The Joy of Rockhounding
By Charles Snider
I read an article in the New York Times, and have seen this story played out in commercials for modern day sitcoms. We are becoming so dependent on our phones, or our laptops and the social media sites that they contain, that we can not watch a television program with another person in the room without engaging an electronic device. The experience of watching TV or a movie, or reading, or being with someone else is not enough these days. The story I read talked about the generation upon us now, being born and taught to utilize a tiny screen at all times, even while a person, a teacher is standing before them speaking. According to the article, we crave as many distractions as possible, and they are not human, nor are the natural.
This premise led me to reminisce about last year’s rockhounding trips. Leaving my phone in the car felt awkward, but someone knew where I was going, approximately, if I were to fall into a hole or something were to happen to me. It’s not like I needed my phone on me to dial 911 or call someone because I was in trouble. There were 2 fellow rockhounds with me. I just felt a little awkward at giving up that “distraction,” but when I did, and started marching into the woods, listening to my steps, and to nature, it felt like another world,,,and it always does when I go rockhounding.
Rockhounding, or amateur geology as it’s sometimes called, for me is a great retreat from all the distractions of modern life. The tools I carry, the provisions I bring, the clothing I wear, while modern, are not very different in design or purpose than what one would carry to go rockhounding 50 years ago. Back then, we did not these personal distractions on us, so rockhounding these days, turning off your phone, having your phone disable because there’s no signal, however you can get off the grid these days, rockhounding is one way to do it.
I believe we are losing the art of conversation, certainly of negotiation, and possibly sense of humor with our reliance on electronic devices. Rockhounding on the other hand requires all three of those parts of life. Conversation is a natural part of rockhounding with your crew, negotiation is required at the end of the day to figure out how to divide up the loot, and laughter and humor and fun is a common theme throughout a rockhounding trip. No devices required.
The last time I went with the Eastern Federation/NY/Long Island club group to the Herkimer Diamonds claim for instance, there were 3 of us lugging a jackhammer in a dolly, as well as towing all the other supplies like a trio of pack-mules. We met some lively characters along the way in their respective claims. There was one gentleman who goes by the name “Diamond Jim.” As we each anticipated, he told stories about how he found the largest Herkimer Diamonds ever and always finds the largest pockets. Then there was s dude named Montana at another claim. We learned later that he was living out of his van, and peddling Herkimer Diamonds to fund his gas, lodging (the van), meals, and I am not sure what the bathroom, laundry, or shower situation was, but we ended up hanging out with him for 30 minutes and helped him mine Herkimer Diamonds for gas money. Going back to the theme of this article, did I exchange numbers or anything from my phone with either gentleman? No I did not. We met along the rockhound journey, shared some banter and laughs, heard some laughable quips and tall-tales, and we engaged with each other without distraction.
So by design, rockhounding is one of the most social activities in which one can participate, and no phone or distraction can make it any better. Popular TV shows these days encourage you to watch for different content on your laptop while you are also watching the show, and Tweeting and other Social Media is encouraged and rewarded. Your multi-tasking is purely solo, and does not involve or include your friends, loved ones or good mates even if they are in the same room. Compare and contrast that to a rockhounding trip with your club, loved ones and family, good buddies and friends, and consider that any distraction on your phone would not enhance your experience, but take away from it. You need all your senses ready to lay your eyes on a giant Herkimer Diamond pocket. You don’t want to be distracted when a large garnet pops out of Connecticut schist. Walking the dried creek beds in Indiana seeking a rare geode covered with growth, or concealed underground, is not enhanced if your eyes were reading the screen on your phone, like we see commonly on the streets of Manhattan for instance.
To conclude, for me the Joy of Rockhounding is that it forces me to put down my phone, to expect no emails from the office, to be away from Social Media “friends” and among “real friends.” These days multi-tasking for work and entertainment is commonplace, and keeps us from cooperating and working together. Rockhounding demands cooperating and working together, and demands that we are more human and involved and engaged with each other.