Tumbling through life ~ a survival guide

Tumbling through life ~ a survival guide

I have a small confession to make.

I love rocks.

Rocks, crystals, gemstones, fossils, pebbles. Any size, any shape. I’ve been passionate about rocks since I was a kid. I started collecting tumble polished semi-precious stones when I was about ten years old. The sight of a quartz point the size of an Aga in the natural history museum in Frankfurt when I was fourteen made me a lover of crystals. I’m not bothered by precious stones for their value, or even their alleged beauty because to me sparkling diamonds are not terribly interesting. Properly cut gems seem oddly homogenised and for all the glitter, rather dull. Until you get to the jaw-droppingly massive ones, they all look the same.

I have an eye for fossils too; take me field-walking and I’ll probably find you one within the hour. A trip to a beach usually results in me finding at least one or two small ones.

There’s something sensual about polished stones that I cannot resist. The recent popularity of so-called palm stones, (that is smoothly shaped and slightly flattened rocks, polished to a high sheen and often with a shallow indent in the middle that just invites the thumb to caress it) meant that larger numbers of beautiful stones became available for quite reasonable prices.

Natural crystal formations draw me too; I have a lot of clear quartz points in many sizes and shapes. I have jewellery made of stones, some I have made myself.

I’m a bit of an addict or obsessive when it comes to the mineral kingdom. There is great beauty in even the simplest of stones, and one excellent way to ground the jittery nerves is to hold and meditate on a rock.

Ten years ago I was given a stone polisher. This is a very basic device of a motorised pair of spindles that turn a small drum you fill with a mixture of different sizes of stone along with graded grits and polish and water, to mimic the polishing action of the sea. I’ve not used it a great deal, even though I’d always wanted to have one. It takes weeks of tumbling to turn rough rocks into smooth, shining ones; weeks of patient inspecting, changing the level of grit, topping up water, washing away the sludge. You also have to select your stones very carefully. All the stones need to be of about the same level of hardness on Moh’s scale.

This is for a good reason. Put a softer stone like amber in amid quartzite and you will destroy the amber without benefiting the quartzite in the slightest. The stones tumble and churn against each other, and the motion along with the water and the grit are what smooth each stone. Put one stone in alone and it will probably never polish; it needs other rocks to rub against. Put all the same size in and the polishing is uneven. But the key seems to be a mix of stones of the same hardness but of different sizes and shapes.

And some stones must never be put in a tumbler. Amber, opals and various other stones that have a high water content that make them soft are destroyed by the process and must be polished by hand.

It occurred to me that this is a metaphor for the growth of a human soul, its progression through life. Some people are energised and refined by the rough and tumble of life with lots of others around them, becoming polished and smoothed by the interaction with others. Some only thrive if those others are of the same resilience as themselves. Others, like diamonds, cannot be affected much by the rubbing and tumbling of others around them. Diamonds in the rough are unremarkable stones, despite their extreme hardness; their nature is such that they will crush others while their own surface remains untouched. Only by being split open with immense skill by something of the same or greater strength can reveal their shining facets. Some people however are only ever going to be damaged by constant unremitting tumbling around with others.

I think people are like this. Introverts are like amber or opal, needing gentle individual care to bring out their beauty without crushing them to useless powder. Extroverts are like jaspers and quartzes, needing a mix of others to polish them and to polish others in return. And there are some who, like diamonds, need to be fractured, cut and polished by very individual attention to show the world the beauty hiding behind unprepossessing faces.

What kind of rock are you?