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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
Christopher L. Hayes
Progress: 17/304 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Progress: 96/454 pages
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Ibram X. Kendi
Progress: 22/750 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer

46,146 to start

Three thousand words of transcription yesterday was probably too much.  I need to take it easier.


My goal is to finish the transcription today, and that should be a reasonable goal. 


I also have some reading to do.


I didn't realize how much text I had scribbled in my spiral notebook.  My intention was to transcribe all of it onto the laptop today so I could go back to writing new material.


Ha!  I've already added over 2,500 words from the notebook and still have close to that much yet to go.  I'm not likely to finish tonight, as my elbow is already starting to let me know I've reached my limit on the keyboard.  I need to take it easy.


Much of what I've added seems incredibly boring to me now, but I need to take the time to read all of it in one chunk.





I'm writing again.

I wrote several pages -- longhand -- last night, a couple more this morning.  It's not much, but it's something.

It begins

— feeling big smile


I had to look straight up into the sky to get this, so I really couldn't see much of anything.  The clarity of this picture was a big surprise.  There are only a few flowers right now, but the background shows a little hint of how pink/purple/lavender the branches will be in a few more days.


The individual flowers look almost like tiny orchids.  When more are blooming on the lower branches, I'll try to get some close-ups.

Frye on Dickens and Scott

The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) - Northrop Frye

I'm enjoying this.  Because the contents are actually lectures given at Harvard, I'm wishing I could hear Frye's delivery.  I suspect there may be some significant sarcasm.  Some of his other lectures are available on YouTube, so I may try to find some time this coming week to watch them.


As expected, however, the hours on the rock saw this past week provoked serious response from my tendonitis.  Although I was able to do a tiny bit of work in the studio this morning, by noon I was all but paralyzed with the pain.  It's impossible even to hold a book, and any time at the keyboard is sporadic at best, punctuated by breaks to clutch a bag of frozen rice to my arm.


One passage in this book merited the extra effort to make note of it here:


[Sir Walter] Scott came finally to be regarded as too much of a romancer to be worthy of close study.  [Charles] Dickens fared rather better: he too was darkly suspected of being a mere entertainer, but he had obvious social concerns, and besides, he wrote Hard Times, a novel so dull that he must surely have had some worthy nonliterary motive for producing it.

Saturday, the calm before the storm

I put in about an hour and a half on the rock saw Friday afternoon.  The usual clean-up takes 45 minutes to an hour, but I skimped because I was hoping to put in some more time this morning.  Given that we're getting close to really warm weather, when even the early morning heats up quickly, there was a good possibility today would be my last chance on the saw until next fall.


BF left for his umpiring gig a few minutes before 6:00 a.m.  I was up and out to the studio by 6:20.  The mess out there is sooooo discouraging, but I resisted the temptation to start cleaning things.  I changed into my rock cutting clothes, grabbed the tray of rocks-to-be-cut and the bowl of kitty litter, and headed to the workshop and the saw.


The weather was cool, with just a touch of a nice breeze.  The saw blade was holding out -- I run them until they are completely worn down and won't cut at all -- and I was getting some nice pieces.  But after about 90 minutes, I had to quit.  The oil was too dirty and I could no longer see the stones well enough to cut even slices.


Just as a regular wood saw creates sawdust, the rock saw creates rock dust, but it gets mixed with the lubricating oil rather than flying into the air.  After a while, the mixture of rock dust and oil creates an unholy sludge that has to be scooped out of the tank.  I had reached that point, and I knew it was going to take at least another hour and a half to clean it all up.


It was 8:00 when I started.  It was 9:55 when I finished.  I was in gunk up to my elbows, and I had used almost a whole roll of paper towels.  But the saw was all cleaned up, ready to rest over the summer until I'm ready to cut more.


As soon as I got myself cleaned up, I had to run errands.  It's not that I'm a hermit or anything, but I really hate having to interrupt the fun stuff to take care of things like buying dog food and paying bills!  By the time I was home again, it was lunch time. I fixed a quick sandwich and let the dogs out and put the groceries away and threw in a load of laundry . . . . and now it's 1:30!  Where did the day go???


Before I sat down with the laptop, however, I went back over to the studio to take a couple of pictures.


One of the rocks I cut this morning was a chunk of stuff I had picked up at 4th of July Butte west of Phoenix years and years ago.  It's part of the massive collection of . . . stuff . . . that fills dozens of plastic boxes in the workshop.  I'm pretty good at spotting worthwhile chunks out in the desert, but then comes the issue of finding time to do anything with them.  That's what I'm working on.


So I plucked this chunk out of one of the boxes and started slicing it this morning.  Only one small end was visible, but it looked like the inside might be a brown moss agate.  To my surprise, the first cut revealed a swirl of gold, orange, red, and purple moss in a white agate matrix.



This slice is only about 1 inch by 1 1/2 inches, but it's cut from the small end of the rock, so other slices will be larger.  I think I cut three pieces, but this is the only one I've cleaned up and photographed so far.  I'll probably trim it out to a "flame" shape before polishing.


And now my laundry is ready for the dryer, I still have inside chores to do, and frankly, I'm ready for a nap!

Oh my goodness, my ironwood!!!

I first wrote about my ironwood tree last fall, after it had been trimmed by the landscapers prior to the November Studio Tour.


Now it's spring.  We had very little rain over the winter, and that has affected the blooming of flowers.  Usually we have a bright blue ribbon of lupines along the side of Highway 60 between Apache Junction and Gold Canyon, along with big sprays of yellow brittlebush and orange globe mallow.  We had virtually no flowers at all.


Even the spectacular yellow of the palo verde trees out in the desert was muted.  It's usually as bright as fireworks, with every single tree just a cloud of the most yellowy yellow imaginable.  They're blooming, but not spectacularly.



That's the neighbor's tree across the street.



The ironwoods bloom later than just about all the other trees.  I noticed one of them along the highway was showing that lovely soft lavender of a full bloom the other day, though most of the others in the desert still weren't.  And I knew my ironwood hadn't shown its few little blossoms until much much later last year, like late May or early June.  Right now we're only in the middle of April.


Therefore, I hadn't even looked at my tree yet this year.


Until today.


I let the dogs out after they had their supper, and for some reason or other Moby decided he wanted to come in the front door.  The sun was at the right angle to cast the ironwood tree in an odd light.  It looked . . . funny.  It looked like the leaves, which are normally a dusty, slightly bluish green, were dustier than usual.


Could it possibly be flower buds?  Could it?


I scrambled to find some shoes and then grabbed the camera.



Yep, it's covered with buds!!!  My ironwood tree is gonna BLOOOOOOM!!!!!



Each of those buds is about 1/4 inch (0.7 cm) long.  They start out really, really tiny.  These below are just starting to form, and each bud is about 1/32 inch long!



The cinnamon dot cactus are still blooming, too, and a couple days ago I got a great shot of a bee in one.  Unfortunately, the bee refused to roll over so I could snap a picture of its bright yellow underside, but it's still cute.



Ironwood flowers capped off a productive afternoon for me.  I spent much of the morning sorting through more of the rocks in the workshop and gathered a collection to cut on the saw.  Even though the afternoon sun was pretty warm, the day remained cool enough that I put in a little over an hour on the saw and got some good slices.  I already have three of my four available tumbler barrels filled and tumbling with the summer's first batches of stones.  My plan is to get in another couple of hours tomorrow morning, which will probably be my last chance before the weather gets just too hot to work outside on the patio.


And this evening I'm going to read.  Yeah!

I slept on it, and I think I'm more angry than disappointed.

A long, ranty follow-up to earlier post here regarding whether to be disappointed or angry.


And in part this is prompted also by Elentarri's comment to that earlier post, an excerpt from which I quote here:


. . . if someone was bright enough to get into university they were supposed to be intelligent enough to do a lot of self-study. The professor was only there to provide a few hours of entertainment in class every week and provide course material/mark exams, which was the proof the rest of the world required that the students were doing work.    (Elentarri's Book Blog)


In many respects, I completely concur; certainly my graduate classes were often like this, with little or no guidance from the professors, even though a couple of them did nothing much more than talk, talk, talk about nonsense unrelated to the course material.  One even refused to answer questions, and when I finally demanded that he at least address the reading we were doing and which we all agreed none of us understood, he laughed at me and said "Welcome to grad school!" before launching on another tangent.  He didn't like it when my evaluation of the course was highly critical of him.


Another prof in another graduate class lost complete control of the situation to the point that one student physically threatened me and I in turn accused the prof of encouraging the abuse.  I found out later he was terrified I would report the situation and he'd lose his job.  He admitted to me -- and to the rest of the class after I had walked out -- that he had let things go too far. . . because he found it entertaining.


But those were graduate classes, and they were "seminar" formats where there was supposed to be discussion and even debate as contrasted to more typical teaching formats where students did the assigned reading, then came to a class session where the professor led the instructive process.


My gripe is with the undergraduate experience, where professors failed to provide guidance and/or information that was specifically asked for.


I was expected to meet with my advisor for the honors thesis at least a few times during the six months or so I researched and then wrote the actual paper.  As I wrote in the earlier post, her area of specialization was women's history, not women's writing or literature or anything like that.  She pretty much admitted she knew nothing about my subject and was as much interested in learning what I had to say as she was in actually helping me write it.  She did recommend one book for me, and it provided some very useful information, but that was the sum total of her contribution. At one point prior to my actually writing the thesis, I gave her my bibliography.  She had few comments.


My other two readers were from the English department, but I only met with one of them once, to go over the basic premise of the project.  She, too, admitted to knowing absolutely nothing about romance fiction.  When I asked if she had any suggestions for areas I could add to my research, she offered nothing.  She did not ask many questions about what research I had already done or what references I had consulted.


All three of these full professors -- two were then or had been recently heads of their departments -- knew that I was very much a non-traditional student: In addition to being over 50, I had come back to college after a 25 year hiatus, I had a minimum of humanities background, and I had in fact taken exactly one literature course.


Everything I knew about literary criticism theory I had in fact learned on my own.  There had been absolutely none in that single class, which was titled Contemporary Women Authors (most of whose works we read in translation).  The focus in that class was on the woman's experience as depicted in the writing, and not on how it was written or where any of the individual novels/stories fit into the general literary landscape.  Whether the professor simply presumed we had already learned all that stuff in prior classes, I don't know.  The whole subject was one of those unknown unknowns as far as I was concerned: I didn't know enough about lit crit theory to know what I didn't know.


So I went ahead and wrote the thesis.  I gave the first "final" version to my advisor for review.  She had virtually no comments, criticisms, or suggestions.  I then distributed copies to the other members of my committee, and prepared for my defense.


I knew, of course, that I was defending more than just the paper I had written: I was really defending the entire genre of romance fiction as it had been defined -- or redefined -- as a powerful segment of popular fiction, of feminist literature, of women's financial empowerment.  I had laid out some of that in the paper itself, and I already had a traditional publisher interested in a book-length version.  So I went into the conference room probably over-prepared for the defense.


Well, probably didn't come close to describing it.  I'm pretty sure all three of them had actually read the thing, but their questions about the paper led me to believe they hadn't understood any of what I had written.  I remember one question in particular was about the difference between a romance novel and a television soap opera.  The simple answer, of course, was that one ends at "The End" and the other never ends, but that didn't seem to be enough.  "Happily Ever After" is guaranteed in a romance novel; there is no "ever after" in a soap opera.  And on and on, until I realized the question was actually intended to confirm the bias that romance novels are the same as soap operas, and that both serve to entertain poorly educated women who don't work outside the home and have nothing better to do with their lives.


But the thesis was ultimately accepted as written with a few minor adjustments.  I got my degree with honors, and the following fall I started the graduate program.  The book length version of Half Heaven, Half Heartache got put on hold for a whole lot of reasons (not least among which was my own lack of confidence in it).  A few years later, Pamela Regis came out with her The Natural History of the Romance Novel and I set HH-HH aside more or less permanently.  I couldn't afford to buy Regis's book, but I figured it said everything I had intended to say anyway.


When I finally did acquire a copy a few years ago, I discovered quite the opposite.  I also discovered how incomplete certain aspects of my own original research had been.  I went back to Christopher Vogler's book, I went back to his co-written work Memo from the Story Department, then I began with the Joseph Campbell source material for those two books.  What I wasn't finding was the basic theory of Story that I wanted, and that was essentially missing also from HH-HH.


In what I read of Regis, I found no references to Campbell or Vogler, but I did find some to Northrop Frye.  I was vaguely familiar with the name, but that was it.  Quick research informed me that Campbell's work had predated Frye's, so I continued to expect my reading of Campbell to provide that bedrock.


It wasn't there.  And though I eventually gave up on both of the Campbell works to which I had access, I didn't retain any expectation that they contained it.


In amongst this, and because my time was constrained by art shows and so on, I began rereading Stephen King's On Writing.  I enjoyed the memoir part, the struggles with poverty, the family issues, the shock of sudden financial success, and so on.  I still haven't finished all the actual text on writing.  But something in there, something in the respect King gave to his own popular fiction writing, kept the other fires flickering in the back of my brain.


So I picked up the first of the two Frye books I had purchased (used) from Amazon.


And there, in the first few pages, was a theory of Story. 


I returned to my research on Frye.  And that's what aroused my disappointment first and now real anger.


Frye is often considered one of the leading literary theorists of the twentieth century. Not one single professor with whom I discussed HH-HH ever mentioned him.  None of his works were in my bibliography.  He's not referenced in the text.


It is one thing, as Elentarri states, for professors to grant their students freedom for self-directed study.  None of the professors I consulted with during the six months or so that I spent on the thesis really had enough information to be able to help me find specific research material; many of the works I did use were unfamiliar to them.  And certainly none of them had ever read a romance novel.


But I had specifically asked for help.  I knew I was in uncharted waters, and I made no secret of my ignorance.  I trusted those individuals to at least steer me in the right direction.  Instead, they simply let me drift.


What might have happened if just one of those professors suggested I look at the literary theories of Northrop Frye (a Canadian)?  What if just one of them had suggested I look at the literary theories of F. R. Leavis (an Englishman who was mentored by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who also mentored Daphne DuMaurier)?


I feel almost as if I'm starting over, from scratch.  That's a disappointment.  The feeling that I shouldn't have had to is what makes me angry.

I'm not sure whether to be really angry or just disappointed

The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) - Northrop Frye

In 1999, when I began my undergrad honors thesis, I had a fairly extensive bibliography of feminist literary criticism.  My advisor offered few if any suggestions and I got the impression later that she simply might not have had enough background herself to have made any.  Her field was history, not literature, not popular culture.


The other two members of my committee were professors of English (writing) or English-language literature.  Neither of them offered any suggestions either.


in fact, I received very little guidance at all through the process.  I had -- and have -- no idea if that's normal.


One of my other professors, who taught a class about contemporary women writers, never explored the nature of Story as a vehicle.  When I complained that everything she had us read was either depressing or confusing or both, she acted as if that was the whole point.  I even went so far as to bring up Chris Vogler's theory of Story, knowing that it was based on Campbell and Jung. I was as much as told that what pertains to popular fiction has no relevance to literature.


Well, of course now I know that's not accurate.  And I also know that in many ways, those professors let me down by not providing more oversight and input along the way.  I suspect I may have taken my little project into territory they weren't equipped to navigate, and I'll explore that more when I'm not on the Kindle with its goofy autocorrect.


What Vogler did was to break down the structure of Story into its constituent archetypes based on Campbell 's 1949 analysis.  From what I could tell, Campbell didn't examine the Nature of Story, based upon its function -- not its form -- and relevance to the reader.


What little I've read so far of Northrop Frye seems to suggest that Story  has not just a function, but that its function is fluid, rather than fixed by its content.  Given the subject matter of my thesis, I'm disappointed that none of the professors involved ever mentioned Frye.  If I thought they didn't know enough to do so, I might be really angry.

A very different take from Campbell

The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) - Northrop Frye

I purchased this some months ago, and frankly I expected it to be far more dry and academic than the Joseph Campbell works.  So far, though I've really just started, it's far superior.  I'm feeling much more enthusiastic.

Ripping off a thousand masks

The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell

After the bitter disappointment of The Power of Myth, I wanted to try Joseph Campbell's original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  I hoped it would be more illuminating than the pretentious nonsense of Campbell/Moyers collaboration.


If anything, it was worse.  I managed to slog through about 50 pages before giving up.  There isn't enough time in the world to waste on this.


I was expecting an analysis of myths from around the world to show how they fit Campbell's pattern, but what I got seemed like fragmentary stream-of-consciousness ramblings.  Though his "nuclear unit" of story construction made sense, nothing else did.


That nuclear unit posits three main parts of a myth or story.  The hero begins in his/her ordinary world, then leaves that world to have some kind of adventure in a non-ordinary world, and finally returns to the ordinary world with some special knowledge or talent or gift that fixes whatever was wrong in the first place.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again - that sort of thing.


If he had taken that core and expanded it into the more detailed structure of Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Threshold Guardian and so on, I might have felt there was something of value.  But his examples of myths rarely illustrated his premise.  The last one I bothered to read was about the Chinese prince who didn't want to get married, but Campbell ended the chapter without explaining what the point of it was!


The other negative for me was the inclusion of dreams, either from Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis.  First of all, I'm not all that impressed with either Freud or Jung, though Freud really rubs me the wrong way.  But second, and far more important, was that I just don't feel random dreams, taken completely out of context, are a valid foundation on which to build a theory of story structure.


A few nights ago, I had a dream that a volcano was opening up under a portion of my house.  In the dream, I was trying to keep certain objects from falling into the volcano, but they were relatively valueless objects.  As I came to the realization that there were far more valuable objects to be saved, and that I did have the means to save them and escape the path of destruction, I exited the house and began to select items to be packed and taken away with me.  As I did so, however, I discovered that someone was cutting down all the trees and big cactus on my property, with the explanation that he was doing so to stop the volcano.  At that point, I woke up.


Because I'm aware of the context in which that dream developed, I know that there's not a whole lot of Freudian bullshit involved.  Were the dreams cited by Campbell also taken out of an everyday context?  Not knowing for sure, I just brushed them aside as meaningless.


That, of course, made much of the rest of the discussion equally meaningless.


The book was definitely not what I expected, and I really didn't find it useful at all as a basis for analyzing story structure.

Taxes and stuff -- and 43,025

In amongst everything else, I put together my tax returns the past couple of days.  There weren't any surprises, because I've kept my bookkeeping up to date.  I knew my liability was going to be modest, with no panic at the last minute.  All I have left to do is make copies for my files, then seal the forms and check in an envelope to drop in the mail tomorrow.




My studio is still a complete and total disaster, but I did get some time on the rock saw, and slightly diminished the inventory.  (We're talkin' a dozen or two rocks out of thousands, so it's not a whole lot.)  The slices from Friday and Saturday are cleaned up and the first batch is in the tumbler.  More will be started in the next few days.  If the weather cooperates, I may even get more time on the saw later this week.  This will be a good thing.


Depending on how many I end up with, the stones will basically take most of the summer to process.  I already have lots of other stones to work on over the next six months before the 2018-19 show season, so that will keep me busy building inventory.


Having finished my taxes, I have a really clear picture of my 2017 income -- as well as 2016 -- vis a vis both the jewelry and art shows on one hand, and my writing on the other hand.   Bottom line is I need to write more.


Bottom line really is I want to write more. 


I never seem to have time to read, let alone write.  When I read, I write.  I think I've written that more than once in the past, but it's true.  It's like a priming of the pump or something.  But the past several months especially, I haven't been able to gather sufficient reading time.  All those books on my "currently reading" wall?  For the most part, I'm still currently reading them.  I just can't find the time to finish . . . anything.


That has to stop.  And it has to stop now.


The Secrets of White Apple Tree Farm is currently at 43,025 words.  I have more in hand-written scribblings that I need to transcribe, but I have no idea at all how much is there.  There have been many nights when I've lain in bed and thought through some of the the plot lines, but can't find the time to write them down.  Are they forgotten?  No, they're cemented in my imagination, waiting for time/energy/discipline.


I want to write this book.  I want to write this book NOW.



Tolkien News

"New" Tolkien book to be published in August.



HarperCollins will publish The Fall of Gondolin on Aug. 30, the publishing company announced Tuesday. The book was edited by Tolkien's son Christopher, 93, and illustrated by Alan Lee.


The book tells of the founding of the Elven city of Gondolin, and is considered one of Tolkien's Lost Tales. 


More at link.

Rocks -- Befores and Afters (pic heavy!)

Murder by Death asked about some before and after pictures of the rocks I collect, cut, and turn into jewelry.  As it happened, I had some examples handy because I had them out for the studio tour last week.  And I love love love talking about rocks!


First is an example of what they look like in the wild.



Looks like a plain rock-colored rock.  But at the right-hand edge, you can sort of see . . . something.



Though it's rough and broken, it's kind of quartzy-looking, but with a somewhat waxy consistency.  So you turn it over some more . . .





And what you have is a banded agate.  Or at least part of one.  The banding isn't clear in this particular piece because the edge is all broken and dirty and rough.  This was part of one of my estate lots, so I have no idea where it came from, but agates like this are very common around here and pretty much anywhere there's been volcanic activity.  They aren't directly volcanic in origin, but form from water that seeps through volcanic material to dissolve the silica minerals and then deposit them in empty pockets.  I know, I know, TMI.  ;-)


This is another rock, one I did find, that I cut to make sure a new saw blade was installed properly.  I knew the rock was mostly the volcanic ash matrix the agates form in, but with a crust of chalcedony on one side.



You can kind of see the chalcedony -- that waxy-looking quartzy stuff -- on the end, though the other side shows it more clearly.



As with the first example, the inside is what matters, and I was pretty stunned when I cut this one.  I wasn't expecting anything very exciting.





In the picture directly above, you can see the matrix on the right hand side of the slice.  I usually have to trim this off with either the saw or an old pair of side-cutter pliers.  It's fairly porous and somewhat easy to remove most of the time, but it can be very difficult on occasion.  And it will not polish.


To give a better idea of the size, since this is larger than the little purple pieces I cut the other day, here it is with my favorite (and only!) Arizona quarter.



I did a little enhancement of these photos to try to bring out the patterns in the agate/chalcedony parts, but the truth is that when they're dry, they don't show up very well.



Upper left above is a slice of lavender sagenitic agate from the Sheep Crossing north of Phoenix. Lower center is from Brenda.  The other three are from the Chickenman place.  ;-)  They've been cut on the saw, tossed in kitty litter to get the oil off, then washed in water and dish detergent.


These next two show how dirty the little cavities can be.  Some of this is ordinary mud that gets into them over the years/centuries that they're out in the desert, if they have an opening that mud and water can get through.  Some of it is hardened ash that got in when the agates were forming.  That stuff has to be dug out with a dental pick, and sometimes it just plain won't come out.




After they go in the tumbler for six or seven weeks, the rough edges get ground off and rounded, and the exterior surface polishes to a nice glassy shine.  Much of the time, those little cavities turn out to be filled with tiny, tiny sparkly crystals, and they tend not to be affected by the tumbling process.  But I'm not good at capturing them with the camera!



In the shot above, the stone on the far right has a little depression filled with those tiny crystals, but they wouldn't sparkle for the camera.


Because the stones are unique, it's actually not hard to match up a before and an after picture of the same stone. Later today or tomorrow, I'll get some more shots of a few individuals so we can have a reference for particular befores and afters.  But the middle stone above came from a piece of rough that is actually still sitting by the saw.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.





I hope this helps, MbD!  More to come anyway. . . .


More cactus flowers, more rocks

It's been a hectic morning as I've tried to get ten hours of work accomplished in four, but I'm making progress.


Cinnamon dot cactus flowers are going crazy:




This is a tray full of the stones I cut yesterday and Friday, minus the ones I already put in the tumbler to start their 7-week journey to becoming polished goodies.



And some close-ups:




Weather forecast looks like we might have some cool days later this week, and if so, I will try to get on the saw again.  I've already sorted out some material to be cut, and I'm hoping to do the same tomorrow morning.


This afternoon, however, I have to do my taxes.  Ugh.

Agates - Surprises!

Agates: The Pat McMahan Collection - Pat McMahan

I've met Pat McMahan a couple of times at rock shows and have even bought a few rocks from him.  Best of all, I found some special agates in a place where he insisted there weren't any!  Ha!


But there's no way I can afford this book.  Many of the photos in it used to be on his website, www.AgatesWithInclusions.com, but he took most of them down when compiling the book.


Yesterday -- Friday -- I finally got to spend a little time on the rock saw.  I cut some petrified wood and some chalcedony, but nothing particularly spectacular.  My plan was to put in at least two hours, but after only one hour, I jammed the blade and had to take the whole thing apart to clean it up and reposition it, which took the better part of an hour.  By then I said the heck with it; I did a quick clean-up and planned for more time this morning (Saturday).


The weather was perfect, so I was at the machine by 8:00, with a tray of rocks I wanted to cut.  I zipped through some more chalcedony and a piece of jasper from Brenda, AZ.  Still, nothing out of the ordinary.


Then I picked up a small agate nodule I had started to cut last year.  The end was cut off, exposing a nicely banded white interior, which is common for these little "bomb" agate nodules found out at 4th of July Butte west of Phoenix.  Sometimes they have hollow centers with crystals, and sometimes the crystals form a solid interior.


To my surprise, the next slice showed a faint purple haze.  Purple is not exactly common in 4th of July stones, but it's not super rare, either.  I've cut a few pieces before with nice purple coloring.  But this particular little stone turned out to have bands of subtle orange, too! 



I ended up with three nice little slices from this stone -- which was no bigger than a pingpong ball to begin with.  They'll go in the tumbler for polishing, then I'll wrap them in wire for next season's shows.


Excited after that discovery, I scrabbled around the bucket labeled "Agate Nodules" and found a couple promising specimens.  Most are obviously white, so I was looking for stones that weren't quite so obvious.


The first was light colored, but it had a slight blue tinge to it, so I thought it might be worth the effort.



As you can see by the quarter, this wasn't a very big rock!  But it had its surprises, too.




I was flabbergasted!  I couldn't believe the first one I picked was also purple! 


The next one actually had more promise.  The exterior was dark, though that could also mean the inside was nothing but black.  One that I cut last year had a gorgeous rim of dark blue and white banding, but that rim was only about 1/16th inch thick, and the rest was yucky dull black stuff. So I didn't get my hopes up for this one.



It's a little bigger than the other, but still a small stone.  So I put it on the saw and started slicing.  This time I was in for an even bigger shock.




None of them are very big, obviously, nor are they top quality.  But I was still pretty damn excited! 


Between the two sessions Friday and Saturday, I cut quite a few stones.  Some are pretty good, some are just so-so.  Some will be good enough for jewelry, and the rest will refill the freebie jar**. They'll take six to seven weeks to polish; I'll sort out enough to fill at least one tumbler barrel and start the process probably tomorrow morning.


Watch this space.  ;-)


**The freebie jar had gotten so full that I decided to try selling the polished rocks by the bottle.  Starbucks Frappuccino bottles are perfect.  To my surprise, I sold out in two shows and now have to polish more freebies!  There's always a supply, however, for the kids [of all ages] to pick a free one or two.