Turning rocks into gems


It’s just an ugly old rock or is it?


For me, it often appears in a visual form. Words do inspire me, which is why I keep an ever-bulging, tattered, old notebook full of quotations that “speak” to me.

But images. Oh, those sights my eyes behold, art work I may have the opportunity to view, photographs that I manage to coax out of my camera, they provide much of the spark that fires my thoughts and helps me put those thoughts into written words.

That was surely the case when we visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in our nearby city last month. Previously here in my blog, I shared some of my images and thoughts that fired up my brain when I entered the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems there.

The brilliant colors, the sparkle, the glimmer, and shimmer of those ‘rocks’ all lit up and displayed on ebony surfaces spoke to me without words.  Proof of that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.” ~ George Eliot

Viewing the decent photos I managed to take – it was difficult to photograph items behind glass and I’m nowhere near a professional or even knowledgeable photographer – continues to provide creative thoughts in this cluttered brain of mine and I want to share them with you.

We can look at a rock and say, “Well, it’s just a rock.” But what is on the inside of that rock? When split open, what you find may totally amaze you. What looks cold and mundane on the outside may radiate warmth and a magnificent treasure on the inside.


Display in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The beauty of it reminds me that those rocks that exist under our feet, in mountains, in the deepest caverns, or elsewhere were all created by the God of the universe. The one God that can penetrate our own cold, stony hearts and fill it with light and love for His Son, a Savior, a Redeemer.

“Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts and let them light our path to love.” ~ Rumi

But even the beauty you may find on the inside of that cracked open rock can be further refined.  A number of processes cause a mineral or gem to form. Various conditions, forceful pressure, temperature changes all contribute to its formation.

Fracturing and friction produces another change into something much more precious and glittery – a gem stone. And that reminds me that we too can be polished up, our hearts made new. We can shine like the finest and most expensive gems in a jewelry store window when we give our lives to the One who loves us most.


Gorgeous gems in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

But often it takes going through some rough places, some difficult experiences, some really hard times to become a beautiful gem.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” ~ Confucius

And that reminds me of a passage of Scripture in the Bible. One of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote to his fellow Christians, praising God for salvation through Jesus Christ, for a living hope that believers can have despite frequent suffering and persecution.

His words are recorded in the New Testament in the book of 1 Peter, Chapter 1, verses 6-8:  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Out of difficult trials, as a believer in Christ you can still hold onto a gem of hope, a gem of light, a gem of joy, a gem of love. Aren’t those the most beautiful gems you may ever possess?

“Sometimes the darkest challenges, the most difficult lessons, hold the greatest gems of light.” ~ Barbara Marciniak

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Words for Wednesday: Inspiration


Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

On our recent jaunt to the city to escape the throes of winter doldrums and cabin fever, Papa and I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art. You can read about that in yesterday’s post.

I’ve learned over the years that I am a very visual person. Pictures, photographs, images often provide inspiration for me. So when my visual world is colorless and drab (like it is now), creativity sparks just don’t fire in my brain.

That changed once I stepped into this mirrored room in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems at the Carnegie museum.  Perched on glass shelves inside of octagonal-shaped, glass curios lined up and reflected by lights and wall-to-wall mirrors, the gems and minerals displayed there lit up my brain like a Christmas tree.

blogIMG_0535blogIMG_0536blogIMG_0538I wanted to stay in that room for a long time just gazing at the astonishing beauty of it all and capturing photos with my camera.  The optical illusion of it all felt like you were wandering through a maze, making you, perhaps, feel a bit like Alice trapped in the looking glass.

Glimmer, shimmer, and magical, it was almost like a siren song, calling out to me and uplifting my weary, dreary spirit.

Happiness is where you find it. Sometimes you just have to look for it. And for me, I found it here.

“There are little gems around us that can hold glimmers of inspiration.” ~ Richelle Mead

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Maybe dinosaurs, but not fossils


Dinosaur exhibit @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

I’ve been unplugged. When I do take time to perch in front of my keyboard lately, I find I have nothing to write. Easier than forcing myself to drum up writing inspiration, I just unplug instead.

Maybe, I mused, I’ve contracted cabin fever and dreary weather causes me to be so uninspired. It seems to be a cyclical thing with me as well, often occurring in February.  

I could blame my lack of creativity and motivation to write during this month because of that doggone lack of sunshine we have in my neck of the woods.

Even though we’ve experienced a mild winter (so far), overcast days on end with little to no sunshine takes its toll on me as does the fact that January lasts soooooooo long and daylight is so short. As usual, when February finally arrives, I do find myself infected with a full-blown case of cabin fever. 

At the beginning of this month,  Papa and I were relaxing in the family room one evening. While he flipped through Amazon Prime and Netflix trying to find something worthwhile to watch, I alternated between reading a library book and an inane color by number app on my iPad.

Suddenly, I thought “Enough! We are so predictable and this is becoming much too much of a regular routine!” So I looked at Papa and said, “We need to get out of here. We need to go somewhere, do something, to get me out of these winter doldrums.”

Of course, Papa works part-time so for several hours a week, he does get out. But Nana keeps the home fires burning in this country ‘cabin’ of ours and in between bouts of cleaning out clutter and babysitting Little One, Nana’s been antsy to get out of the house.

“Okay,” Papa replied, “where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Well, there’s the problem. I didn’t have any good ideas. We are scheduled to take a week-long excursion this spring, so my attention has been on making those plans with Papa. But where to go nearby now? What to do? I was stymied.

At this point, you need to know the back story. Born and raised in this area where we now live, this was my home until I went off to college. So I’ve seen just about every site within driving distance, in our nearby city, and in this part of the state that’s worth visiting.

But Papa, he grew up in our capital city several hours away and we spent almost half of our married life residing in other states here in the USA.  And even though we’ve lived in this house for 20 years now, there are still some sightseeing spots in this area he hasn’t visited yet.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art in Pittsburgh is one of those places. Since my husband is quite the history aficionado, he’s always wanted to visit this museum. And it’s been more years than I care to recall since I visited the museum as a youngster.

Several times in the past, we’ve discussed attending the Carnegie but would relegate it to one of those “we’ll visit it in the winter time when it’s better to be indoors” kind of places. Well, what better time than a winter day during a snow squall?

So we headed to the city one morning to spend an entire day at the museum, arriving shortly after it opened and leaving almost at closing time. Papa enjoyed a hey-day since he was in his element. This Nana got just the stimulation and photo ops she needed to light a little spark under my inertia.  

Particularly fascinating to me were the National Geographic: 50 Greatest Wildlife Photographs exhibition (amazing!!); the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, which displays more than 1,300 minerals and gems from all over the world; and the Wertz Gallery, where some of the minerals have been fashioned into beautiful gemstones and jewelry.

That breathtaking gallery includes close to 500 gems, crystals, and pieces of jewelry displayed in glass cases in a mirrored room. The spectacle of it just boggles your mind and seems maze-like. Trying to capture photographs and gazing at the astonishing beauty of the gallery truly was exquisite.

And of course, one of the most famous exhibitions of the Carnegie (one that I remember so very well from my childhood) is Dinosaurs in their Time, a remarkable collection of original fossils and actual dinosaur skeletons found out west.

When I was a kid, the dinosaur collection was merely erected bones and fossils displayed, but the exhibition now is remarkable, depicting those creatures in replicas of what their natural habitat might have been like. So much more intriguing.

But that wasn’t the only intriguing aspect. As we wandered through that exhibition viewing the displays, a pleasant elderly man, leaning on his cane, tapped my arm and asked if we had a minute to spare.

We stopped, nodded our heads, and listened to him tell us most interesting facts about the displays. We enjoyed listening to the gentleman, an enthusiastic museum volunteer, share his knowledge.


The knowledgeable museum volunteer

My curiosity aroused, I questioned him about how he became a volunteer and knew so much about the fossils and dinosaur displays, wondering if he was a retired professor or researcher.

He then shared how he had worked in research of a different kind in his working career,  retired in the 1980’s, and promptly became bored with retirement. So he decided to volunteer at the museum and has been doing so for the last 30-some years.  

His eyes sparkled as he recounted his story and he ended it this way with a huge smile on his face: “It’s fun!” What a great attitude he had!

A day at the museum with my husband. It truly was fun. It was fun to get out of the house. It was fun to shake off my case of cabin fever.

And it reminded me that at our age, especially now in these retirement years, we may be dinosaurs, but we don’t have to be fossils. Papa and I will continue to seek out new experiences (even if they’re new, old experiences), learn new things, and most importantly, have fun together.

“Retirement is when having a good time is your only job.” ~ unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com