Something that happened on Saturday during my fossil collecting excursion this past weekend provides a little glimpse into why I think fossil hunting is sacramental. At the time I made arrangements to make this trip with my fossil club I had no clue that my son’s little league team would make it all the way to the championship game – which, of course, happened to be scheduled for that exact Saturday morning. Ugh!
So there I was, right smack in the middle of a rock quarry, cell phone in hand, getting updates about every fifteen minutes from my wife who was at the game while I sat amid an ever growing pile of rock fragments that I was splitting. Somewhere along the way, it began to rain, so I abandoned my little nest and ran for cover.
Now, here’s a tip for all you prospective fossil hunters out there, free of charge: the best time to look for fossils is immediately after a rain storm. Invariably, the rain and wind clear away the surface sediments, leaving a new layer of fossils exposed. So, off I went after the brief cloudburst towards a spot in the quarry no one else had visited recently.
As I was scouring the ground looking to see what might be poking up through the dirt – a technique called surface collecting – my cell phone rang. I heard the news that my son’s team had won just as I was catching a glimpse of what seemed to be a tiny fossil shell (brachiopod, to be specific) protruding from the ground. As I dug a bit around it, it turned out to be an ENORMOUS brachipod – in fact, the best specimen I’ve ever personally collected. So, there I was, celebrating with my son and my wife long-distance and in my fossil-loving heart right there in the quarry as I bent to uncover an animal who hadn’t seen the light of day in about 390 million years.
Now, there’s a lot of points I could bring out of this story, but the overwhelming one for me is the sense of Connectedness. Even in the middle of a rather desolate rock quarry I could be connected to my family 4oo miles away. I felt a strong connection with my fellow fossil hunters who understood immediately my excitement without my having to explain. And, of course, that connection with this ancient creature whose existence – at least in fossil form – had been given a whole new context in the midst of the life of the sentient creature (me) who found him. AND – all of this connectedness came together within a series of intersecting events.
Not a bad day’s work.
How was your Saturday?
Jim Philipps (3rdmillenium pilgrim)
I love this post about collecting fossils, and there are so many to learn about but my favourites are the brachiopods and the trilobites I would have been so exciting to have been there when you found that huge brachiopod. A favourite place of mine for collecting fossils was Much Wenlock in Shropshire,called Wenlock Edge. and around the Ludlow area where there is a famous fishbone bed, many brachiopods and trilobites, I also like the trace fossils. However I can never remember all the different parts of fossils,I think I shall have to brush up on my Open University geology course.Anyway thankyou for such an in teresting blog.
I’m glad you enjoyed that reflection, Rita! Thanks for your comment. There is a sacramental fossil, part 1 somewhere in my blog history, also. I would love to collect along the Devonshire coast one of these days.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
How about a photo of that enourmous Brachiopod you found Jim. My collection so far consists of some brachiopods and trilobites from the Ludlow area and Much Wenlock I also found some amonites from Lymington when out for the day some years ago.I have a specimen tree fossil which I bought here in Crete. Last year my two grandaughters were clearing their garden and found many brachiopods and crinoids,they live in Tenbury Wells which is also nr Ludlow so no surprise really,they very kindly brought them to me when they came for their holidays. I still have to find the best area to look for fossils here in Crete as I have only found fossil plants so far. I will look for your sacramental fossil part one. Thanks again for sharing.