Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Spirit Rocks

Last night I worked 1 1/2 hours and created the world's best blog entry. Just like the biggest fish that got away, so did my blog. As I was to hit the "Post" button, I hit something else which immediately deleted the entire entry! I tried desparately to get it back, but nothing worked. The very worst part of this calamity is that it's not the first time this has happened. I've not been able to figure out what I hit that makes whatever I'm working on get deleted, but it always seems to make my best work disappear. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was a great piece of writing, because as hard as I will try to recreate my entry, re-dos are never as good as the original! But, I'll give it a try so you can at least get the gist of what I was writing about.

A few weeks ago, no, quite a few actually, maybe 7-8 weeks, although it really doesn't make any difference, a woman from the campground came in the office to show me two rocks she and her husband got at Discovery Park, part of the Capt. Cook Recreational Park, on the Cook Inlet, which we can see from the ranch on a clear day. In other words, not very often. Of course, the Cook Inlet is named after Capt. Cook who explored this area (by the way, I just found out in reading an article this morning that Capt. Bligh of the HMS Bounty fame joined Capt. Cook in looking for the Northwest Passage here. I wonder who had more time in rank. Must have been Capt. Cook since everything around here was named after him, and this is the first I've heard of Bligh being anywhere in the district.)

Anyway, the woman (I don't recall her name, so I'll just refer to her as Rock Woman) said they were walking along the beach at Discovery Park and came across a couple who come up here every summer for the sole purpose of digging up Spirit Rocks to give out to anyone who happens along their little spot on the beach. It's their calling in life, so to speak. I wonder how it pays. According to them, these rocks are called Spirit Rocks by the Native Alaskans and can be found in only one other place on earth - on the west coast of Michigan (the Native Michiganians call them Motor Rocks). When we lived in Michigan we often heard of the Potensky rocks and I wonder if they were what these are, although Ian says no, the Potensky rocks are minerals. I never heard of any other famous Michigan rocks other than the Rock Heads of Flint, so I'm not so sure Ian is right. Nevertheless, the Native Alaskans (we can't call them Eskimos any more, because the lower 48 states have finally realized that not all Alaskans are Eskimos) put a lot of faith in these rocks and consider them representing different facets of their lives.

Both of the rocks Rock Woman showed me were about 5-6 inches across, bulbuously (is that a word?) rounded on one side, and flat on the other. On the flat side of one rock was a smoothly gouged out groove about a half inch deep, starting in the middle of the rock and circling itself a couple times 'til it met with the outside of the rock. It gave the appearance of a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven, waiting for its frosting and shake of cinnamon. It was quite fascinating, wondering how in the world the rock was given this design. The other rock, as Rock Woman held it, had the same furrows, but in the shape of an angel. Her (yes, ofcourse it's a "her") head, wings and triangular shaped gown were distintive enough to have no doubt what it was supposed to be. "However," Rock Woman said, "if you turn it upside down like this, the Natives say it's a woman giving birth. This rock would have been very valuable to them to ensure fertility." When Rock Woman turned the rock over, I had to stare at it a moment to see the abstract woman giving birth, but there it was. (Made me wonder how many Native Alaskan women threw the rock back in the water when her husband so proudly presented it to her!)

These rocks touched me (not like when my big brother used to throw rocks at me when we got off the school bus), I was quite fascinated by them and vowed to find some myself, or find the people who do all the work and then give them away. The next morning I told Ronna about them, and yes, she'd heard of them, but wasn't too impressed by the story. Later in the day as I was taking Mac otuside to do his business, a rock on the ground by our front door caught my eye. Could it be?? My hand scooped it up quickly and sure enough, one side was like a mound, the other side was flat with one complete, perfectly round circle gouged out about half way between the middle and the edge of the rock. The furrow wasn't as deep as the ones in Rock Woman's Spirit Rocks, so mine must have been taken from the water before the currents had time to finish their job. The story Rock Woman got from the beach people (by the way, the beach is not a Florida style beach where you'd lay out a beach towel if it ever got warm enough, but is made up of mud and stones.) was that over many, many years, hundreds, maybe thousands, the tide going in and out a couple times a day, day in and day out, gently carved out a niche in the bottom side of the rock with the grains of sand, dirt, etc., which eventually forms the designs, just as rivers and streams are carved out of rock over milleniums. Water flowing over the top gently wears the stone down to form the perfect mounds.

Over several weeks, I kept telling Ian we needed to go to Discovery Park to get some rocks. We did try once, actually, with little Ian and Mallory (the housekeeper at the ranch, who, by the way, is also from Florida), but turned back before we got there, not realizing how far the place was. A few days ago I reminded Ian that I still wanted to get out there and get myself a Spirit Rock, but we were swiftly running out of time. So, yesterday on the spur of the moment, about 3:10, we decided it was then or never. We rushed off with my jacket, but forgot my beautiful rain boots, the camera, Ian's jacket, a bag for the Spirit Rocks, and most importantly, snacks. About 45 minutes later we found a parking area not far from the beach, grabbed my jacket, read the sign on the tree stating a bear with her cub had been spotted in the area, so take caution, and decided to unlock the truck in case we had to outrun the bear to the truck and didn't want to waste precious time looking for the keys. When the walking path opened to the beach, it was quite an eerily beautiful sight. The tide was out, so all we could see was the mud flats that seemed to go on forever. It was the color of darkened cement, speckled with pockets of shiny water. Large boulders dotted the landscape. They had to be at least 10 feet high and 20 feet long/wide, yet once the tide would come in, I wondered if they would be visible at all, or just peek out of the water, causing them to look very small. Like an iceburg effect. On the horizon were clouds hiding the mountains I knew were there. Above the white clouds, the sky darkened and threatened rain. We've come to expect the rain here and have come to realize we won't melt after all, so we weren't too concerned about the weather.

We started digging up any rounded rock to check the other side, which became a chore because just about all of the rocks were rounded from above. We pretty much confined our digging to ones less than 8 inches or so across. Ian was moving faster than I was, as he wasn't turning over as many as I was. I think his interest waned after just a few rock turns, but I found myself engrossed in the effort and imagined finally turning one over to find the most fascinating carved picture ever. I'd shout "Found one!" Ian would come running, smiling, arms open, so happy for me, and determined to find the next one just for me. (Sorry, I was getting a bit dillusional there.) In reality, though, I just kept turning rocks to find flat bottoms. Some were still pretty, though, very green or speckled white and black like a small bird's egg. One looked like a million tiny pebbles had been forged together into the shape of a small ball. I had to let those go, though, and continue my quest for a Spirit Rock. (The spirit was rocking me!) At one point I looked up to see how far ahead Ian had gotten, just to find him leaning against a boulder, staring out to sea, probably wondering how much longer I was going to be. Or, maybe he, being a typical male, thought he'd have more success if he just stood still and the rock would bounce itself right up in front of him, saying "Here I am - look no further!" It was OK, though. I found it relaxing looking for my Spirit Rock and Ian found his way to relax.

Soon, a right proper hiking family came down the beach from the same direction we had come from. All four had the requisite hiking boots, sun hats, hiking clothes, canteens and binoculors hanging from their necks, and ofcourse the all-necessary hiking stick, and most importantly, great big smiles on their faces. I'm sure they were in their element. I asked them if this was the right place to find the Spirit Rock, and Dad, in his right proper accent from the eastern U.S. seaboard, said they had been told that this area had already been picked over and that you have to hike about 10 miles down the beach to find any these days. They were headed that way just now - would I like to come? Nearly choking with held-back laughter, I told him thanks, but I'd never make it a mile, let alone 10! After they said their "cheerios" and were jauntily on their way, I found Ian and told him the disappointing news. Somehow, he didn't seem as dissapointed as I felt. I had been keeping an eye on the tide and it did seem like it was starting to come in, so it did make me a little nervous, anyway. The mud beach was wet all the way up to the cliff, so it seemed like the tide would come all the way up, penning us in if we remained there too long. I wondered about the hiking family and if they were aware of it. Anyway, we decided to call it a wash and head back to the truck. I guess I'll never get my Native Alaskan Spirit Rock, but I do have my half-baked sample from the front yard. It'll have to be my treasure, and when I show it to friends and famly in the lower 48, they'll never know what they're missing by not having seen the real thing. The next time I'm in Michigan, though, I'll definitely check out those Potensky rocks!


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