Column: A tumble in faith

Marny Stebbins (Photo courtesy of Shelly Kryzer Photography)

The rock tumbler was rediscovered in the basement over the weekend, so no one has slept in our house for three days now. Also, we are out of Ibuprofen. And patience.

“Is it done yet?” has been repeated approximately every 17 minutes since the red plastic tumbler began to spin. Every hour, the kids check inside the barrel, expecting to find neon gemstones shining back at them from underneath the grit, like the diamond cave in Snow White.

“Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s not yet done, I know …” I sing to them as they march down the steps to the workroom for the obligatory inspection like miniature geologists. It doesn’t matter what I say, they are anxious for a miracle.

And aren’t we all? It’s taking everything I have not to commit an act of subterfuge with a quick trip to the gemstone aisle at the local craft store and my 40 percent off coupon. With a little assistance, everyone could be running their thumbs over the delicate veins of shiny agates by dinner time, and the tumbler (and our ears) could have a well-deserved rest. Expedite the miracle, if you will.

Rock tumblers are an exercise of faith. With the exception of impatient peeking, we don’t get to witness the transformation happening inside the barrel nor do we get to determine how quickly it occurs. We simply have to believe that the partnership of agitation and water will reveal something precious inside what was once hard and rough. Scrape and wash away, scrape and wash away. Not unlike any Sunday afternoon in my laundry room.

The process of uncovering a gemstone is destructive, demanding an assault on all that has kept it protected and whole. We do not unearth precious jewels with a little sunshine and a soft cotton cloth, but rather a handful of grit and the incessant pounding of waves. It must be broken free from what originally was called home.

And, oh boy, does this take time. Mother Nature spends centuries smoothing out the stones on riverbeds, creating the best skipping rocks, the best wishing stones, one by one. Season after season, the rocks are kissed by the edge of water or held tight by ice until they are worn down to expose their hidden beauty. Mother Nature knows no time or boundary, and so it is as continuous as it is common, this slow reveal of miracles. Scrape and wash away, scrape and wash away.

We too, are in the rock tumbler, rolling around with hard edges and protective layers. Actually, this time of year with all the darn pumpkin bars and apple doughnuts, my edges are rather soft, but you know what I mean. So many times, I think we are in the dark, bumping into each other, and enduring the persistent scraping of everyday life. Sometimes the impact is hard and changes our shape completely, and other times it’s a gradual letting go, a disintegration, a falling away. Over time, what felt like the most vulnerable layer, that which must be kept protected, is all that remains. Scrape and wash away.

We are now on day four of the rock tumbling efforts and the kids’ curiosity has not waned. I can only hope, once beaten free of their layers, these agates will be an identical aqua blue and fuchsia to those photographed on the rock tumbler box, or we’ll have some angry geologists. We are anxious for a miracle.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a staunch believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy.