I was sitting in my Volcanoes and Earthquakes class today, listening to my professor (who is pretty much John Green’s geologically obsessed twin) lecture about the different kinds of rocks and how they come to be. As he was lecturing on each type of rock, he’d send a slab around the classroom for us to examine. I want to tell you, trying to pass thousand-year-old/thirty-pound rock chunks as casually as a seventh grade note is not something that goes well in a classroom with stadium seating. It was all kinds of hilarious, and as we tried hefting these guys to each other, mutual commiseration and humor passed between my classmates and me. These strangers that I’ve sat next to every day for the past two weeks, who clam up and get glued to their phones when I try to make conversation, became my flailing friends. It was so human. And I loved it.
For some reason, when my teacher was talking about sedimentary rocks, it really caught my attention.
(I know. A science class miracle.)
[From my first coastline walk in Qingdao]
He talked about all these pieces coming from different places, and about how each layer of the whole resulted from a certain period of development. And even when these periods end, the layer that was formed remains. And how within each layer, there was a story. There are pieces of the rock that it was at that point, but only pieces, because the weak parts are weathered away. There are impressions left, the telling scars of the beauty that once was. There are also solid bits of rock that withstood the onslaught of whatever changed. And these remaining parts are the strengths from that period, the parts that could endure the breaking and the beating and the weathering. And then all these pieces from these places join hands, over and over, brought together by a binding force of strength. And in the end, what remains is all additive. What’s left only becomes more. It’s all part of a cohesive, bonded, and strong whole.
As I listened to him lecture and looked around at my classmates, I felt so much joy. I felt such curiosity about their layers, their stories, the pieces that have remained and the forces that have tried to break them as they progress into something of more solidity and strength. I wondered about the years that made those laugh lines, or the day that gave that scar. I felt so much love for the human soul, and all that it can hold and withstand.
And as I held this mass of rock between my hands, studying the things that imprinted each layer, the different colors and textures, and the solidity they created, I thought about the layers within myself. I thought of the pieces of each story that stayed, even when other parts were broken and swept away. I thought of the things that are forever pressed into my mind and my heart – the things that will tell my story and give me strength long after the time they were first formed has passed. And I felt such gratitude for this time of life, and for every time of life. For all the things that break me and bond me and press into my soul.
Everything that has stayed has been additive. And everything that has passed has been necessary.
And I am so grateful. 🙂