Forrest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates,” but I think life is more like a box of rocks. Some people are smarter than the box, some people are dumber than the box, and if you are one of the really lucky ones you get to collect your own rocks and fill your box along the way.
All summer Goose and I played up in La Plata Canyon and, each time along the way, we drove by a curious sight. Tables of neatly displayed rocks and minerals for sale adorned the side of the road. On cue, Goose would beg to stop and look at the rocks, one day we did.
What we found was more beautiful and exciting than any of the rocks on the table. Goose found the encouragement from an unlikely kindred rock hunting spirit. She found pride in herself and rocks to add to her box in life.
Goose has a knack for collecting colorful characters. As we stopped on the side of the road, the trailer door screen door groaned opened and Bob Ross emerged, his black worn-out prospector hat, well worked hands and twinkle in his eye, a dead giveaway that he was the real deal, and I knew in that moment that like the rocks Goose collects, she would gather Bob too and add him to her collection of adventure seeking, wilderness exploring cast of colorful characters she calls friends. Within moments of meeting, Bob was quick to notice Goose was “a tough little....” well you know, and he was right. They both are.
They immediately shared a common interest and both understood that while all that glitters may not be gold, that if you look closely enough, there are sparkles that make all the rocks beautiful. I watched as they both stood there and sparkled talking about the rocks together. Goose picked up a rather expensive specimen from the table, and I instructed her to put it down. Bob interjected that if she dropped it and broke it then he would have two beautiful rocks instead of one and placed it back in her little hand. Goose turned and looked at me and gave me the “See, Bob gets me,” look and, right then and there, she became a “Rockhoundette,” and so began our monthly field trips with Bob Ross, prospector extraordinaire, and they took off, exploring the wilds in search of treasure and adventure.
For our first outing, Goose ventured into the New Mexico desert, rock hammer in one hand, Bob’s hand in the other, guiding her along the way. Pointing out the unexpected extraordinary right under our feet. What a lesson to learn at such an early age, to be aware and considerate of what most of us deem ordinary. To take the time to look closer and find something special where most people would overlook it is a skill that will carry her off the beaten path through life. Collecting rocks teaches us to take time to look at our surrounding and to see the beauty in something we typically walk on without a thought.
Goose comes by her love of rocks, fossils and minerals naturally. As a child, I amassed a collection of rocks and put them in mason jars with water and kept them in my room. They were beautiful and even more brilliant in the water. I could swirl them around in the jar and simultaneously stir memories in my imagination. As a mother, I caught myself saying more than once, “No more damn rocks in the house!” But stopping and meeting Bob caused me to swirl those beautiful jars in my memory, reminding me it was more than the rocks inside I was drawn to as a child. Each rock held the representation of a memory in my life. What was plain to the untrained eye was magical to me. Each rock signified what happened that day and all signified something good. I want Goose to have a collection of rocks from good days that make a life so beautiful she could build a mountain with them, and I want to climb to the top of that mountain with her and reminisce about each one along the way.
Like the petrified and fossilized wood and minerals, the memories that accompany finding them are equally indelible. We keep our memory jar in the living room, and we both remember where each rock, piece of petrified wood, rusty railroad tie, fossil and dinosaur bone came from. To be able to call upon the box and touch a special memory ensures that these experiences live on forever, fossilized in our bond as mother and child, reminding us where those have been before us and where we have been in search of their histories and the stories we made along the way. My greatest wish for Goose in life is that her cup runneth over and her box of rocks be heavy with happiness.
Jenny can be reached at [email protected]