Prospecting is looking for the rock that is different than the others, has a different skin, a different color, a different content. Prospecting eyes seek the unique, the unusual, the stand-out from the crowd by discarding the known, isolating what is unfamiliar, relying on internal knowledge.
The outer surface, the weathered surface, is different than the surface exposed by breaking the rock. Through the hand lens, its focus, its intensity, its concentration, its power to magnify, the rock is exposed in a way the prospector can’t anticipate. When the focus is clear, the light is correct, the hand holds still, the breath abates, the rock lures the prospector into its being, into its story. The rock becomes the Siren of myth. It is irresistible.
Wandering the lens, now an extension of the eye, over the freshly-exposed surface is to be drawn into the world of myth, of fantasy, to see what has not been seen since its inception, its formation millions, thousands, hundreds of years before that moment. It is a moment transcending the arbitrary time of human fabrication. It is a moment of history, of prehistory, of birth and of stillness.
Now, in the prospector's mind, there is nothing. She succumbs to the lure of the rock, to the mystery of its formation, to the realization of its wisdom, to its ability to hold truth absolute firmly with faith and courage, strength and duration. At this moment, the prospector, in awe, is humbled. It is simply a spiritual experience.
The prospector's eyes are those of a cat's: the green purity of emeralds, clear without depth. There is no blue in their existence.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Instinct and Intent
Overall, this rock is a white pinnacle thickening at the center where quartz mingles tarnished with the depth of color: the blackness of copper, the earthy redness of hematite. Held up to the light the quartz glows. Through the fleshy parts, ruby flows like blood forming a network of veins. In the cavity at its center, crystals coated with hematite iridescence blush ruby at their bases sprouting randomly elongating towards the center. Here is the heart of the rock where light energy concentrates, asserting itself. Under the lens the surface comes alive, flowing towards me, a vitreous mass icy suggesting molten plasticity.
Holding the rock, memory of the moment when I found it surges back. I was looking for a symbol of power and love and connection, a gift for my son. On a ledge, I stand on the narrow trail that spirals around a pinnacle. A wizard’s trail it was made by the footsteps of monks and missionaries, of soldiers and prospectors, miners and seekers of fortune.
Under the high noon sun, silence saturates the air. Lower down, a cardon cactus topples into the abyss, startling me with the crash of its demise. Around the corner, looking down, I see an arroyo winding like a river towards the west. Ahead of me there is an adit, its portal a mish-mash of timbers crisscrossing as the sides cave in. Piled on the slope below it, the tailings pile is chunks of quartz, massive and white reflecting the sun.
I pick my way down over the chunks hunkered on all fours against the steep mass taking care with every step. Heat bakes me as I look for the flash of light mirrored from a crystal plane. With my hammer, I chisel the rock away from a larger piece, too heavy and awkward to carry. In the early morning light, the palette of amethyst and ruby on the cleavage planes is exaggerated.
This is the rock I seek. Quartz is hard, a “7” on the Mohs scale, but its transparency is perfect to reveal the heart, the center, the soul.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Choosing is a Looking
Choosing the rock to break is detective work. Prospecting is a translation of two-dimensional form into three dimensions. It begins well before one stands in the topography rock in hand.
Learning where to go, studying where to look, it is deciphering the experience of those who have been before. It is looking at the abstract form: maps in which the land is made planar, colored, contoured, divided into a grid of latitude and longitude, concentrating upon a single point, a GPS destination. It is words and lines on paper or screen…the abstract forms suggest direction. Still, these forms can never prepare the prospector fully for the reality of looking at the rock.
Some of the library within the limited space of the ‘exploration vehicle’ are rock and mineral identification books, the Roadside Geology and Biology of Baja California by John, Edwin and Jason Minch, Ore Deposits, Tectonics and Metallurgy in the Canadian Cordillera published by the Province of BC, Petrology and Alteration for Prospectors by Dr. Tom Richards, a GPS owner’s manual, a Baja Topographic Atlas and 1:250,000 geology maps. Aside from the rock ID books, the most read paperwork along for the journey is an article by R.G. Gastil on the Economic Geology of Baja California. A hand-drawn map is included with the photocopy of the article and it is this map, which shows the location of old mines, that is the most useful guide to where to look the next day. Embedded in the article is a quotation lifted from the 17th century journals of Spanish explorer-naturalist, Longinos Martinez, which, although erroneous in identifying the exact nature of the rock, is inspiring and tantalizing in terms of description of the terrain.
The night before, with reference to these abstract two-dimensional guides, an area is selected for exploration the next day. Both logic and intuition inform the choice.
She picks up rocks because they are ‘pretty’; something aesthetically pleasing attracts her to them. He picks up rocks because they are suggestive; they create a question of identity, of source, of content. The prospector is in the act of looking and searching, in the act of moving. The rocks at his feet guide the route taken.
He prepares with a discipline that impresses its intensity upon her. His focus is absorbing, self-absorbing. There is the anticipation of waiting and the expectation of excitement. This energy focuses into concentration…it is the hunter again. The books and maps are the mental preparation, the prayer, the creative visualization comprising what is known, what is surmised, what to expect, what to look out for…a construction of the focus, a concentration of the intent…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Hardness