I collect rocks. As a child I had an old powdered milk tin full of rocks I had found and in around the bush at my grandparents property. There were smooth black river rocks, red and green striped agate and creamy white sandstone with mysterious dark patches in the middle which hinted at amethyst inside. I wanted to break them open to find crystals or fossils inside but never dared in case I sacrificed one of my precious collection for no reward.
It was years later when studying geology that I realised the area was mainly metamorphic rock which was formed with too much heat and pressure to preserve fossils. But as a child I didn’t know this and dreamed of finding dinosaur eggs and deep purple caves of crystals. As an adult I collected fossils too and have been lucky enough to find some in the wild. I have lost the tin of rocks over the years and started many bags and boxes of new rocks in that time. I enjoyed pressing the cool stones onto my face and touching their smooth sides. My imagination ran wild in a tropical savannah bushland – once I even found a burned out car with a smashed windscreen. I collected some small pieces of glass and put them in a velveteen bag as diamonds.
I was a fossil hunter, rock collector and explorer – walking through bush, climbing up granite outcrops and clambering through dry creek beds as a child and as an adult. I have picked up rocks across Australia and the world, a compulsion I relished but didn’t understand.
My memories of this part of my life have been at the forefront lately. For the past four nights I have been reading ‘The Atlas of the Earth’ to Masters 4 and 2. There is a page that we get stuck on each night that explains fossil formation and there is a photo of an ammonite. I explained to them that I had a real ammonite ‘somewhere in the shed’. Of course they wanted to go immediately and hunt around the dark shed at night to find it. I kept putting off the task and then when I had time and daylight I forgot. Then today we were able to open the box of treasures I have and all discover it together. I was amazed at how my childhood could overlap with theirs and how I knew that one day my collection would be ‘useful’. I could see my childhood expressions of wonder in the deep chocolate-coloured pools of their eyes. I knew how they felt.
The cardboard box was dusty and full of cockroach droppings. With a quick clean off we were able to look at the contents together. For me it was a nice surprise, there was more in the collection than I remembered. For my sons it was exciting to match what was in their book to what Mum just happened to own. Today I was rock solid.