My father was a geochemist. A Geology professor who taught for 35 years. Needless to say, he liked his rocks. When my parents were young and during summers he worked in the field and collected what he called ‘specimens’. Working primarily in North Georgia and sometimes North Carolina there were a lot of bits of granite around the house, some wonderful chunks of quartz and even some fossils.
My parents built a brick patio with their own labor and coerced my brothers into thinking pounding sand to firm the foundation was fun. They bought some Sears Roebuck ‘redwood’ chaise lounges, poured some Carlo Rossi, and proceeded to lounge. The collection of rocks was repurposed into a waterfall and fish pond for my mother. My father eventually collected so many rocks they formed an edging for my mother’s perennial garden around their patio.
This went on for years until my father retired from teaching; he still went out in the field, but rarely was able to carry the larger rocks home. I had the smaller specimens for my fish tank and potted plants, but not the bigger pieces; they stayed in my mother’s, the venerable Miss Betty, garden.
My father passed away suddenly at the age of 80 while I was on vacation. One of the first things I did upon returning home was to help my mother fix her waterfall. She poured Coca Cola into the copper line to unclog the concrete lady with the jug my father had placed to pour water into the pond. The lady was unclogged and the waterfall worked again; I spent more than one Saturday rearranging all those rocks so the waterfall didn’t leak. The waterfall’s health had declined along with my father’s. I finally got it fixed and my mother enjoyed it for several years before she passed away as well.
The task of getting the house ready to sell fell to me as Executor of the Estate. The inside was cleaned and painted, but the outside had to be faced eventually. Especially my parents garden and patio. They had spent countless hours in the backyard arguing about politics and discussing life. My siblings and I grew up and went our separate ways but always came back to the garden filled with the fruits of my parents labor. It was a bit of a dilemma for me to decide what to leave back there; I liked the rocks and waterfall as well. Eventually, I determined I should thin the rocks and leave the waterfall intact for the next owner as there was a certain spirit of the place contained in those stones and bricks my parents had so enjoyed in their backyard.
In my garden I have some of my father’s marble from his work in the Tate marble mines in North Georgia and some granite (always) and a few other specimens I can’t identify anymore. The one rock I will always keep is Miss Betty’s favorite rock. This particular rock is tan with a series of rings like a big cinnamon roll. I am sure I was told a hundred times what it was but this knowledge eludes me now. I tried to get another geologist to identify it after she passed, but all he could say was it was layers of something he couldn’t precisely identify. Maybe it is a metaphor for my parents’ life; many layers but now gone. I keep it in my Rain Garden where I pass it several times a day. I think my father would be pleased to know that particular rock is still being enjoyed.