Rocks with Pizzazz
I have been thinking about fossils lately, though I don’t know why. When we had our boat, we used to motor over to Sucia Island (ta-pocketa- pocketa) and anchor in Fossil Bay. Looking at all the gray hair on the people who owned the large, luxurious boats floating around us, we decided they named it Fossil Bay for the age of the visitors, not for any prehistoric, petrified skeletons encased in the rocks of the cliffs. Admittedly, it takes one to know one, and though our boat was small and modest, we could have been classed as old fossils.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about the rock kind of fossils, the kind I used to find daily in the creek bank when I was eight. We were living in Wyoming, waaaaaay out on a dirt road in a contractor’s camp—a kind of a tent village—at a place called Muddy Creek. That area is now covered by Boysen Reservoir, and much as I would like to, in this case it’s really true that you can’t go back. At least, not unless I don scuba gear.
But back to the fossils. I can still remember the gritty feel of a rock in my hand and the wonder I felt as I watched it split in two along a plane to reveal what had been embedded there eons ago: a leaf or an ammonite or a tiny fish. I had no idea what a singular privilege it was to let sunlight shine on something that had been hidden for—I can’t even say how many years. Hundreds of thousands? Millions?
Now, sixty years later, as Family Social Director for a dwindling number of participants (only two now, Derrill and me), I thought it might be fun to go fossil hunting. We have lately started bringing rocks back from trips, and fossils would be rocks with pizzazz. With that in mind and a long weekend to plan, I started to look for a place relatively close where we could find some fossils and dig them ourselves rather than stand behind a fence and have people point out fossils that had already been dug. (Is thinking that way earth-unfriendly? Is that blasphemy, remembering that this is earth week?)
I did a lot of searching on the internet, and came up with a place in Republic, WA where there are fossil beds set up so you can dig on your own, with constraints. You have to report to the foundation that owns the beds what you have found and give up any unique specimens that have scientific value, but I think that’s all right. That makes it less ugly-eco-Americanish and more help-the-fund-of-knowledgeish.
It also makes me appreciate the wonderfully free hands-on experience of my childhood. This time around I’ll be more creaky, I know, climbing around the rocks and trying to get up after kneeling in the dirt, but I have an idea the sense of wonder will be the same. And this time, I’ll understand the privilege of letting in the sunshine.