Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rocks in My Attic

You know how hot an attic can get on a summer day.

We tried to plan the emptying of our attic so that the temperature up there was bearable. We picked a day that was forecast to be cool and rainy. Wouldn't you know? -- it never rained. The sun came out. The air turned sultry, heavy, damp, very warm. Still no rain.

It wasn't too bad. The attic wasn't an oven, but we didn't want to linger either. Sweat rolled down faces and trickled down skin beneath shirts, as we lugged one box after another. I handed things to my husband, who handed them to Josh, who set them on the upstairs landing. Two more sets of similar arrangements carried our stuff to the garage, into a rental truck, and finally to storage.

We were in the middle of it all, in the steamy air. I handed a box to my husband and announced it's contents, just like I had done for all the others.

"Rocks. They're heavy."

"What?" He looked at me like I must be joking.

"Rocks. For Ben."


I nodded.

"No way. You mean we're moving rocks?"

Yes, way. I explained. "Ben wants to keep them. There's another box of 'em here, too."

My dear husband, having been father and superintendent for a very creative homeschool, was used to odd things happening in our household. He learned to never throw anything away. It might look like trash, but you never know -- it could be a science experiment. This time, it took him a minute to adjust. But after staring at me and blinking, he did. Then he cheerfully shrugged and hauled the rocks with me.

A couple of weeks ago, I had called Ben to ask him if we should get rid of the rocks.

His response: "Mom, I can't even believe you are asking me that." Okay. I just smiled.

In the elementary grades, we decided to embark on a geology unit study. We studied all the types of rocks and minerals, their crystal formations and characteristics, and how they were created. We drew rocks, read about rocks, looked at pictures of rocks. But by this time, I had grown wiser. I knew that my hands-on learner would only engage by experiencing rocks in a three-dimensional way. I used an old pair of jeans to make "rock bags" and bought small hammers, chisels, and plastic goggles at the hardware store. We started going outdoors to find rocks. Ben was in a state of bliss with his little hammer and chisel and bag. He never tired of going up one more hill or around one more corner just to see what he could find. For weeks, we went out for rocks every day we could.

Some interesting things happened which spurred us on and made it all the more intriguing. A lake at a nearby state park was drained; Indian arrowheads were there. We discovered a piece of a geode in the lake bottom. Friends who lived twenty minutes away found fossils of prehistoric sea creatures in their creek bed. At their invitation, we came to find our own and carry them home. We found black obsidian on one of our hunts -- shiny, polished smooth as glass. Ben called it black gold. You can imagine the excitement.

I also started picking up sheets of rock and mineral specimens: tiny samples of rocks and minerals glued to a sheet of thin cardbord with each name printed below the corresponding specimen. I found polished stones in gift stores and museums. I added these to our growing collection. Soon Ben and Josh could name by sight an impressive list of rocks, minerals, and gems. They knew their characteristics, their unique properties, how they were used, and how they might be identified in the ground. Josh enjoyed all of this, but for Ben this was a passionate pursuit. He treasured our rocks. He often talked about how he could not wait to see real gems.

That's why we arranged to see the Gems and Minerals Collection at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg. When we walked into the gems and minerals room, Ben could barely contain his excitement. There were the very gems he had only seen pictures of and had envisioned. There they were, in living reality, sparkling under the lights in their glass boxes. This was really a dream come true. The Carnegie collection is stunning, no doubt about that. Any student of geology would be impressed with the vast array and the sheer volume, size, and beauty of the specimens on display. But Ben was enthralled, transfixed, suspended in wonder.

He said, "I will never forget this day."

Years later, he still remembers the delight and the wonder of discovery. A friend recently told me that Ben, now a college student, picks up rocks when he is out for a walk and carries them back with him.

I remember, too. That's why I have rocks in my attic.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful thing to hear from your child, that you have been part of a day that he will never forget.

    We have random rock collectors here -- not identified or categorized, but precious nonetheless. How many times have I been hanging up a coat only to find rocks in the pockets!

    Thanks for another interesting moment in a homeschoolers life. kr


I love to receive comments from my readers, since you are the ones I am writing for! Please feel free to leave one.