EDGE OF STEAMBOAT

Childhood joy revisited

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— There was a time when I had ambitions of being the greatest rock collector in world. As a child I'd spend ample hours looking on gravel roads and through random rock piles for the coolest-looking minerals. I ended up with a huge rock collection, and I was convinced it was worth money. There was nothing special about the rocks, except maybe a tiny bit of mica that attracted my eye.

However, I believed I had unique specimens.

The first time I saw a geode changed all that, and perhaps ruined my rock-collecting career. It was in a mineral store in Estes Park, and I must have been about 7 years old. I'd seen crystals before but never something that looked so mundane on the outside with such a spectacular surprise on the inside.

My mica-flaked gravel rocks immediately began losing my favor, and imaginary value.

I studied the outer layer of the geodes in the store, trying to find any hint to the mysterious crystalline core. Not knowing that geodes are mined, I concluded any rock that was as round as a geode must be a geode.

I envisioned finding a plethora of rocks and packing the booty into my room. I'd be in mineral heaven, not to mention rich. First, I took any round rock I had in my collection and pounded it open. That only produced broken rocks. I then spent the next few years looking for round rocks and crushing them with the hopes of finding the crystals. The crushing act had this Christmas-present-like mystery that kept me interested for a while, but of course, it never produced any gift. Soon I realized the only cool rocks I was going to find would be in a mineral store for more money than I had, or my parents wished to spend.

Before long, my spirit was broken and I stopped searching for the valuable rocks.

But on Wednesday, when I went over to local artist Leo Atkinson's studio to talk to him about his mineral and fossil art, all of those old feelings resurfaced. I initially felt a little reminiscent when he was showing me his incredible finished works. But then he pulled out a burlap bag stuffed with unopened geodes, and I was beside myself.

He took one of the geodes and cracked it open with a special machine, giving me that old Christmas-present feeling again. But this time, there was actually something inside.

Thanks the trip down memory lane, Leo.

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