Let's Get Ready to TUUUMBLE!


Figure 1: Tumbled agates from Island 20 PIT tag recovery, SW Washington, and various other locations in Washington and Oregon.

This is literally the third draft of a post about rock tumbling I have attempted to date. I swear to every single reader (I refer, of course, to you Dust in the Wind) that this will be the one I finally send forth unto My Morning Mile! I imagine this means it will be much sassier than previous posts, so if you are faint of language or short in rock-spirit, I recommend exiting now. Although, I make no promises to be especially sassy or -god forbid- spirited. I just know that when I set my elbows at this angle, cross my legs left-over-right, and sip my dirty Chai latte just so, my writing tends to get provocative, maybe even ...gritty (pun provoked but not intended). Furthermore, it will include poetry, songs, dense word-tapestries alluding to the effervescent conundrum of engaging in human connectivity, and sexy pictures of rocks! Incidentally, I need to go about procuring two of those four things.

Figure 2: Dirty Chai latte and windowsill plants at Coffee Girl, in Astoria, OR.

Right now, let us take a short jaunt down a twisted road I was shown by American author, Henry Miller. He did thus escort me to the edge of his wilderness (e.g. writing style) and then abandon me to its stream-of-consciousness wiles. Just for the record, Black Spring is nothing to mess around with. It will profoundly screw with your head. It will leave your mind a chaos-fire of unanswered questions, and then wave at you -smiling madly- from its final page. You will creep back into your own head tentative and tortured, but adorned with beautiful and incompletely digested metaphors about what it means to be an American male in roaring 20th century New York. Such as it stands, I am going to attempt this writing style right here and now. My promise at this moment, at this very beat of my heart, is that rain or shine, grammatical crimes withstanding, this dang 'ole thing will be published before the end of 24 hours! *cue dramatic ticking*

When it comes to tumble polishing rocks, we're talking about an intimate freaking process (for me). Some people go yeaarrss without ever figuring out how to properly load, manage, and clean their tumblers. I don't know any of them. Almost every schmuck I run into appears to be born with an innate, delicate touch. Speaking for myself, it's no small task, tumbling stones to a glassy sheen. I profess to have absolutely ruined several batches of rocks. After a while, the sense of being challenged by your own passion ignites a poet's heart in all of us. 'All' might be a strong word choice. Many of us? I strive to avoid excluding non-poets; I want to be encompassing while also recognizing that word play isn't something that affects all modern humans (and some learned gorillas). Back on track- not all of these victims of tumbler ruination were fruits of my direct collecting. I mean, that shouldn't matter when they rinse out to be broken and devastatingly scratched. Those poor fragile beauties, lost to my strikingly sloped learning curve...

Figure 3: Coarse cobble beach along Badger Island, along the Columbia River. I included this photo because I wanted something that gave me the sensation of being left to the wiles of Henry Miller.

Of course, each of my attempts at tumbling have begun honestly, and in the natural pursuit of rounded, sensual greatness. Smooth, shiny perfection. Stones that you find out in the world, carried home in pockets and backpacks and jars. Cleaned, sorted, weighted and measured. Delicately set and reset to that squeaky, rotating bar. Grey sand-like grits of varying sizes shaking and jiving to the rhythm of rocks and water and time. The little engine that I love to hate, drinking up turbine lubricant like a freezer pop at a marching band competition.

On a related note, if I gave up on my aspirations to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, I might consider getting the word "GRIT" tattooed on my neck. Some place where the scrawling letters can mask the acne scars sure to accompany me through the rest of this decade. This tat is multifaceted, considering my experience in graduate school darkly underscores 'grit' as a personal mantra. Another bonus being that it also commits me to a life of explaining the gangland-style presentation of (let's be honest) a mediocre pun. And there's something deeply satisfying about the sound people make when I hand them a perfectly horrible rock pun.

Figure 4: Petrified wood and agates, after some stage in the tumbling process.

Did you ever read Brave New World? We had to read it in high school, for AP English. Actually, we had a choice of reading three dystopian novels and writing essays on them for a big fat final assignment to receive full college credit. In truest & bluest form, I opted that a good writer was a good reader, and read two of the three options to construct a comparative essay, instead. Funny side note, I did this because (A) I wanted to read and not to write the big essay that would shame me to receive less than an A on, (B) comparative writing always came more easily to me, and (C) ever the evangelist, I (still) struggle to find comfort in conforming with the rest of the group. That last one turned out not to be the rebellious habit I invested in, as abhorring conformity is actually pointlessly fighting the pervasive truth that being average is, in practice, the state our culture both assigns to everyone and simultaneously deems to be sub-par. I believe this breeds a sort of disconnect with the natural flow of our identities within a universe of interaction and media-driven social coexistence. Plus, I was bad at it. Hiking boots, baggy tie dyed clothes, and plaid never did quite convey the message that I was being 100% honest with myself. In any case, there's a little rhyme in Brave New World I couldn't help but memorize. I actually have to fight the urge to rattle it off to my 3 month-old niece when scrambling for full-length poems and songs to sing for her. It goes like this:

Orgy porgy, Ford and fun

Kiss the girls and make them one

Boys are one with girls at peace

Orgy porgy gives release!

Super glad I catch myself around the baby, right? What kind of a song is that?! Well, literarily speaking, it's part of a government mandated, drug-induced conditioning ceremony used to reinforce connection between citizens of a scary, dystopian, future Europe. The song is recited, chanted, and chorused to get everyone so high on their own brain (and government supplied) chemicals that their numbed stated suppresses everything unique about them and they have a crazy, marathon sexual experience with their fellow citizens. Basically, getting everyone numb enough and high enough on endorphins & sedatives to the point of dissolving their humanity into a giant cauldron of human existence without human experience. In my humble interpretation, anyway. An interesting book. I preferred Children of Men, but Brave New World is a classic dystopian masterpiece, notable for several prescient motifs. I bring this up because I wrote a little twinge of a song about my tumbler that sparked this post like a month or two ago. Then, as I was transcribing it to this page, I began to meld it to the template of the aforementioned sex hymn (unintentionally). The original poem goes like this *cue tuning pipe*

Figure 5: Assorted tumbled agates.

Song of the Lortone 3A

Rumbler of my tumbler

Unwavering hum

Reminding us that

With a little grit

All good things in time.

If I rewrote my song to match the meter of Orgy Porgy, it would go something like this:

Rumbler Tumbler, grit and stone

Grind those rocks down to the bone

Pinch of polish to add the shine

Rough or tumbled, still divine!

I think they both have merit and a solid ring. Actually, the second one is much more conducive to sing-songing than the original poem. I hope that my humming it to myself and my niece isn't considered copyright infringement. Even if it is, fine. Call the popo. I know there are some of my kinsmen among those in blue. And now, on to something completely familiar!

10 Life Lessons Straight from Lortone 3A (my tumbler)

#1) It's time to move on.

Sometimes, you've ground the shit out of a batch as much as you can with 80 grit and you just need to move on to Step 2. Or Step 3, or whichever step it is that you are determined to resist surrendering to. This is the first on the list because it is far and away the most powerful lesson I need to retain in my tumbling. The brain worm of 'Let it go' just can't make it into my Central Conductive Unit to set up shop. That unit is self-protected with a zeal suspiciously reminiscent of heartbreak survivors, but I swear I will keep sticking that sonofabitch worm in the Lazarus pit [see DC comic books, specifically Teen Titans]. Eventually, it will metamorphose into a brilliant and terrifying manifestation of authenticity dripping in personal freedom. And, hopefully, I will no longer wring my hands over a canister of agates that have been on the same grit for three straight weeks. This is what I hear when I set my Lortone back to work this afternoon, with Step 2, after caving to the idea that I can move forward without having every stone rounded to my delusional expectations: "We are not going to conform to your desire for perfection. Release us from that addictive illusion. If you don't, we are no longer responsible for the affect our tragic loss will have on your confidence as a novice tumbler and rockhound." Wisdom at its dagnabbited profoundest. In that spirit, let us move on to our next item.

Figure 6: Hilarious "Cliff Warning" sign at Point Definace Park. Reminding us that the road of life is filled with spontaneous things that may plummet you to your death.

#2) Focusing on this one stone is hurting all the other stones that share its space.

This refers to my current pocket rock. It is the heart of a thunder egg, and I am determined to grind it into something resembling an orb of moss agate. There are talented folks that make spheres out of t-eggs on the reg, but I am not among them. This little nugget called to me from my bucket, then had the audacity to resist change! Total dick move. I'm sorry, is that sexiest? Amendment: Total genital move. It was the reason I used up all of my coarsest grit reserves, and wasted almost a month running in place (and running my baby's engine into an early grave). Once I saw how much tuff the first week of coarse grit took off, the blinders locked dead on to removing the rest. This batch of thunder egg agate, chalcedony from SE Washington, Island 20 agate, and blue agate vein material suffered under the resultant wrath of my fervent refusal to move on to Step 2 [see item #1]. I am now painfully conscious of the stones ground into unusable chips and the aggressive cracks taken on by some of the larger pieces. Again, my Lortone pleaded with me: "We are more than the summation of a single thunder egg heart! There is no reason why this single rock needs to be perfected at the risk of the rest. Although it was not damaging to us after the first repetition, and maybe not even after the second, we have reached our limit. Boundary established. Surrender now to Step 2 or suffer the loss of much more than your time and grit reserves." Point taken. I sincerely hope this talk we had convince