Before I moved to the desert, I had never heard of rock tumbling.
In March, I went on a hike in the Indian Wells Valley with A., C., and my in-laws, and my MIL and I starting noticing beautiful, colorful, sparkling rocks. They glinted in the sun. Our pace slowed as our necks folded down and we searched the desert dirt. I filled my cargo pants pockets with red and and green and blue and striped rocks.
Along the way, A. and my FIL suggested rock tumbling. A. said he’d look into making me a tumbler.
Truly, this was a new concept for me. Why would anyone tumble rocks? (I have since discovered other friends either don’t get it or also haven’t heard of it — one derided it as a “first-grade science experiment,” another said, “You mean, like the website Tumblr?”)
A. explored making a rock tumbler, and decided it was easier to buy one. So he did.
I tumbled my first batch before we left for the east coast. The process takes an entire month — or more — of tumbling rocks in a rubber container with either grit or polish. Day and night.
The results are amazing. I’m still deciding what to do with them (ideas are welcome!). A couple of them will probably be paper weights. A few turned into beautiful pendants for necklaces. The others may fill a glass with a candle in it. We’ve talked about making mosaics (wall art, or as part of a tabletop) and coasters and table runners and bracelets. One friend even suggested gluing them into a bird house.
I’m on my second batch now, and I’m checking the rocks daily, during C.’s nap, washing off the grit with the hose and studying each one as they transform from rough to shine.
I’ve learned that lapidary is an art. I’ve learned that there is a whole community of rock hounds who live in the Mojave, including a woman a few blocks from my house who owns a store full of rocks from all over the world. I’ve learned that there are old mines in California, and near them lie opal and quartz and jasper and petrified wood.
I have also learned that geology fascinates me, and that I love that I can wrap my hand around an object that I found that is millions of years old and turn it into a gem. It makes me feel connected to the earth.