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Birds of a Feather
by Tom Thomson

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The Alchemist

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Perhaps I am over-awed by the phenomenon of process, but consider for a moment the creation and evolution of minerals. The breathtakingly beautiful rose quartz. The eerie moss-like green of jade. The sculpted petals of desert roses. The smooth spirals of cat's eyes. The incredible colors, angles, and light-bending qualities of amethyst, onyx, agate, and sapphire. Is it any wonder I applaud such unbelievable beauty?

Men will kill for gold, go to war over oil, and diamonds will catch a girl's eye. Coal gives us power and heat. Yet, when all is said and done, I am flabbergasted when I hold a beautifully sculpted concretion in my hand.

Mother Earth was the alchemist, Father Sun the inspiration for all of these fanciful creations. Together they conspired with cauldrons and beakers, sieves and presses, ovens and refrigerants - and all the time in the world. And the process still goes on, indescribably slow, inexorable in its eternal ebb and flow.

I relish these words of Loren Eiseley: "My sense of time is so heightened that I can feel frost at work in stones, the first creeping advance of grass on a deserted street." That is perception of a noble sort. It is that which must be perceived before there is any hope of understanding.

Are rocks, and minerals, and metals a form of life? Some would like to think so or, at least, believe they contain mysterious powers. I shrug at the suggestion, but then remember never to reject anything completely out-of hand. I remember how we used to laugh at acupuncturists, put butter on burns, and not dare swallow water during a sweaty game of sandlot ball. The truth is I am overawed by everything, including our own ignorance.

I am a traveler and a spectator, as Louis J. Halle, proclaims. I applaud the whirling galaxies, the stars of different colors and magnitudes (like diamonds in a jeweler's case), the child-like expectancy of viewing a comet, the momentary thrill of gawking at a meteorite, basking in the comfortable warmth of the sun, gazing up at the reassuring unperturbed, serene beauty of our moon.

I shout Encore! Encore! I leap to my feet in a standing ovation. I want to sate myself with this cornucopia of wonders. I gaze with admiration at the dazzling mathematical complexities of minerals. I stand in true awe at the convolutions of storm clouds, sizzling bolts of lightning, and the ominous roll of thunder. Even a sun dog turns me on. And all of these things are inanimate, completely devoid of life. Or are they?



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