gone as the remarkable floating gold fish your mama flushed down the toilet.  So suck it up big boy (or girl).  Nemo ain't comin' back. 

Rule Four: If on a beautiful warm Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you should find yourself totally alone on the beach, don't be too surprised by a roaring sound two to three seconds later.  The bright side about encountering a Tsunami twin from Japan is that the unbridled forces of nature will likely teach you some humility.  Maybe you will also learn to stay more in touch with email and emergency bulletins, knowledge that might be useful in your next life.

Rule Five: Likewise, pay attention to surfers. If, on arriving at the beach, you see fifteen or twenty of them piling into their cars and leaving without bothering to changing out of their wet suits, consider brevity. California's beaches are the safest in the world, and there's no better place to be during one of our many earthquakes. Just don't hang around too long afterward.

Rule Six: Should you awaken from a nap on the beach, and notice that the ocean seems much further out than your pre-slumber memories, consider grabbing the largest, nearest piece of driftwood and try hard to remember anything you can from those documentaries about extreme surfing.  And get ready for the ride of your life.

Rule Seven: Another thing about surfers. Their boards are expensive, and they seldom let them out of their sight. If you see an unattended surfboard wash ashore, ask yourself three questions:

1. Does the ocean seem desolate, without the slightest hint of the board's owner?
2. Are there areas of indentation on the board which might suggesting teeth marks?
3. Does the ocean's color have even the slightest hint of pink?

If the answer is "yes" to even one of these questions, you might want to reconsider cavorting amongst the waves.

Rule Eight: A loud and persistent siren should not be ignored, especially if you are sunbathing at Avila beach, or anywhere within 50 miles of the reactors at San Onofre or Diablo Canyon. Nothing ruins an afternoon at the beach like a nuclear sun burn.

Rule Nine tests your intelligence: What is the one sure way to avoid death by drowning, whether because of poor swimming skills, a dangerous rip tide, or a shark that chomps down on your leg and drags you to the bottom? (The answer to this quiz is printed upside down and backwards on that little tag at the back of your underwear).  

But, seriously, anyone who hasn't come up with the obvious answer to question nine by now (or is at this moment examining his or her underwear) should not be allowed to bathe without a lifeguard in attendance.

Rule Ten:  Advice for people like myself and anyone who is often bent down and preoccupied with collecting everything on a beach:  Always stop occasionally and look up.  Elephant seals are lazy and fat, but under the right conditions they can move their enormous bodies very quickly, especially when the boulder you thought you were climbing over turns out to be his or her belly.

Final Rule: The greatest danger on our beaches comes neither from the cataclysmic indifference of the ocean nor the unpredictable behavior of a 1200 pound elephant seal.  It's  a much more dangerous denizen native only to the San Simeon shores.  Make every effort to avoid chance encounters with a goatee'd middle-aged man wearing a sweat-stained panama hat. If bad luck should put you within spitting distance of this cantankerous creature, do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to engage it in conversation. Just back away slowly--very slowly, before things get really ugly.

Even worse be to encounter this creature in it's morning post-waking state: mumbling incoherently over a handful of rocks, slack-jawed from caffeine deprivation.  In this case, your personal peril increases exponentially.

Your best recourse, then, would be to leave the beach with all the speed of an Olympic sprinter nippingly pursued by a shark-infested Tsunami. 
And that goatee'd thing with the funky hat? 
Rabid--with a history of biting tourists.

Hopefully, none of the guidelines in this public service announcement will discourage people from visiting the fine beaches of San Simeon.  Our shorelines are every bit as safe as those mentioned before (the ones just outside nuclear power plants).

If you'd like to thank the selfless and caring individual who authored these wonderful rules, please feel free to do so. 
By staying the hell out of my face.

I better not hear any more crap about being antisocial.  I could lose my sunny disposition.  And that would be bad, very bad indeed, for both tourism and public health along the central coast.

Oh... and have a great day at the beach!

(Note from site editors: The statements and ideas expressed in this blog in no way
reflect the opinions of Blogspot employees, the people of California, or the saner members of the San Simeon community)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Teacher's Legacy


Never taken the time to look it up, but the definition run something along the lines of “that which we leave behind".

And that's why I've always admired people who work with their hands. Whether it's a fireplace, a stack of insurance policies, or an automobile now in running condition, at the end of the day these people have something tangible to show for their efforts. They've created something that will last for months, possibly years.

But when the 3:30 bell rings, a teacher sits in an empty classroom, alone but for the stacks of ungraded essays and exams. Despite the goals, objectives and daily expectations imposed by supervisors, there remains a question. Did anybody learn something of value? Was anything taught that day that might make a difference in the lives of the 150 students who passed through the classroom doors?

As I think about Mrs. Marianne Frazier, I know the answer to these questions is “yes,” and monuments of difference survive in the lives of both students and colleagues. A great teacher makes changes that are immeasurable, incalculable, and indestructible--memories that will survive and affect generations to come.

In the 25 years I knew Mrs. Frazier, she never cursed, was never in a bad mood, and never, EVER raised her voice.

Except once.

Years before campus supervisors roamed high school campuses in golf carts, Marianne was assigned to watch the quad during the lunch hour. And she arrived on time. I know because I had taken the risk of excusing my 4th period class 15 minutes early to set up for a chess tournament.

And it was a beautiful day… .

Until the peace of our sunny afternoon was interrupted by yet another student fight.

Not the usual hair-pulling, obscenity screaming fracas of a girl fight, nor a prissy push-shove please-stop-us boy fight. This was two fully developed males, varsity football types, throwing the kind of punches that caused damage every time they landed.

Jogging in their direction, I saw the less lucky of the two combatants receive a quick succession of blows. He rocked back in a stupor. Obviously, his body lacked the good sense to fall down.

His opponent, however, did not understand he had already won the fight, and grabbed the other student by the hair. He started to pound the head of his opponent into a nearby concrete bench.

Then Mrs. Marianne Frazier arrived and vigorously tapped him on the back. Her words, “Stop that!” were spoken with so much volume and authority that they echoed across the quad.

The student stopped, hesitating just long enough for Mrs. Frazier to do something I would have never considered--she inserted herself between the victim and his prey. I was close enough to see his eyes, so far gone with rage that he saw nothing resembling a teacher in front of him, just an impediment, a small tree that needed to be uprooted and discarded.

His shoulder stiffened, and an arm pulled back while forming a fist. Suddenly, I felt sorry for Mrs. Frazier. It was sad that the only other adult--and only hope for help--happened to be nerdy young English teacher.

But Mrs. Frazier locked eyes with the fight-crazy student and shouted words that still astound me to this day: “Go ahead. Hit an old lady English teacher. I dare you! Just think what your friends will think about that."

In the next few milliseconds, I resigned myself to a course of action that would be both ineffectual and embarrassing. Personal injury and failure were certain, but I did not want to be the one who let Mrs. Frazier down.

Then a fist (and the high school student connected to it) paused in its all to predictable arc. Hormones and temporarily insanity had taken their toll, but I knew the owner of this fist to be a good kid and was acquainted with his father, a high school principal. The warrior gradually became a student again. He looked at the mob of fifty or so bodies, and I watched as his eyes regained and his face expressed some of his surroundings. Then shoulders eased and his fist gradually relaxed.

The fight was over. I escorted the semi-conscious victim to the nurse’s office. Mrs. Frazier saw the victor to the dean’s office.

At the end of that day, I doubt that anybody thanked Mrs. Frazier. Certainly few people remember the events of that afternoon.

But there was one student hadn't required hospitalization and did not suffer irreversible brain damage.

And another student was spared an arrest for assault--possibly even manslaughter. His father probably never realized how close his son came to an early criminal record.

But a very grateful chess coach went home that afternoon, knowing he had likely been spared humiliation and whole lot of hurt.

All because a usually soft-spoken voice had been loud enough, in its bravery and insight, to alter events and change lives.

At end of the day, the legacy of a great teacher is a memory.

Marianne Frazier, 1943-2011

An email I received today:

Hey dad,

That’s really sad about Mrs. Frazier.

You know that painting I did, the one hanging in your living room? I actually made that in her class. She always pushed me to put more detail in my projects. I owe a lot to her, as far as art goes. Many of the things I learned, were applied in the college art courses I took. I wish I could have been there for her memorial.



Monday, March 14, 2011

The Death of Fishes, Part Two

Just when I thought the situation couldn't get any worse. Zoom in and you will read that a "truck driver somehow dropped the slimy, reeking fish on Interstate 215".
And now the story has changed. The new spin on this fishy tragedy is that they all died because of a toxic algae bloom, effectively absolving the rich Redondo-ites of any negligence.
Why were other common harbor animals like seals and dolphins unaffected by this supposed toxicity?
And you can be sure that a truckload of decaying seals or dolphins, if they fell onto a highway, would not be referred to as "slimy" or "reeking". That's because these lucky creatures enjoy a "cute factor".
But nobody respects sardines, whether in or out of their cans, swimming or rotting.
This is an obvious example species bigotry (specism) and reeks of a deep pockets cover-up.
And nobody cares.
I just hope I don't start weeping when I open up my next can of sardines...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sardine Genocide

Think of it. One million sardines dead in Redondo. I like the sound of those last three words: Dead in Redondo" (good idea for a mystery title).

Kind of like the lyrics of the old Steve Martin song where he owns a : "Condo in Redondo"?

Anyway I was eating my "Kipper-Snacked Fillet of Fish" (refined, gourmet sardines) and started to think about all those dead little fishies down south. What a waste! And the newspaper article I read this morning didn't even mention of a memorial service. Will no one stand up for the sardines?

I expect every man, woman, and child to observe a moment of silence tomorrow in memory of the passing of these savory creatures.

But there's more to this fishtastrophe. I read further into the article and was horrified to learn that they were scooping up these poor little fellas and sending their delectable carcasses off to a landfill.

The shame! Every sardine yearns to end up in a proper resting place, the coffin of tin and sauce which I peel back, carefully and out of respect, holding up their revered remainders as I prepare to consecrate them by popping them into my mouth.

And that is why I urge all of my fish-loving friends to speak out in anger, speak out in rage! How could the people of Redondo have made so little effort to block their harbor, provide some warning that a sardine rave could result in oxygen deprived suffocation. A genocide, surely, maybe even a crime: (sar) dine-o-cide

I urge you all to write letters of indignation, stand up against the neglectful harbor masters, and let the big guys know that we are tired of their pollution, whether it's oil, unsafe water, or the proliferation of idiotic thought on social networks.

Remember the 'dines!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Merit Pay for Polishing

     I had a strange idea the other day.  Well, perhaps no stranger than my usual ideas.  But what if I was being paid to do something I love, say polish rocks?
     First, consider that polishing a three pound batch of rocks takes time, usually four to six weeks, involving various abrasives, washes between stages, and inspections.  Would the lure of money, cause me to rush the process and end up with an inferior product?  I hope not but look closely at the rocks sold in volume at local tourist shops and you'll see what I'm talking about, hairline scratches and uneven polish.
    Would I then get angry when a batch, just by nature of the rocks that happen to be in the tumbler, took longer than usual?  Often I stop the process after the first step and take out certain rocks to work with them individually, providing a more pleasing shape and removing flaws.  I doubt that I'd bother with any of this if time or money was an issue.  Sometimes the entire process can take eight weeks if done correctly.  But that's a long time to go without a paycheck...
     A paycheck that might be further delayed when a few rocks within a given batch polish more slowly than others.   Money or not, there are only two options at this point.  I could remove the slower ones and set them aside, recycling them into a later batch.  Though this reduces overall output and requires considerable patience, it results in a higher quality of rock.  There is an additional delay,  perhaps two weeks.  The other option would be to continue the process until the slow ones are finally done.  Doing this, however, risks spalding (rock-talk for fractures) in the already finished rocks due to over polishing.
     More time (and money) would be lost when a rock that is several degrees is placed in a batch of much softer stones.  These softer rocks softer rocks can be scratched and chipped through contact.  Sadly, one hard rock can ruin an entire batch.  I would, then, have to start all over again from the beginning.  Thoughtlessly putting miscellaneous rocks into a tumbler can be disastrous, I've learned, especially so if there were people paying you to polish didn't that understand this.
     I check my running batches for problems like this at least every other day.  But what if the people paying me  required that I open the tumbling barrel every hour to test the results?  Such overly monitored and overly evaluated rocks would take an agonizing long time to polish, reducing both production and success rates. 
     Experience has also taught me that some rocks will never polish, either because they are too coarse or too weak.  Polish these dull specimens all you want but they will never be glossy and bright.  Get enough problem rocks and I guarantee frustration, especially if you're collecting is limited to areas where resistant specimens are common.  Earning less just out of the happenstance of where I live and collect?  That doesn't sound fair.
     And imagine the shock of a "master rock polisher" who appears at your door wanting to observe your techniques.  I would have to get out of my recliner and wander around in the garage, making a show of putting oil on the bearings, wiping down the outside of the tumbler, and other tasks that don't really need doing.
     And then what would I do if the master rock inspector told me that I was behind in my quota?  What if the guy working out of his garage down the street was cranking out a more rocks and more often, and there went my bonus pay?  Certainly, hearing this would do little to improve neighborhood relations--and it might eventually result in a "mysterious garage fire".
     I guess I could put a few more rocks in each batch but that usually ends badly.  Anything beyond three fourths full and the rocks are too close to move around and can't bump against the other.  The barrel turns and turns but nothing is happening inside.  Another ill- advised approach to increased production would be to operate many tumblers at once.  So much for having any kind of personal life.  Then there's the additional risk of disasters due to inattention, trying to juggle too many rocks and too many tumblers.
     Would merit payments based on my overall rock output affect my love for this hobby?
     You bet.
     I enjoy the shaping of rocks and bringing them to a brilliant finish.  For me, this is a satisfying experience in itself.  Though not every rock is a success, that's okay.  But if the process was all about numbers, I'm pretty sure I'd hate it in no time.
     Well, just another of my strange ideas, that's all.
     Oh, and by the way, none of this has anything to do with teaching in the 21st century.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

High Tide at the Pico

8:15 am

Respectable waves, close together and quick cresting. They break down with so little ceremony
a person would have to raise his voice
to be heard.

A non-issue since nobody else
is around this morning.
except for Stewart, my dog
(and he's about as indifferent to my poetic musings
as my human friends).

I wonder how a surfer
might describe these waves,
but what little I remember
of 60's surf jargon would be laughably inadequate.

If true to the rules of any technical language,
a surfer's words would be short, concise
and unfamiliar to outsiders,
the treasured slang of a specialized group.

But for all I know, he might take a quick look,
decide the conditions were "crappy"
and drive off to whatever it is surfers do 
when they're not surfing.

Sitting against a driftwood log,
I get a today's paper out of my backpack:
3 to 4 foot southerly seas will accompany
today's west-northwesterly 5 to 7 foot swells 
with an 11- to 13-second period.

That's good, too, I suppose.
But not so nice as being here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shaping Rocks, Spouses and Children

I collect rocks. Anyone would know this after reading a few blog entries. I take some rough but promising stones and throw them into a tumbler. After several steps, various abrasives, and many weeks, I bring them out and admire their smooth, polished surfaces--which are often quite impressive (at least to me).

Though I appreciate their overall beauty, I am sometimes distracted by a perceived shortcoming; either they're not symmetrical enough to suit me or there's a tiny flaw that jars against my idea of perfection.

So I turn on my grinding wheel with its hard diamond coated surface and attempt to correct their overall form.

While attempting to reshape the smaller of these rocks, I often feel friction building up under my hands. If I continue, pressing on to complete this transformation, disaster follows. The stone is ripped from my hands by the increasing pressure and smacks against the metal casing beneath the wheel. Usually, the stone is unharmed.

But my hands continue their momentum toward the high-speed wheel. Often I lose a little skin and sometimes I bleed. These days, I seldom insist that a stone conforms to my need for perfection.

And larger rocks? Best leave them alone. Their faults and beauties lie so deep, it takes a long time to produce any observable change. And when I persist, their natural beauty is often marred in the attempt to erase some relatively minor flaw.

Can anything be learned from my observations, aside from tragic hindsight?
Not sure.