Rocks live their lives on top of one another, when they’re in a river at least. They act as a support system for the others, for the calmer ones and the quicker ones, the fish and the insects, water flowing over and around them in a constant hurry to get somewhere unknown. The gentle giants of the river, they are the grandfathers and great grandfathers, always stoic and experienced from the ages. They hold the river-family together. The oldest rocks break apart into smaller portions, worn with time, and the cracks they have stand as testaments to their long lives. Petite and rounded pebbles float along these wet-water breezes, drifting here and there and farther than you or I have traveled before. Like retired couples, they spent their early years firm and strong in the water, a resting place for everything around them. But when the time is right, they break out to explore the world they’ve held together for years, no aim but movement and new places to see. Step back and look at them. A large boulder stands unmoving in the center of this river like halfway sunken ship. His mossy underbelly teems with microbial life, a refuge for the smallest of creatures, the long green strands extending from him like a young girl’s hair in her backyard swimming pool. Submerged and resilient as he is, his torso sits warm and dry as bones, baked in the sun—as cracked as an old man’s laugh lines should be.
Next to him there’s smooth stones, and grainy nuggets, geodes with glittering crystals hidden inside, and sparkling obsidian shaped into points by primitive man; all of these rocks sit piled everywhere and beside one another in heaps. The natural world supplies constant diversity. I especially like the iridescent stones, and the ones with broken antique glass in their conglomerate. The large shards and smaller granules remind me of the bags of unmixed concrete in the corner of my uncle’s backyard. There are rocks with fossils that spread out across them, split open and laid bare, sliced on an Achilles tendon, displaying the final resting pose of some insect or sea creature or ancient plant. I imagine what I would look like fossilized, or what my cat would look like, tail no longer in motion, anatomically correct, purr-less and fur-less for as long as the stone held together, maybe hidden in some unnamed grave for a thousand of year. My aunt’s red robins would prefer this Mona Lisa, this frozen creature, this non-threat, trapped in layers of sediment and sludge, dried out and put out of work.
Other rocks have holes in them. Thousands and thousands of holes make any stone feel near weightless in the palm like a little astronaut of the geologic world. These volcanic masses are often black or a steel-gray and made deep in the bellies of volcanoes, churned and expelled like stomach acid from a case of reflux into the open air. Molten and always burning, they are the skydivers, the slack-liners, the racecar drivers, built to explore fresh territories and worlds at breaking speeds. Living fast and hard and young, they move and explode irresponsibly from the Earth, but everyone grows old. Everyone slows to a crawl, and eventually to stillness. When it comes down to it, all of these fast-grown-still stones support us. They keep your children in school, they house the nutrients to feed your family, and they are made of the same chemicals that your teeth and fingernails are carved from. Unlike people though, these grandfathers and great grandfathers will outlive us, returning to dust, swirling around in the belly of the world to be expelled and pressurized and reformed again. Immortality exists in these rocks. The mounds and mountains they lay in, we live on. Inescapable rocks, firm rocks, hidden rocks, necessary rocks. They move and change below, a set of layers that all mortal life clings to while recklessly poised above the insides of this Earth. You and I will die, turn to ashes, and our particles will become grandfather-boulders someday. I can stand as firm as a river rock in time, and hold humanity high above my still form. That is how I hope to live forever—next to you, and next to my mother and cousins and all of our collective ancestry, somewhere shady in a river, high in the Colorado Rockies.