My family are rock pickers. Mom's a century farm kid, Stearns County, “the land of rocks & cows" where fields sprout rocks before they sprout green rows. My Dad grew up with a big city dream to make enough money that he could buy land and spend his time growing calluses in the construction of his own house, making it as beautiful as the land on which he'd build it. He was going to live out his time close to the earth. I am also a rock picker, sprouted neatly under this family tree.
I remember our parents bringing my brother and I out to pick rocks on neighboring farms where, sifting through piles of stones taken from pastures and fields, we sort and shuffle piles that look like low walls bordering the pasture lands. The goal was always to find "the nice rocks". Loading up the old green Ford pickup, lovingly named “The Green Machine”, worthy rocks were those of a certain size and a vague sense of specialness, what made them special still remains clear as mud to me. It was a childhood with these annual outings of playing in a dirt yard full of these rocks, the chosen nice ones. Piece by piece, rock by rock, the cream of these stone crops were ultimately positioned thoughtfully and cemented into the foundation of our house.
Presently, my favorites poke out from their place in the wall; the pink-and-bluish veined quartz that resembles a hunk of meat, the black round one whose surface is entirely covered with round grooves and laced in white streaks, and one, a warm shade of forest green, that shines and it smooth to the touch. I remember when the rocks were being assembled and the cement poured. Although too young to participate in the foundation walls, I longed to make my own addition when the fireplace was to be rocked, to complete the wall. The best and safest approach was to use artificial cast rock, with the inclusion of my own pocket rock.
I was probably 10 or 11 years old and my family went to an aunt and uncle’s cabin over the 4th of July. One of those crowded, urban lakes where the party was too big to feel comfortable. Anyway, we enjoyed the water and the sun. The lake was rimmed in a gorgeous shore of piled rocks. Playing in the water beside the dock, a rock caught my eye from its bed of grey-scale pebbles. I think it was the stark pinkishness from just below the water that snagged me, roughly fist-sized and a grainy, sedimentary texture. Nothing terribly striking, but I saw it and a comfort came over me. No one else seemed to see the beauty in this rock as I saw it. Showing it off won me half-hearted, “Oh wow, that’s cool,” distracted comments from adults preoccupied with adult things. I spent the rest of the weekend with my pinkish prize always at hand. Putting it in the fire one night, I sprinted to the lake to hear the sizzle of its contact with the cool evening water, it gave off the most satisfying sizzle. I didn't lose it though, careful to collect it after each fresh experiment. It came home as my souvenir of the weekend. The fireplace was halfway covered in rocks by that time and I felt frustrated that the rocks on the fireplace were not real. Something about the façade left me with the feeling of being almost fooled, and being forced to acknowledge it when right here I had a rock that created a sense of my pink little weekend freedom. I insisted that the fireplace have a real rock in it. This rock. This time my rock was met with adults impressed and admiring of the idea and the rock. My pocket rock was proudly cemented into the family hearth. The one real rock.
Of all the rocks we see every day in rocky places, granite mountains, pebble beaches, farm fields, lake shores, gravel roads, what is it about that one rock that catches our eye that makes us put it in our pocket? The Inca venerated rocks as deities and ancestors, said they had consciousness and feelings. Are the rocks we pick asking to be moved? To serve another purpose? Perhaps, to simply serve. To join our life for the duration of a nature walk or to live on a shelf or in the rock wall forever? Do we fulfil the pocket’s rock needs as they fulfil ours? Maybe. But they are real even if only to us.
by Lily Brutger
edited by Rockosopher