Sunday, June 8, 2014

For the Love of Rocks

Like many children, Emmy loves to collect items from nature -especially rocks.  Ever since she could walk, treasures from nature have come into our house.  Emmy has a nature tray in her bedroom where she keeps all of these treasures.  To this day, it is rare for her to come home without a rock, shell or acorn in her pocket (or in my purse).  Emmy also enjoys going to stores and museums that have polished rocks. A recent find, from the Harvard Museum of Natural History, is a piece of Chalcopyrite KAL-kah-PIE-rite (shown on the left in her hand above). It is also known as peacock pyrite because of its shiny iridescent qualities which is what drew her to this rock right away.  

Along with collecting rocks, Emmy and I love to read books about rocks.  Here are a few that we have added to our collection of rock books.  

In the photo essay style book, If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian with photographs by Barbara Hirsh Lember, children are finding different kinds of rocks that aren't classified by mineral or structure, but rather by use:  skipping rocks, splashing rocks, climbing rocks, resting rocks.  
Maybe you find a soft white rock - 
a rock that feels dusty in your fingers.  
Then you have a chalk rock and you use it
 to make pictures on the pavement.  

Emmy's favorite classification from this book is a wishing rock. This is a rock with a line all the way around it.  Trace the line, whisper what you want and then throw it.  Here is an example of a wishing rock from our collection.  If You Find a Rock is the perfect beginning to a more formal classification of rocks.  I love that it focuses on observation and appreciation for rocks.  
Next up is a book by one of my favorite authors Byrd Baylor. Baylor lives and writes in an adobe house powered by solar energy in the Sonoran desert of Arizona (she refers to a technical glitch as one where her pen runs out of ink). She presents images of the Southwest through beautiful prose that illustrates vividly the value of simplicity, the natural world and the intense connection between the land and the people.  Baylor's book, Everybody Needs a Rock with illustrations by Peter Parnall, outlines ten rules for choosing the absolutely perfect rock for you. The specifications will make you smile... 

Rule Number 1 
If you can, go to a mountain made out of nothing 
but a hundred million small shiny beautiful roundish rocks. 
But if you can't, any place will do even an alley, even a sandy lake.  
Emmy's favorite rule:  Rule Number 6...The size must be perfect.  It has to feel easy in your hand when you close your fingers over it.  It has to feel jumpy in your pocket when you run.  Some people touch a rock a thousand times a day.  There aren't many things that feel as good as a rock if the rock is perfect.  

I'm going to be sure to reread this book with Emmy because I know that we can use Baylor's idea of ten rules to make lists for other nature items such as, ten ways for choosing a shell, a leaf, a horse chestnut or perhaps even a friend. 

Last is a book by Leo Lionni that is quite different from his signature color and collage work. On My Beach There are Many Pebbles provides us with a whimsical look at rocks.  Part realism and part fantasy...there are fishpebbles and goosepebbles and peoplepebbles and letterpebbles to admire and talk about.  Emmy and I get very excited any time we find a rock that looks like the shape of a heart.

On my beach there are many pebbles 
Most are ordinary pebbles but 
some are strange and wonderful.  

I want to mention two items that Emmy and I use when we are on the hunt for a special rock or something else found in nature.  

(1) We love this mesh bag that was given to Emmy as a birthday gift a few years ago.  It is perfect for holding lots of special items and keeps them from ending up in my purse!  

(2) We also love this little book, Dig Into Rocks, Minerals & Crystals, that we found at the shop in the Harvard Museum of Natural History.  It is simple in text with real photographs of a variety of rocks like the Chalcopyrite.  Emmy often refers to this book when she comes home with a new rock.  

One last thought before I end this post...using rocks to create art is one of Emmy's favorite things to do. She will often move rocks around to create a picture or stack them to create a sculpture.  Sorting them is another thing that she does naturally without any nudging from me.  I love that we can create art anywhere using items from nature!   

Happy Rock Collecting!