Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Thursday night I went to bed early. I had odd dreams all tentacled aliens with tabby cat faces took over my place of employment and put us all on trial for crimes against the universe. Note to self: No more cheese before bed.

I hate not being able to sleep well at night. Especially on weeknights, when I know the alarm clock will be going off as soon as I finally manage to sleep for a solid hour. Just as I was finally starting to drift off, I was rudely awakened by the entire bed shaking. In my fuzzy-minded state, I thought it was my fiance, having convulsions and causing the bed to shake. Then I realized that it wasn't just the was the entire house that was shaking. Glasses clinked in the cabinets. Books started to shimmy towards the edges of the shelves. I could hear the goat bleating outside in panic.

I slapped my hand down on my fiance's arm and he leapt out of bed, trying to drag me out with him. The room was swaying, shaking, floor creaking, bed inching across the floor.

Then, it was suddenly over. Everything went silent. We stared at each other, wide eyed, trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened. It was 5:47 in the morning. We're close enough to a military base for our windows to sometimes rattle when they're firing weapons or flying jets overhead, but this went far beyond that. It slowly dawned on me that it must have been an earthquake. Not exactly something we're used to, here.

The morning news confirmed that it had indeed been a minor quake. No damage was done to our house, but a building downtown lost some of its facade, a road was damaged, and some statues and a fountain got knocked over. No one was hurt. No major damage done.

I think I'd rather dream about aliens, though.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rock On

Friday afternoon the weather happened to be on the verge of beautiful. The sun was shining but the wind was so strong that it felt like it could carry me away.

Since we'd had so much rain that week I decided to go rock hunting. Every time I think I've picked our yard clean, it will rain and expose more geodes, crinoids, and other fossils. This time I decided to dig around the pond, which is a place I have always avoided in the past. The pond is very large and deep, and the ground around it is soft and crumbly. When you can't swim, you tend to avoid any bodies of water larger than a bath. But I learned how to swim (or at least flail around and keep myself afloat) last summer, so the pond isn't much of a danger to me anymore.

The pond is set deeply into uneven ground, so it has banks that actually stretch up to 10 feet overhead around one side. That was the side I decided to poke around in. I climbed down the slope, clinging to exposed roots and slabs of stone until I was down by the water. The red bank rose overhead, streaked with veins of heavy gray clay. Already I could see fist-sized geodes stuck in the dirt.

I spent a good 20 minutes prying stones out and dropping them in a pile by my feet. By that point the wind had whipped my hair out of the ponytail I'd had it in, and my hands were far too muddy to do anything about it. My rain boots probably weighed ten pounds each from all the mud and clay that clung to them. But I had quite a haul..geodes and a slab of white stone that contained several shell fossils. I was getting ready to move on when I spotted a massive geode buried halfway up the bank. It was nearly the size of a watermelon. I couldn't pass that up.

Dirty, windblown, and weighed down with rocks and mud, I made my way to the fence and started dumping geodes over. A bucket would have been nice, but we have two horses and you can't enter that field with a bucket unless it contains feed. They will grab the bucket away from you if you dare go in there with an empty one.

A few days later, I went ahead and cracked open the big geode. This is what it contained:


It's very similar to the last large one I found, which my fiance had cut open for me with a diamond bladed saw.


This is the stone with fossilized shells in it. It's about the size of a small paving stone:




And the handful of Crinoids I also picked up:



All in all, a good day for rocks. I haven't cracked open the other geodes I found, yet. Some of them found other homes..I've been mailing off boxes of them to friends in other states. I think the postman must hate me by now.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Another Bullet Dodged

When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the day she told me what it was, and what they would have to do to make her better. It was a summer day, hot and bright, and she was sitting in a lawn chair while I sat in the grass. I remember the light glaring off of my father's white t-shirt, blinding as he turned and walked away.

13 years later, the doctor found spots on the upper lobe of her right lung. So we all waited, fearful, as she underwent tests and scans and more appointments, and I spent my nights feeling restless and trapped, my mind going in circles. What if, what if..what if this is the last year? The last mother's day? Christmas? What will we do, with her gone? I reverted back to that 13 year old girl, sitting in the long grass, stomach twisting as my thoughts chased each other round and round. Mom put up her strong front, saying that whatever happened, she would deal with it as she had dealt with years of illness, and cancer, and other health problems that by now would have sent most people to their beds.

My fiance was my support system. When my sister called to make sure I was OK, I shuffled her off the phone quickly so she wouldn't hear my voice break, and then I sat down and cried. The doctor thought it was probably cancer, but was confident that he could remove it. But still, what if...

This past Monday, my sister took our mother to her final appointment, the one where they'd finally give her the results. I sat at work and tried to think of other things, of anything else, anything at all. I answered phones and replied to e-mails and moved like a robot through the day, watching the clock constantly, wondering if they'd told her yet.

At 2:45, my mother called me, voice joyful, my sister laughing in the back ground. No cancer. The spots had disappeared. The doctor talked of infections in her lungs that had probably caused the spots, and then had gone away when she had been on antibiotics for an infection in her finger. She still has other problems with her lungs caused by her autoimmune illness, but nothing so bad as cancer.

We can all breathe, now. Another bullet dodged. My mind can finally rest and my stomach can unclench. Mom can stop making arrangements in her head, planning what would happen at the end. Finally, this year is looking up.