We're Trying Too Hard To Find Beauty

The mindful mindset of appreciating beauty in everyday places.

Posted Dec 04, 2018

Shieldforyoureyes Dave Fischer/Wikimedia Commons
Raw uncut diamond
Source: Shieldforyoureyes Dave Fischer/Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever seen an uncut diamond? A typical diamond in the rough looks like a nondescript chunk of broken glass. At its best, a low-grade quartz crystal. It takes much manipulation to make it wedding-worthy, at which point it looks like a high-grade quartz crystal with a bit more shimmer. Humans—we sure are a silly lot. We have a world full of mind-bogglingly gorgeous stones to choose from, yet hang our dreams on the one devoid of color. We say it’s because they’re rare, but they’re everywhere. Wal-Mart sells diamonds.

A few weeks ago we hired a landscaper to renovate our yard. To keep the project affordable and low-maintenance, all walking paths were filled with pebbles. The cheapest pebbles the dump truck could deliver. Unsorted smooth stones of various sizes and colors—like they took a scoop from a rocky beach. 

The day after the stones were delivered and spread, I was enticed to lie down on them flat on my back. They were warm from the sun—a poor man's spa day. Looking to my side, a small stone caught my attention. It looked waxy and semi-translucent with a slight blue tint. Upon close examination, one of its facets showed off a chevron of arching stripes of clear and white like a miniature misty mountainscape. It was an agate.

Brad Waters
Lake Superior Agates and Jaspers
Source: Brad Waters

I won’t bore my readers about my lifetime affinity of beachcombing for agates. Or about the specific conditions on Earth millions of years ago that created them. It’s enough to know they are comprised of chalcedony—a microcrystalline quartz. Chalcedony is a hard material. Hard enough to be resilient but not as hard as diamond. If one were to find an uncut diamond on the ground it would look rough and jagged because it stands up to harsh weather. Whereas chalcedony is just soft enough to take on a natural smoothness and polish as it tumbles through the rigors of its lifetime. Like us, the more they age and endure the more gorgeous their character. (Diamonds just sit there for millions of years waiting for humans to come along and do all the work for them!)

Brad Waters
Yard Agates
Source: Brad Waters

Every time I walk out into our new yard, I keep an eye out for agates, and in only three weeks I’ve already collected a small bowl full. It’s kind of funny because as recently as this past spring, I would travel far to pick agates on my favorite beach. Four hours by plane, seven hours by car, then another two hours by car to reach a remote beach on Lake Superior that feels like my private retreat. Some people would travel as far and pay thousands of dollars to attend some fancy spa resort, but my secret Superior beach, with its infinity of sand and water, is a solitary meditation with no walls. I feel at home among its agates that have tumbled smooth in storms. Stepping out into my backyard these days, however, makes me wonder if there have been agates under my feet all along.