Stars, Galaxies, Nebulae

A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in the galaxy
A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in a galaxy far, far away.

A friend of mine had a booth at the gem and mineral show this weekend, and invited me to stop by.

I parked and walked toward the Hillsboro Fairgrounds building, and passed several nerds with big grins, clutching recent aquisitions. It was then I knew I was going to be among my people!

My reason for going to was to visit my friend Joe whom I had only seen twice before, and then only for 5 minutes each time. Once at a Mt. Hood Cherokees monthly meeting, and once at our summer Cherokee Event. Through a telephone interview and several emails over the past year, we knew instinctively we’d have things to talk about, but until now the planets had not aligned to put us into each others’ path. Interestingly, that morning I told him I probably couldn’t make it because I was going to a picnic at a park in town, and was hoping to play Cherokee marbles in the rain with other Indians from our group. I walked around the park in the rain, watching children on the jungle gym and middle school girls play some pretty impressive soccer, but no one I knew showed up. Finally I discovered (via facebook on my phone – just love technology) that the picnic had been canceled and viola! The planets had aligned for once, and there was time enough to visit.

(Since there would be no potluck, I brought the fresh baked walnut-apple crisp home for myself. Score!)

Gem Show - perfect choice for a wet day!
Gem Show – perfect choice for a wet day!
These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.
These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.
My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!
My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!

We had a great visit, and things were slow enough that my friend took a break from his booth at one point to walk through all the booths with me. This was bad news. I am smitten with lovely things. And I do think rocks are lovely. Soon I was clutching several irresistible slices of stone. My friend selected an agate from the table of a lovely woman from Oklahoma (who, yes, also turned out to be Cherokee), and she handed me a tool I had never used before.

“You’ll need a loupe for that,” she said.

“A whatsit?”

The professional rock hound taught me how to use it, and I gasped with astonishment at the magnified Moroccan berber agate in my hand. I gasped in exactly that way the first time I looked through a telescope powerful enough to show me Saturn’s butter-coloured rings.

“There’s a cluster of stars here,” I told them excitedly, pointing at the rock. “And this is a whole galaxy! With a cloud nebula off on this side, see it?”

Joe chuckled and took the stone from me and said he was going to photograph it.

That’s why he was there at the show: to exhibit his art. This guy has fixed a magnifying piece to his beautiful old lens that he used to capture east Asia after he fought in the Vietnam war. The lens has served him well, and now it has a new life. At his booth he had a 17-inch computer screen set up for visitors, and his camera, screen, lights and computer in the back. For most people he explained what they were looking at, and how he made the images, but for some who eagerly handed over their treasures, he photographed their rocks.

The results are magical.

Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.
Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.
This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?
This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?
A different perspective at the same place on the stone.
A different perspective at the same place on the stone.

I sent a text to another friend and mentioned that the gem and mineral show was near his house. The next day I got a text back. He and his wife had gone to the gem show, and he bought a rock too!

Smoky crystals on my friend's rock.
Smoky crystals on my friend’s rock.

I am still curious about the Cherokee connection, right? The punch line doesn’t seem to include any Indians, but they were all over the story in the beginning. My friend who went the next day is from east Asia, and his wife is not indigenous American as far as I know.

I found the connection in an old email in which Joe talked about his upcoming residency at the Crow’s Shadow Institute on the Umatilla Reservation outside Pendleton, Oregon. He told me that in his art the Cherokee component is necessary. In his work he tries, in the Cherokee tradition, to see clearly and understand what is around us right now, and in that way make links to what has happened over time. One example of that is when he showed me photos of petrified wood, and I could see the cells! Cells in rock. Fascinating, don’t you think?

Whenever I open myself up to what’s out there in the world, I have the best adventures. Joe gave me permission to share more of his images, so I’ll leave you with them. Click to enlarge. Look for unexpected landscapes.

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20 thoughts on “Stars, Galaxies, Nebulae

    1. I was hoping some photographers would see this one. So very exciting to have these worlds opened up and magnified like this! I can hardly wait to see his work at the Umatilla Reservation. He has this fancy spy software that alters images, and he has been able to find petroglyphs in rocks that aren’t visible to the human eye. He plans to photograph an area to find the hidden images, and then map it out for visitors. Isn’t that fascinating?

    1. Thank you for the compliment, and for leaving a comment. I would guess there are rock hounds in Indonesia as well. It can be so much fun to collect them, and see how the colours change when you get them wet. I think the people at the gem show travel the world to collect their rocks.

  1. And now you see why I love quantum physics. We are and everything is, made of the stuff of the stars. The entire universe is in everything and it’s all connected. The photos are phenomenal!!! I love rocks too but have never hounded them. When they appear, they fascinate me. I had a friend that made gem trees coming from the rocks. I still have mine even though it was a bit heavy and delicate to box and move. Since there are no accidents, you were aligned to meet that day. Lucky you. 🙂

    1. I was thinking of you the whole time my friend. And Joe is all about quantum physics. He described his work as time travel. I agree with you that the visit was no accident, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this work and talk to him prior to his residency in Umatilla. I hope to see that work too, which will be an entirely different thing than what he does with rocks.

  2. I’ve collected rocks since childhood, I had grasped the idea of erosion and how eventually the mountains became sand. To hold something in my hand that was so old facinated me and still does. My husband caught the bug some years ago when he discovered suiseki (http://www.bonsaiempire.com/origin/related-arts/suiseki (in case you are unfamiliar)). It looks like you picked up two beauties! The photos your friend takes are amazing. A great way to show people the beauty of stones. And a connection to the earth, and the universe. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for the introduction to suiseki. I had not heard of that, and I am excited that my stones already have a category: Celestial (Gensho-seki): with patterns resembling the moon, sun or stars. I imagine that suiseki is more for found stones than sliced stones, but I didn’t research further. When you talked about erosion, I thought instead of the enormous eroded stones I have seen around Portland. These are stones placed in a river for years so that they erode into wonderful shapes, and then pulled out to be placed in gardens. I tried to look up the name for that, but can’t find if it’s different from suiseki or not. The stones I am thinking of can be 20 feet high.

      1. Yes, your cut stone is definitely suiseki. I think it can include almost any aesthetically pleasing stone and cut stones are very much a part of modern suiseki, as well as those that have been manipulated by man, as in accelerating the erosion and smoothing process. Hope I didn’t open you to a whole new level of collecting. 🙂

  3. We have a great rock museum in Central Point, Crystal, about 15 miles away. (The Crater Rock Museum) The rocks and minerals are really beautiful, and some incorporate wonderful natural scenes that require minimal imagination to see. There is a great one of Casper the Ghost. We’ve taken our grandkids there, naturally, but we also take other visitors when we are looking for an outing. I think that they are surprised. Your fun photos reminded me that it is time to go again. Thanks. –Curt

    1. I used to head through there all the time when my dad lived in Chiloquin. There’s a great cut off road from White City past Lake of the Woods. Anyway, a great rock museum would have been a good stop to break up a long trip. I’m going to keep it in mind for a future stop. Central Point is not that big and I’m sure I could find it. Hey…isn’t Central Point where that big Devil’s Tower-looking outcrop is? I seem to recall spotting it from the highway.

      1. Ah, you would be referring to Table Rock, a land mark for me dating all of the way back to my childhood when we used to come to Oregon to visit my grandparents in Ashland and check out where my mother had been raised in Medford. It is the remains of an old volcanic flow that once covered the valley and has now been eroded away. (And yes, you can see it from Central Point.)
        Also, Crystal, having just responded to your many fun comments on my and your blogs, you now hold the record on my blog for the most comments at one time! 🙂 –Curt

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