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Big Sexy Rocks

Figure 1: Dog-sized chunk of common opal, George, Washington.

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. A known slave owner, he refused to have people stand when he entered a room, but also wanted to be called, "His Mightiness, President of the United States" [1981, Dale Carnegie, Simon & Schuster Inc.]. He has tons of shit named after him, and the first rockhounding trek I made this year was to such a place. George, Washington happens to be the star destination for common opal in central Washington [Figure 1]. Any half decent guide or forum will boast the massive goodies of delicious minerals to forage for, and the site certainly delivers. Class trips often make a point to check it out, according to that chick I met at the bar. Yes, this state is so rad that I can get my rockiness on in most public venues.

The name of the George, Washington game is: sexy diatomaceous earth pits [Figure 2]. When I taught biology labs as a graduate student, we only spent one lecture dwelling on single-celled life. Makes sense when there are so many phyla to choke down during the second half of the course. However, this is where most people heard the word 'diatom,' and subsequently, 'diatomaceous' for the first time. It's just silicon life, don't lose yourself in the excitement, just yet.

Figure 2: Diatomaceous earth mound.

These pits are a mystery to me because everyone seems to know about them and where to find them, but I have yet to unearth a reliable, designated cause for their existence. Both tantalizing and alluring, considering their popularity. The abandoned trailers and construction equipment paint one picture, and the forums range anywhere from "industrial leftovers" to "highway construction." Whatever their origin, I navigated my way to the famed diatomaceous earth pits northwest of George, Washington to search for petrified wood and common opal.

I was not disappointed [Figure 3].

I have told a hundred different undergraduates that diatomaceous earth is an industry standard from polishes to toothpaste. At the time, I didn't see myself drooling over a giant pile of the stuff like it was a buffet of vegetarian nachos. In the year following those lectures, that's just what I ended up doing. Guys. It's the frickin' place to be. I wailed on a block of opal with my geo hammer for a good 20 minutes, found chips of petrified wood, snake skin agate, and green and black opal. Plus, I found some shit out while braining in the serenity of that wide open space, wreathed in mountains.

Forget the lust for gold, the shallow obsession with sparkly things, and the thirst for wealth. Hacking away at whatever lights your fire is the way go. And here's why these diatomaceous earth pits outside George, Washington made such an impression on my psyche: I can be the biggest bitch when it comes to video games.

Figure 3: Common opal.

Seriously, how many millions of people fuel that industry and love it with whole-hearted passion? Until recently (and I'm sure my insecurities will lead me to do this in the future despite my efforts- nobody's perfect, but I try damn hard), I just couldn't stand to hear people talk about their hours and hours "wasted away" in front of a computer or console.

I was wrong.

If your video games, bread making, slam poetry writing, nose picking, card designing, sport playing, stunt-doubling, anime memorizing hobby keeps you in balance, do it. Because I got lost for over an hour trying to find these pits in George, Washington. When I got there, I spent 3 hours crawling over industrial leftovers, alone, in blustery, spastic rain. I "wasted my time" gathering up pockets full of worthless rocks and minerals and wildly cracking open any hard substance that struck my fancy [Figures 1 & 3]. It was magical, and I loved it. Big sexy rocks all the way for this gal, and almost no one I boasted to about it afterward saw the appeal. Later some did, and friends always seem to know when to muster false enthusiasm (ain't love grand?).

Figure 4: Petrified wood, snake skin agate, common green opal.

But I learned something trudging over the mounds of ash-colored diatoms of yore: I love rockhounding. Always have. Actually, I've been meaning to write a post about how I retain no memories where I wasn't nursing my affection for this mess. This blog will spend a lot of time yammering about personal understandings of the world around me, and introspection -however potentially uncomfortable. When I went on my first collection trip in Washington, I rekindled an understanding of myself: I am the rock rat. And in so doing, cultured a greater respect for you. You cannot have a deficit of one without the other suffering.

And so I say, ensconced in my assortment of big sexy rocks and smelly gym socks, "Do as you please, but harm none!" These were my finds and the thoughts I brained while in George, Washington [Figure 4]. You should check it out- but remember to collect responsibly.

Happy Hounding!

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