I have been a rock hound off and on most of my life.  When I was in elementary school, I lived in San Diego on Soledad Mountain (the massif that backs La Jolla up against the ocean).  At the time, there was a lot of residential development going on and we used to play in the construction areas after school and after the builders had gone home.  The freshly graded hill sides as blank canvases to yet another lovely new sub-division.  For us 6-10 year olds, it was awesome.  The heavy equipment was fun to poke around on and the partially completed homes could be explored unharassed; though more than one of our group stepped on a nail sticking through a sheet of plywood and had it come out the insole of their shoe (screaming, tetanus shots and cred ensued).   Even the untold volumes of carefully placed survey stakes were put to use as ready-made swords or rockets (poor horn toad astronaut).

In some areas, the heavy equipment cut the hill-side back in steep terraces like a road cut only the cut would be the size of a city block tipped up at an angle.  In those cuts, we would sift through the dirt or pick through the sedimentary layers and find sharks teeth as large as a cowboy’s belt buckle or as small as one of our own teeth.  We would find other marine fossils of course but the shark’s teeth were the coveted item.  You could also find crystals in the hill-side.  I’m not sure if the crystals were Amethyst or Tourmaline but they were plentiful.  When we moved to Point Loma, my rock hounding went to sleep and didn’t wake up again until my son was about 10 years old.  Recently divorced, I was looking for things I could do with David when he was with me and so for several summers, David’s and my summer vacations amounted to whirlwind tours around Washington state, looking for treasure.

Although David has good memories of those trips, it was me that became obsessed.  I’ve continued collecting since then and my basement now has 6,000 pounds or so of interesting rocks along with all the tools needed to turn them into beautiful cabochon gemstones (I tried my hand at faceting but it just didn’t suit me).

In mid to late 2004, I reached a point where I felt that I either needed to do something with the stones I had been cutting or I needed to start getting rid of the rocks.  So, I took a couple of continuing education semesters of ‘beginning silversmithing at North Seattle Community College.  My teacher was wonderful, I learned a lot, I acquired more tools to further crowd the basement and at the end of the second semester, my teacher made a pass at me.  That was in the week between Christmas and New Years.   After a 96 hour date that started New Years Eve and included a trip to the ocean, a trip to the mountains, a dog rolling in a very dead salmon (what is that smell?) and a lot of amorous behavior,  Dana went home to ‘recover’ and the next day came back and never left.  Oh, and for an ironic twist; now Dana has the rock hounding bug as well so the rock pile in the basement just keeps getting bigger.

Another small irony is that having learned some good metalsmithing skills, I generally don’t use stones in my metal work.  I still have almost all that rock and I still cut occasionally.  Perhaps I’ll extend this blog in the future and sell some of my cabs and rough.  We’ll see.


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