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Pocket Rocks: Bristol

Figure 1: Bristol's pocket rock from Duluth, MN.

I work with some of the greatest humans ever conceived on this planet. We are the Boonies. That is the name I dubbed my two fleeting roommates after Bristol, Alex, and I returned from our rockhounding adventure one Monday evening in August. The name classily represents the two overwhelming truths of our experience at Salmon Creek: that we lived in Astoria, OR, and sought buried treasure (AKA the obligatory Goonies reference). Furthermore, we are all biologists by trade and passion. The biological Goonies: the Boonies. Bonus! We also tend to work in extremely isolated circumstances, which are often referred to as 'boonies.' So, this works on all kinds of glorious levels. With that introduction, it is with the deepest pleasure that I present to you to first out-sourced addition to Pocket Rocks: An Anthology of Talismans in Modern Life.

The subject of this interview is Bristol, a Boonie with unlimited talent in science education and individual who was generous enough to answer these questions and provide photos to contribute to My Morning Mile. There is no amount of gratitude that would suffice to convey my thanks for the shared enthusiasm and patience this person has for nature hobbies and her work. I only hope that my representation of her writing is as authentic as possible, so that whosoever reads this and other pieces she has kindly provided for my blogging,will appreciate the mind and spirit of this teacher and friend. I've been told that good people are hard to find in this isolated age because of overwhelming distractions and technologies that disconnect us from those potentially kindred souls. If that is even partially true, then pocket rocks are one of the cures to this on-going isolation. Talismans that thread us together into a web of shared joy and companionship, pocket rocks tell only a story as a reflection of their bearer. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bristol and her pocket rocks.

Figure 2: Bristol, a fellow pocket rocker and science educator.


"My heart and soul currently reside in a little cabin on Kodiak island, surrounded by dwarf willow, fiddlehead ferns, and mile upon expansive mile of crowberry-covered and ptarmigan-infested tundra. The rest of me is an inveterate vagabond. I like working with wildlife, exploring scenery, and preaching to the choir. I am now planning to become a teacher so I can educate a choir which can then be preached to."

Why do you pocket rocks?

"I have some minor hoarding tendencies. I believe no beautiful or unique thing should go unappreciated, which means being held and touched and usually removed from its resting place so I can continue to hold and touch and love it. Sometimes I also pick up non-beautiful things because I either feel nature wants me to have it and will withhold further treasures if I don’t, figuratively, eat my greens, OR because I feel the non-beautiful object will be sad if I don’t choose it. I realize it’s not rational. Shut up."

When did you start pocketing rocks?

"Summertime. In Kodiak, at a fish camp, any further delineation is unnecessary. I didn’t know what the heck the names of the months of summer were until middle school because of this."

How did you start?

"We would go hiking at Rodman’s Reach, which used to have an Alutiiq name but the English explorers wiped it out. Fortunately there is no other indication that they were there. Rodman’s Reach is the most beautifully barren place. It’s essentially a long spit of beach that is connected to land on either end, five miles apart. Sometimes bears mosey around out there, but they don’t find much besides sea-rolled stones and beach rye. When my family goes there, I always fill the pocket of my sweatshirt with rocks. My mom has ended up carrying a small boulder for miles because it was too pretty to leave. The rarest are called pink rocks, the most cherished are agates, heart rocks, and eyeball rocks. Depending on your personal rock preference, of course."

What is their significance to you (if any)?

"Having a significant rock with me does serve as sort of a talisman. I count myself as a fairly rational person, but then I also feel safer or happier with a special pocket rock. Ones from Kodiak in particular feel like an extension of the safety we enjoy in childhood, free from responsibility and worry. A reminder of simple and easy times. It’s a little guardian I can carry around with me."

Does it affect your behavior / routine / in certain situations / with people / etc.?

"Not in a big way, no. But my little talismans can help me feel calmer if I’m stressed, or remind me of another place and time when I don’t want to be where I am. I’ll occasionally choose one that seems to suit the day if I anticipate challenges, like deadlines, bad weather, or homesickness."

Do you connect with others in any sense through this?

"My Kodiak pocket rocks are a tangible and inexplicable link to my wonderful mother, who embodies home for me in nearly every way. Some of my favorite memories are of haphazardly making cookies with her in that little wood kitchen. She’s not a great cook, but those cookies always turned out great. Or at least edible, which is the same thing when you’re nine."

Is there a story you would share about this cultural phenomenon / something at all you would like to say about pocket rocks or this project as a whole?

"My favorite uncle once remarked that if everyone has a bird feeder in their yard, the world would be a happier place. I feel the same way about pocket rocks. They are a little, uniquely textured and colored thing from the natural world that brings you a little way out of your human-centric world. Maybe they serve as a stress ball, or a source of spiritual focus, or a reminder of a neat place. Either way, this appears to be a common human tendency, and I’ll be interested to follow the Pocket Rock series."

Bonus Q) Would you like to discuss this with the author or connect with this project in another way?


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