Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Petrified Forest Encore: "Bad Luck, Hot Rocks"

When I saw the signs at the Petrified Forest about not stealing the rocks, I adhered to that rule but I wondered about all the locations outside of the park that sold pieces that looked like they once lived in the national forest. I was depositing Camden's Rock in many of the locations we visited, for once, taking the opposite approach.

I first learned about Bad Luck, Hot Rocks in a New Yorker slide show and I was intrigued. The link above describes the collection as: "more than fifty specimens from the conscience pile, along with some of the letters of apology that accompanied their return. Collecting petrified wood on park grounds has been strictly prohibited for years. It is punishable by fines, and large signs near the park exits threaten vehicle inspections. Until recently, a display in the visitor center warned that rocks were disappearing at a rate of twelve tons per year, meaning that soon none would remain for future generations. (The park’s current administration has backed away from this estimate.) In case that emotional appeal failed, the display also included letters from repentant thieves, referring to a curse that would strike anyone who moved the petrified wood. The result was a self-fulfilling mineralogical prophecy: people ascribed any post-visit mishaps to their filched rocks, and they returned them by mail as quickly as they could."

This publication reminds me the rocks many of us collect and the stories they tell. When we are gone, those memories are lost and a pile of stones in a drawer will mean very little to our ancestors.

I wanted to see how this book documented the importance that people attach to the objects they take from the land. Where are these rocks now? Tossed back into the park after being coveted and rejected for so long?

I could not recommend this book more highly and cannot wait to delve deeper into its pages.

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