HAPPINESS IS A WARM ROCK

Today is one of those suckola days when the sky is dark and grey and a wet drizzle defies the dry air, breaking through in bits and pieces, just enough to keep me reminded that it may actually rain and I’d better not stay out too long in it.

I’m a lapidarist, among other traits one can either admire, detest or find totally boring, depending on how inquiring your mind is, from my perspective anyway, and I have a large (relatively speaking compared to someone with a few shiny river rocks) assemblage of agates and jaspers and other types from all over the world.

Among this lot is a box full of nephrite jade that I collected over the years while living on the California coast. Particular to the area I collected in, in the Big Sur range, is a form of jade known as botryoidal, which means “grape-like clusters”. In the Sur we call it Bubble Jade, and I have perhaps 125 or so nice small pieces of it that I mined many years ago. Bubble jade is used as jewelry. It’s very rare, and very attractive.

Then there’s the Shell Mound Rock.

The natives, the Indians, would heat jade rocks to cook their food and keep them warm at night. They’d put the rocks in their campfire and get them really hot, then put them in a leather bag with their food, and the hot rocks would boil or cook as needed. The thing about most rocks is that if you put them in fires they’ll explode from the moisture inside them turning to steam. Jade has no water in it and is incredibly fracture resistant. A hot jade rock wrapped up and in the bed would give off heat for many hours.

These Indians had trash heaps, called middens, where they’d throw stuff they didn’t want, and with them it was the shells of shellfish. There was this very large midden, and as I walked past it one morning I saw a gleam of green in the white of the decomposing calcium shells, reached in and pulled out my largest chunk of jade yet, about 9 inches across and 3 inches thick. Some Indian had hidden it there before following the season North or South with their tribe. They were hunter-gatherers, and this one obviously never lived to return to it. It was probably in there for centuries before I found it, but for one aboriginal man or woman, this was a valued bedwarmer for a long time. Happiness was a warm rock.

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