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)