Sunday, September 9, 2012

International Rock-Flipping Day, 2012 – In which the author learns a modicum of humility

[you find all sorts of things in the woods]

I spent the time leading up to international rock-flipping day sulking. I didn’t have any shoreline to explore—no lovely cobble beaches whose rocks I could lift, exposing the scuttling shore crabs and hermit crabs, the squirming polychaetes, the small snails gripping the underside of the stones themselves—so why bother?

Eventually I got over my sullen fit and decided to flip a few rocks in the aptly named Rock Creek Park. And, while my under-rocks discoveries were not magnificent, I’m very glad I did.

It had been a long time since I’d walked in the park, and I had forgotten the pleasure and mystery of walking through a wooded area on a sunny day.

You wander through a land of dappled shadows—“woven shade,” to quote W.B. Yeats—and everywhere you’re struck by the sense of secret movements and beauty hidden in the gloom.

And every patch of sun, every open area, dazzles you with a miracle of light that your eyes strain to decipher.

Before flipping my first rock, I admired the area in which it was situated: near the (thanks to yesterday’s torrential rain) babbling creek, studded with horizontal spider-webs that sliced rainbows into fine threads, dotted with bright weeds hardy enough to survive in the undergrowth.

My first rock yielded a couple of beetles like this one:

And many soil castings from, I assume, industrious earthworms (and a cricket, out of focus and hidden in the shadows of this photo).

Under several other rocks, nothing visible except for a single nematode that quickly slithered out of sight.

I kept walking, admiring the spill of rocks down a hillside that looked as if the earth itself had already flipped them more than once. I also looked up at the leaves so pierced and glowing with sunlight that they seemed to be paper-thin slices of emeralds, aventurines, jade, shivering and susurrating in the breeze.

When I lifted my final rock, a swarm of ants spilled across its surface, glittering like beads of dark amber as they scurried away from my intrusion.

I wasn’t thinking like a scientist—I probably wasn’t even thinking like a determined rock-flipper—but I stopped being so sulky about missing the shore and instead felt grateful that the event had made me take the time to relearn the astonishing infinitude of marvels existing in a world not so different from our own.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

Not so different, but, alas, one we trash every moment. Thanks for this lovely chronicle.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely piece in both pictures and words. I wish I had known although we would be even harder pressed here to find a rock.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

My fault for not advertising appropriately! (But, again, I spent too much of my time being disgruntled about my proximity to ocean to think more productively about the event.) Next year I'll give more warning, and perhaps you can plan a good rocky place to visit.

Good Ol' Ant said...

Leave it to you to give nature a plot!

Powell River Books said...

Sounds like you have a great rock flipping day. You are right, you can find a lot of unusual stuff out in the bush. One road near us they take old hubcaps and put them at the edge of the road. That way at night they catch the headlights and illuminate the edge of the hard packed dirt. - Margy

Judy said...

I love your descriptions - the one of the leaves was so poetic, magical!!!
My mother always told me that fresh air and exercise were good for what ailed you, and you have just proved her right!!

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Thank you!

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