Friday, October 18, 2019

Rocks and Shells

Recently, Mr. Pudding in Yorkshire did a post about souvenir stones he had collected here and there in his travels. He later specifically discussed so-called "hag stones," or those with naturally formed holes in them.

I don't have any of those, but like Mr. P, I am an accumulator of stones. When I was a kid, I used to seriously collect both rocks and shells -- labeling and classifying them, learning how to tell igneous from sedimentary and cockles from clams. Most of those collections are gone now, and what stones I have left are generally travel souvenirs. Here are some I've had for a long time.

-- Two turban shells I found in 1985 while snorkeling on Spring Break in Key West with my college pal Robert. I had a huge crush on Robert, but that's another story.
-- A round piece of granite from the riverbed in the village of Tamezmoute, in the Draa Valley of Morocco. My friend Liz lived there in the Peace Corps, and I went to visit her and picked this up along the way.
-- A fossilized giant scallop from Venice, Florida. When I was a reporter at the newspaper there, I covered a story about fossil hunters digging for bones on some land near the airport and a public beach. I don't quite remember what the story was about -- maybe there was some controversy about that digging or maybe they found some cool things -- but there were dozens of these scallops lying around.

-- A conch shell from the beach in Winneba, Ghana, where I went after I got out of the Peace Corps in 1994.
-- A stone from the beach in Essaouira, probably my favorite city in all of Morocco, built on a windy promontory on the Atlantic. There's a long beach with some old Portuguese fortifications. I was told these sinking ramparts inspired Jimi Hendrix to write his song "Castles Made of Sand," but now I see that Hendrix visited in 1969 and that song came out a few years earlier. I guess it's a Moroccan urban myth!
-- A piece of pink granite from Montauk, at the far end of Long Island in New York. I used to take the train out to Montauk now and then when I lived in the city.

-- A geode, or hollow stone filled with crystals, given to me by my rock collecting mentor, Colonel Mitchell, when I was a kid. Mitchell, who we knew from church, was a serious rock hound, with glass cases all over his house full of colorful, sparkling minerals. In this case the geode is filled with purple amethyst.
-- A fossilized coral geode from Florida. Mrs. Kirkland, the woman who used to care for me and my brother after school every day, while my parents worked, gave me this stone for my birthday in 1974, when I turned 8. I was thrilled with it. I wonder if an eight-year-old today would be very enthusiastic about a coral geode? Maybe some would.


  1. You have a neat little collection there, my pick is the conch shell from Ghana. My knowledge of that part of Africa is rather sketchy. I had to look at a map, I see it sits next to Côte d'Ivoire - I know someone whose Dad was born there and I also see Bolgatanga in the north (?) of Ghana where they produce the beautiful hand woven baskets.
    I have a motley collection of rocks and shells with the best examples being fossilised shells from Ellesmere Island and a handful of exquisite cowrie shells from PNG.
    The rest are mostly local rubbish with long forgotten sentimental value.

  2. What a fine collection - all with memories attached. I especially like the rounded stone from Morocco. By the way, I have also walked south of Essaouira to the old fortifications. I had to get out of there pretty damned quick when a pack of wild dogs appeared. They weren't like Olga or Winnie! It was scary.

  3. Great collection Steve. And now I am thinking of doing the same, showing some of our collections. Maybe

  4. How amazing and wonderful to have tangible, as well as strangely beautiful, items from the time when you were a boy (and when you were at college - I am waiting for that story!) I love having such items that evoke such powerful memories and emotions! I don't have any rocks unfortunately, but I do have other things.

  5. That's so cool, Steve! I especially love the fact that time has no more aged your memory on where you got each thing than it has the stones and shells themselves.

  6. Lovely collection! I like the granite pieces the best. (It occurs to me that my fondness for smooth stones might be why I end up with helmet hair so often).

  7. That's a great collection and I'm so impressed that you remember how you got each and every one of them. You have such a great gift of observation, finding all sorts of things on your long walks.

  8. nice little set of rocks. I have so many around here that I have picked up, many from Bpquillas Canyon in Big Bend, some from Portugal, some from Oregon. very few can I tell you specifically where they came from.

  9. I taught earth science for a few years in middle school. Kids really liked the unit on rocks and minerals.

  10. I like your sweet rock collection. It's impressive you remember exactly where you found them all.

  11. What wonderful stones and shells. I too am impressed that you remember all the facts of each stone and shell so well. I have always loved stones and rocks. And I love gems. I have a few rocks now, most all my others have disappeared over the years. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  12. We too have shells and stones from our travels but I think we'd be hard put to either describe them or tell where they came from.

  13. Oh yes! Once you discover rocks, shells, and fossils, a whole new world opens up in every way.

  14. Love your collection I'm a big fan and like anything that is natural I also collect unique pieces of drift wood and feathers and my friends know not to buy me gifts as I much rather prefer found objects. I think 1/2 the fun is in the hunt.

  15. Our kids both liked rocks and shells. They had rock collections mostly made up of purchased rock samples from a local museum - we used to put one in their stocking at Christmas for a few years. Their collections are probably still in their closets here at our house . . . I should check!

    Your collection is nicely varied and personal. I love that round rock at the top - I'd have picked that one up, too. I stopped picking up rocks years ago but I still like 'em.