Wash Your Rocks

RocksOne of the earliest disillusionments is the transformation of the beautiful seashell or river rock into something rather dull once it has dried out. Whence the magic of the beach-combing discovery, the footloose, and probably bare-footed, sojourn along the edges of the ocean/pond/lake/stream/river, where the gleaming thing captured our eye? I understand that shell collectors oil their shells for best effect and photographs. I just used water here.

Dry.

Dry.

Wet.

Wet.

As I understand it (but I’m no Governor of Florida or New Jersey), the problem is one of light, or rather our perception of light. When light hits a water- or oil- covered surface, it bounces back with some uniformity. Things look shiny and new, gleaming and jewel-like. When light hits a dried-out surface, all the gnarliness of that surface means the light will be scattered helter-skelter, looking dull and so over its celebrity.

3 Responses to “Wash Your Rocks”


  1. 1 auroramama March 28, 2015 at 9:40 am

    It is one of the early disillusionments, isn’t it? But now that I’m definitely not a child, the dry matte color is as beautiful as the shine. Maybe it’s knowing that what’s there is still there, and no one can take it away. See Shawn Colvin, “Diamond in the Rough.”

  2. 2 katie jane March 30, 2015 at 10:48 am

    You can give them a coating of clear nail polish for perpetual wet effect–two coats if you want it to be super shiny (but less natural looking). I also have a rock that was a present from a friend in elementary school; she had loved it and held it in her hand so often that the oils and friction from her skin polished it to a deep gleam. I don’t remember even her name anymore, but I still have her rock in a place of honor on my shelf.

    • 3 mthew March 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Thanks for this helpful hint of art, Katie. I usually have a Kentucky Coffeetree bean or buckeye in my coat pocket that gets all bronzy with oil from being handled over time. Very rich and strange.


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