Rich in rocks

Monday, April 25, 2016 0 Permalink 0

Old habits

Today the tractors dug trenches for water and electric underground. In the process, in the mounds of dirt piled to the side, many large rocks were unearthed. I was delighted! I began gathering them, largest first, cradling them in my arms til overflowing, staining my shirt with mud, traipsing back and forth to the machine to glean the first rocks from each scoop with evident relish.

The workmen leaned on their shovels nonplussed. “What are you going to do with those rocks?” one asked.

“I am going to… um… put them… in a row around the flower beds, I guess. Or just… keep them… here.”

They just nodded and stared with their brows cocked. They didn’t ask more, dragging in their cigarettes languidly. They probably just chalked it up to the eccentricities that accompany my foreign accent, like wearing cowboy boots, eating fried bananas for breakfast, or serving coffee at all the wrong intervals during the workday.

They have a point, though. The truth is that we don’t really need more rocks. We are rich in rocks. Rocks are everywhere at le Camparol, both on and below grade.

But even 6 years out of the Deep South where the coastal water table is nearly at the surface and the earth is so sandy you can shovel it with one hand and no foot, like digging a hole at the beach, I still can’t get over the fact that here the ground is overflowing not with water, but with stones. Far from the $600-800/Ton which rock of any sort cost there, precious cargo brought from some other mountainous region, here rocks are free. They are considered part of the house, all those below us right to the core of the earth, and they are ours.

This is a great joy to me, a sense of plenitude and richesse. I feel rich in this buried treasure, the idea that any time I want, I can go out with my wheelbarrow and pick up rocks out of the field and arrange them in lines or in stacks, making little walls around the flower beds – and if I need more and am so moved, I can take a shovel or a tractor and dig up all the rest I could want until I am just too tired to carry more – an infinite supply.

In the land of rocks, however, rocks are not truly valuable. In fact the dumptrucks this morning were full of… you guessed it… sand. To fill in the bottom of the trenches with a soft even layer for the pipes, so that the pressure of later traffic over the ground does not press the many rocks into the pipes and break them.

So rocks are free, and sand you have to import at a cost. Ah, the vagaries and inversions of a life lived on many shores.

Force, time, and uniformity

This is a formerly glacial area, with layers of rounded manicolored stones ranging in the earthtones from marble white and black, to greeny grays, to plain beige, to a few scattered examples that are rust red or lapis blue.

We speak often about how uncanny it is that they are so evenly distributed in their party colors and various sizes. There are differentiations in the density of stones in a given tract of land, but seemingly not in the color distrubutions inside those various bands. Nature did a painstakingly thorough job of sorting and mixing and regularly distributing again so many disparate ingredients in the layers of earth.

The time and geological forces that it took to get to this point are staggering and part of the pedigree caché of having so many rocks, in my opinion. There is something in there about apparent permanence actually instead representing eternal change on a scale which we dare not imagine.

A man who can feel rich from the valueless is probably either crazy or fortunate beyond riches. I don’t really mind which. I like to arrange them above ground with deliberate regularity similar to their natural state, in repeating order of colors and sizes. I like also when watering the plants to hit them with the hose, the water bringing out their colors like they were below the ground, moist and dark for millions of years before anyone could even appreciate them.

And now we can. As many as we want, as often as we want.