My daughter looked at me, walking around with my bag of rocks, and said I looked like Charlie Brown on Halloween.
What? I like rocks.
Not just any rocks. They have to be interesting rocks.
These particular rocks were full of mica. Geologists would call mica a sheet silicate mineral. I call it pretty and shiny.
The ground around our spot at the lake was littered with it. The rocks sparkled and gleamed in the sunlight. The wooden dock was covered in glittery fairy dust.
Like a magpie, I swooped in and collected as many of the shiny things as I could.
I’m going to put my mica rocks in a big glass jar, labeled with where and when I collected them.
Then I’ll put them on the shelf next to the jar of fossils collected from Mary’s Creek, Fort Worth, Texas, April 14, 1978. That expedition was one my mother took me on, to a road construction site near a creek bed. We collected an impressive number of fossils, including a large, intact ammonite, an ancient sea creature with a coil-shaped shell.
My mother and I never stopped rock-hunting together. One of our last trips was to the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, where we collected some beautifully colored slabs of rock, in shades of rust and tan and gray.
When I was in elementary school, my mother and I redecorated my room, and the centerpiece of one wall was a collection of rocks that my mother spent many hours mounting in frames. There was a giant quartz crystal, as clear as glass. A string of beautiful purple amethysts. A waxy lump of chalcedony. A colorful piece of peacock copper. A large piece of pyrite (fool’s gold). A four-inch-long arrowhead. A clear cube of calcite, which, if you looked through it, would show double images.
There were some shells in there, too, but I never took to the shells much. Unless they were shells that had turned into rocks.
I have about a half-dozen fossilized clams, and a couple of rocks with the imprints of ancient fish.
The most prized item in my whole collection is a fossil of a trilobite, an ancient sea critter. My trilobite, which I am holding in my hand as I write this, is at least 250 million years old.
My mother held it in her hands, too. It was given to her when she was a little girl in the 1930s, by an uncle who found it while digging a well on their farm in west Texas.
My son has inherited the bug. He’s got his own collection of rocks: iron ore from Janney Furnace, chunks of white and rose quartz from Mount Cheaha, lustrous pieces of polished hematite that are magnetic and stick together (OK, those we bought at the Anniston Museum of Natural History).
And now he’s got his own collection of mica, collected alongside his mother, in Randolph County, Ala., July 18, 2012.