57 Gravel

Redding, Ca. //

“I’m an aspiring geologist,”

Douggy pulled out another box from the back seat of his dingy old sedan and set it on the trunk deck. A tackle box and some larger Tupperware containers already sat open, overflowing onto the mobile workbench of well-worn gold paint. A few unique shapes caught my eye, but the mass of the collection looked more or less like #57 Gravel, driveway cover.

Even so, something sparkled.

I met Douggy in the parking lot of Target after some late night errands, passing through my once-upon-a-time, home-for-awhile town. As dusty as he was nervous, but small in stature, he approached my friend and I looking harmless enough.

Redding has in far excess of it’s fair share in homelessness, on invite from a local prison and a magnetic hub for those seeking welfare benefits and government assisted living. Having spent over 7 years at this freeway pit stop, you learn to turn a blind eye to dusty people wandering parking lots and train up your defense tactics for the aggressive ones. Needless to say, the community of Redding is quite fed up with its homeless problem.

Lucky for Douggy and lucky for us, I was already expecting to meet him and so we didn’t miss our chance.

Douggy dove right in to telling us his story, having abandoned home and family over a year ago to go chase his passion for rocks. He was never great at school, he said, and couldn’t hold a “real” job. Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurship has been a difficult learning process for Douggy and the journey has been less than kind. Redding in particular, according to his account, seems to hold a special place of detest (and borderline hatred) for people like him. By the time we had met him he had been spit at, attacked and called names – and he had no resource to leave anytime soon. As it seems, Redding has no interest or market for a traveling gemstone salesman, especially not for one dressed more like a pirate than a serious businessman and living out of his car.

Douggy rambled some facts about the different types of rocks in his collection as I watched his shaky hands manage to handle each one with precise care. Impressively, it seems he can brief almost every single one – where it came from, how long he’s had it, and what he likes so much about it. And although he can’t keep eye contact for long and keeps his brow buried beneath his hat rim, all attention focuses on the gem in his fingers while he talks.

“I really love rocks.”

On good days, Douggy makes some money selling jewelry pendants made with his stones. With my last $6 in cash, I asked him to make me a $7 piece and selected a piece of clear quartz with some black inclusions and a splash of yellow – a standout to the majority of his collection that caught my eye. Douggy threw in another pendant for Hannah and another rock piece that I placed in my cash pouch – as much as I could see, three of his most eye-worthy stones.

As he created our pendants in front of us, the conversation took a smooth but sharp turn into the darker parts of Douggy’s mind. He’s been meeting demons, he said.

“You don’t have to believe me,” he buffered.

Now I don’t have face-to-face conversations with horned ghouls, I don’t have any ghost stories, and I’ve certainly never gone to meet any breed of self-proclaimed devil worshipper, but in many ways I can resonate with looking into the eyes of Fear. In my own way, I have chased my own proverbial demons down the pathways of my own mind in pursuit of many greater things that lie beyond them, or despite them. Such it was that in some way, I could still choose to hear Douggy’s story and see a truth.

In his own words, Douggy sees himself as a missionary of rocks. As he tries to wield his inner strength to face some seriously questionable encounters, he aspires to use his love of rocks to share a more universal love for people. Unfortunately, the message gets lost far into a rabbit hole that most people won’t go down.

When we chase our own fears, ultimately they are still in control – we change our gait and even direction in relentless attack of the things that make us “weak” or unworthy of our own confidence. Whether we feel that we overcome them or not, it’s our very distraction that Fear wants to begin with as we brave ourselves down tunnels of darkness wearing homemade superhero capes. Unwittingly, we still end up on the dark side feeling lost and disconnected.

Despite your usual pirate story, real life treasure hunting doesn’t require that we fight Leviathan and the Underworld to get there – we are heroes only of our own make-believe. Precious stones lie right among the drab rocks of everyday life and that is where our every attention should be.

We already have the jewel.

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I will set your stones in antimony,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.

I will make your battlements of rubies,

And your gates of crystal,

And your entire wall of precious stones.

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