Over the last couple months, my mind has been filled with rocks. To help Liam’s den fulfill one of their elective badges as Webelos II Cub Scouts, I led a couple days’ worth of activities on rocks. We talked about the great Pangaea, when all the continents nestled together; then the scouts plowed folded beach towels together to simulate plate tectonics crashing and forming mountains. We spread chocolate frosting on paper plates and slid graham cracks against one another on top of it to simulate plates at a fault line. The chocolate was the molten lava on which the plates float.
The second time we met to examine volcanic rock at the ocean’s edge in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was a shocking discovery for this Midwesterner who grew up with fossilized limestone in the glacial heartland to discover that my current home sits on igneous rock from 550 million years ago.
Our first stop was Devereaux Beach where all the rock is intrusive: formed thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface. Having been rolled by the waves, the granite rocks on the beach were smooth. We found xenoliths in rocks: as magma cooled it ensnared other rocks. A mile from this beach, we climbed Castle Rock and watched the high tide waves crash into the sides of it. Jutting upward, yellow-ish rhyolite and black basalt heaved in what was the sides of a very old volcano. The rock dome, being some 30-feet high, was jagged; its height protected it from the pounding surf unlike the smooth rocks at the beach.
This morning, tucked in next to my plants under the living room window, I notice a five-pound intrusive igneous granite rock with a beautiful gray-white xenolith running through it. New since we were at the beach Sunday and hauled in, I'm guessing, by Liam.
At the top of our stairs beach treasures sit on a small table, including six smallish rocks from a beach in Kingston, Massachusetts. My collection of heart-shaped rocks is in this mix too. All of them are smooth – as though for years they had been rolling on the sand by wave after relentless wave.
I walk down the stairs of the deck and see in the flower garden to the left a line of more smooth rocks that have been collected from Cape Ann beaches over the twelve years we have lived here.
I remember back to the days of going to Massachusetts General Hospital for chemo. I would often visit the roof garden on the 8th floor. At the entrance sits a bowl of smooth rocks. Each one big enough to nestle into the palm of my hand and to fit into my pocket.
As the scouts compared rocks from the igneous collection that I purchased for our outing to the rocks we found “in real life” on the coast last Sunday, the colors matched but the finishes were completely different. On cue, the scouts new why: the rocks on the beach had been subject to erosion by water, wind, and sand.
With all this rock thought, I realize why I collect them. Their smoothness is comforting. Their mass is solid. They have been through a giant rock tumbler that has left them far from their original state, and this new form is beautiful.
They wouldn’t be this way without every hurricane that threw them into the rocky shore line, every giant wave that rolled them on the ocean floor, every grain of sand that scratched them.
Through adversity and trauma comes indescribable resilience.