An Agate Addict Speaks Out

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

When I was in fourth grade my teacher, Mr. Whittle, loaded us all up on a bus and took us to a hill near Tenino, Washington, where we took out shovels and proceeded to dig for agates. I knew a little something about agates before we went to Tenino – my dad’s a geologist and he introduced me to Rock Basics – obsidian, pumice, quartz, granite, petrified wood, and agates. But actually having the opportunity to get out a shovel and dig for my own agate-treasure kindled in me the beginnings of an agate addiction.

Later – when I was in my early twenties – I would now and then visit my beloved Aunt Junie on the Oregon coast. Junie taught me the art of beach agate-hunting. The trick, she showed me, is to scan over the beach while you’re facing towards the sun – the agates glow as the sun shines through them, and they pop out at you. When I married my husband, I showed him the art of agate-hunting, too, and on our annual pilgrimages to the Oregon coast agate-hunting became one of our favorite pastimes.

After I became a middle school teacher I used the agates we found as Christmas gifts for my students. I’d call my students up one-by-one, and tell them to pick out one agate from my agate bowl that “spoke to them” – this was their “magic agate” and they were to keep their agates forever and every time they looked at them remember how much I loved them. Then I’d take a moment while my students were holding their agates in front of their classmates to tell each of them what I loved about them. Every now and then I run into students I had years ago who make a point of letting me know they still have their “magic agates.” That means a lot to me.

This week my husband and I once again made our annual pilgrimage to the Oregon coast – and lookee what I found… 🙂

The Treasures Under Our Feet…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2011471/Pictures-sand-Close-photographs-reveal-incredible-beauty.html

If you go to the URL above, you’ll see pictures of grains of sand magnified to 250 times their actual size. And I’m pretty sure these pictures will bring a smile of delight to your face, as they did to mine.

I am a rock aficionado. I can’t pinpoint when, exactly, I became a rockaholic – maybe I was born this way (my dad is, after all, a geologist); or maybe it began when my fourth grade teacher loaded us all up on a bus and took us on a field trip to a place where we could dig up agates the size of duck eggs; or maybe it was my beloved Aunt Junie who lived on the Oregon coast and trained me how to spot agates on the beach from 15 feet away – but from as far back as I can remember, rocks have held a special attraction for me.

When I became a teacher, it became a Christmas tradition for me to call my students up one by one and let them choose a rock from a bowl of rocks I’d found on the Oregon coast. They’d stand in front of their classmates, holding their chosen rock, while I told them all the things I loved about them. Then I’d let them know that the rocks they were holding were “magic rocks” – and that every time they looked at their rocks the rocks would remind them of how much I loved them.  Today, when I run into former students, often the first thing they’ll tell me is that they still have their “magic rocks.”  That always puts a grin on my face.

Rocks as big as skyscrapers that provide me with perfect handholds and footholds on rock-climbing adventures; flat, smooth-surfaced rocks perfect for skipping; boulders with great textures and patterns; and agates for my “magic rock” bowl – I appreciate the beauty of them all.

But before I saw the magnified pictures of the sand grains, I’d never really appreciated the beauty of these tiniest of rocks.  My feet have probably tread over billions – maybe zillions! – of sand grains in my life – over-looking them as I looked for agates or skipping stones – never really seeing the smaller treasures that were right in front of my eyes.  It boggles the mind.

And it makes me wonder what other treasures I’ve missed that were right in front of my eyes.

***

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And eternity in an hour.

— William Blake

(All photos below by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)