Rocks Rock!

Written on 05/29/2019
Jeane George Weigel

Since I was a very small child I have been captivated by rocks and archeology. I used to walk the allies of Tacoma gathering treasures, and the beaches of Manzanita on Vashon Island. Maybe in part because it was a wealth of riches I didn’t need to be rich to enjoy.

I have only one of those earlier finds still with me–it’s an ancient stone tool I found on the island (the blue-ish one in the foreground). But parents have a way of not understanding and discarding the gems of childhood. I lost my feather collection the same way when I went away to college.

These prizes don’t need to be crystals or agates or semi precious stones. I love them all, whatever may call to my eye or my hand.

And now I find myself living in New Mexico, Utah before that, where the rock is magnificent and right on the surface and antiquity faces me every day. It has called to me as never before, and I’ve started studying a bit.

But more than that I’ve noticed that when I’m “in the field” gathering rock, looking for tools and fetishes, I revert back to that child, back to the innosense and wonder, back to something deep and fresh and free.

Photo: Todd Webb, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Other artists before me have found meaning and inspiration and obsession here in New Mexico.

Rebecca Salsbury Strand, close friend of O’Keeffe and painter also

They make me feel a little less crazy… Thank you ladies.

In an old post I bumped into recently titled Day Trip, I was startled by a statement I wrote. It was, “You are who I meant to be,” in reference to Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett and DH Lawrence, particularly the life they were living on his New Mexico ranch. I’ll include Georgia and Rebecca Salsbury in that.

These people lived their art more fervently than I, I believe. I’ve had the thought that perhaps my excitement over rock can somehow guide me to their level of devotion.

Kim Moss painting from his 2005 Rock show

Perhaps my innate, inborn dedication to stone, to the natural history beneath our feet, can animate my art. I do believe it is almost single handedly bringing me back to my life, to myself. Perhaps toward that life I meant to lead.

I currently live at the base of a mountain made up of quartz and mica. There are garnets on the Rio Grande, and peridot south of Albuquerque, turquoise all around me.

I never believed I’d ever have the opportunity to live within the magic of this much remarkable rock! And I had no idea when I made the decision to move here that my new home state is considered the “Volcanic State” until I started looking into its geologic history…

Everywhere I look I find fossils, some I recognize and some that are mysteries. Fossils! My little girl self would have thought she’d died and gone to heaven. My adult self does too.

I read somewhere (sorry don’t remember where) that, “Geology is destinies” and I am certainly finding that geology tells a story, many stories, the stories this earth has to tell, my history, the layering of humanity, of lives lived down through the ages.

I live in an old village built of rock and the mud made from eons of rock silting into dirt and then made into mud and plaster. The aged walls, put up in 1754, still glitter with mica that permeates our soil.

Indians have been here for thousands of years leaving evidence of their ancient cultures not only in their cave dwellings and living pueblos, they also left tools behind and little miniature carvings or effigies they often carried with them. They’re sprinkled across this high desert.

A basket of obsidian gives evidence to the resources natives found here to support life

Indians have been mining obsidian, chert, turquoise, gold, semi-precious stones, silver, opal… for centuries here to be used as tools, art and beautification items such as jewelry and decorations on clothing and weapons.

And the Spanish and Anglo after the Native were interested in mining this rich area as well…

All I know is that I am compelled by it, by the rock. It surrounds me in my life, in my home, and is a necessary part of me…

I stop the car to gather anywhere and everywhere…

… although I have my favorite spots…

… perhaps a bit like a fly fisher-person’s favorite fishing holes.

I actually bought a narrow cabinet that squeezes into my tiny bathroom to act as a rock processing plant–the place I bring them to wash and inspect with my archeologists’ loop.

I’ve found ancient stone tools, crystal and effigies, jasper, obsidian, topaz, along with plain old rocks that I simply like the look of.

Gorgeous rock is tucked everywhere so I can see it, be lifted and inspired by it. On my desk…

… on ledges…

… on tables…

… defining my space, illuminating my home…

Of course I’ve made a rock-lined path to my front door which looks pretty average…

… until you look closer…

… and closer still…

There is jasper in several colors, some with common opal…

… but I have no idea what the various green stones are that I find here, although I love them…

… so many different versions of quartz, some “sun-stained” or varnished by the desert…

… that’s a piece of sugarloaf jasper below, one of my favorites…

… nestled in amongst unknown, nameless beautiful rocks.

I’ve actually been thinking of selling some lately. We artists need to stay limber in coming up with ways of making a bit of money, since paintings don’t sell every day.

Wouldn’t a little roadside rock stand somewhere be sweet?

Or an Etsy shop or on Ebay. I’ve given so much away, but I continue to drag rock home and after awhile there just is no room except for my favorites.

I seem unable to stop collecting you see…

Kim Moss painting from his 2005 Rock show

… because somehow rock calls to me, it touches me deeply, it goes into some essence of being I haven’t defined yet. I don’t understand the connection but it seems to be the one genuine thing I know about me. It’s simple. Rock and I are somehow one. We are joined. With rock I am happy and easy.

Dear Bubby’s grave, see

But there is a larger reason I’m writing this post about rocks. Some months back I was telling a friend that I learned long ago I need to get out of my own way in order to paint. I even wrote a post about it that one of you recently commented on, and I used to teach the concept to my students. Here’s that post:

I have believed this idea absolutely.

But my friend suggested that instead of getting out of way I might consider,

“… embracing my way.”

Hmmmm… I had to think about that. It sounded imaginable. Because I’ve recently begun to understand just how much I disregard and disconnect, how much I disavow and disown my own self. Lots of “disses” there.

This same friend also suggested that I take an, “…active role for personal need as an act of recognition.” Perhaps a way of doing both, I thought, might be to acknowledge and further indulge this passion I feel for stone, thereby possibly energizing my work.

It may be my very steps on this planet will inspire and inform the paintings as I am finding “my way,” the way of stone perhaps?

Because the rocks of this earth seem to be the most powerful pull in my life, that and the feeling of love. I don’t think I could live well without either one of them.

To suggest, as I believe I am, that this “childlike” part of me may well be the artist in me is profound.

Hmmmmm again. Following the stone, connecting with self, being present, being that child again, filled with wonder, and putting that on the canvas.

Many of you know I’ve struggled with health issues this winter. Well I became even more obsessed with rock during my recovery. Kim got frustrated with me once because on my way home from the CHIROPRACTOR I stopped to gather big hunks of quartz. This not long after my spine had collapsed. I know, not the smartest idea.

But to say I was compelled is putting it mildly. It was almost as though an innate part of me, an ancient part of me, knew that the rock held some essential truth in it I was meant to find. The stories of the Earth are written there in crystal, fossils, semi precious stone, obsidian, minerals… what part of that was meant for me?

And I think it is this: Find the hollow of yourself and fill it here. Begin here.

Love to you all,