Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Backyard Treasure

The latest Carnival of Education is up; click over and be enlightened. Be prepared to encounter some controversy. Goldie and I had nothing to do it with it.

When I was a little kid, I played a lot in the alley that divided our block in two. All of us kids played in the alley. It gave us access to the back yard of every house in the neighborhood, and it was cool in its own right.

Alleys were always lined with sunflowers, and hollyhocks. In, among, and around the trash cans were the occasional doghouse and small garden. The Pryors had a strawberry patch, which we kids NEVER bothered. There was one huge tree on the alley that was the meeting place for every bird in the county, just before dark. You could hear that tree all over town, as the sun was going down. It was also the only tree in the neighborhood that we kids never played under.

Any day, a kid could find treasure in the alley. Sometimes there was broken glass, the result of a drunk's attempt to walk a straight line with a glass bottle in his hand. All broken glass everywhere came from drunks, you know. Sober decent people either were more careful, or they cleaned up after themselves.

In my childhood neighborhood, people cleaned up after themselves. I still believe that if everyone cleaned up after himself/herself, the whole world would be clean. But I digress.

I never played in that alley without finding geodes. We did not call them geodes, unfortunately, but that's what they were.

(It was really eye-opening to discover, after I hit around the fifth grade, that many labels I had always heard bandied about as a child were actually terrible words that are forbidden in my home, now. A child doesn't know until he/she is taught.) (My parents weren't racist pigs, either; they were just as ignorant as I was.)

Here in southern Indiana, geodes are everywhere. You can't plant flowers without digging up geodes. Any batch of crushed stone you have dumped in your driveway will have geodes in it. It might also have arrowheads; you have to hire your young children to search for those. (That keeps them busy and in plain sight for HOURS; it's fantastic.)

I've been planting flowers and bushes pretty much all summer. (stopping occasionally to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom read.) This year, the largest geodes aren't really that big; they're about eight inches across, and beautifully symetrically round. The geodes in my yard all look like a big round brain, convolutions and fissures and bears, oh my. Kids around here use the little ones as marbles; those are found in every handful of dirt. This summer's batch are all yellowish tan, but sometimes a geode is black or gray. Actually, they can be just about any color. I dug up enough biggish ones to line a little flower bed for my lemon lilies.

In town, huge geodes the size of peony bushes can be seen on many porches, steps, and walls. People also put them in their gardens, and use them for seats around an outdoor table. Most of that kind are too large to span with your arms. People far away pay a lot of money for them, but here, they are all around us and we pay no attention.

We kids used to gather a pile apiece and take turns 'busting' them open with a hammer. The inside is usually a wonderment of sparkly delight. Look up 'geodes' and check out the pictures; no two are alike and all have something enchanting inside. We used to pretend we were finding diamonds and rubies and emeralds; once in a while, there will be real amythyst in there.

Clean them, and polish them, and put them where they catch the light. The jewel-lined cavern inside a geode will enhance your dreams and make your wishes come true.

That's the story, anyway.

So. Bring your kids out here and we'll put them in the driveway with a little bucket and offer to pay them a dollar apiece for arrowheads. Works every time. They'll be filthy and gross and have to be hosed off before they can go into the house to be scrubbed, but who cares? It's summer, and if a kid isn't absolutely filthy at the end of a day, well, it wasn't a good day.

The next day we'll send them back in the woods to dig geodes out of the creek bed. It's dry, and we can see them from the deck. Or, you can go with them and dig geodes, too. Then they'll bring them back and we'll hose them down, too, and lay them out to dry.

After lunch, we'll give the kids a hammer to share, and they can take turns hitting the geodes as hard as they can (that in itself was a novelty, and great fun) and oohing and ahhing over each other's and their own caves of jewels.

Southern Indiana is covered with limestone, caves, arrowheads, fossils of sea animals, and geodes. You can't swing a cat without hitting one of them.

I do love finding the geodes, though. You can't tell by their outsides, what they've got on their insides, but you do know that no two are alike, and they're all beautiful.

Kind of like people.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:26 AM | |


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