Semester in New Zealand – Picking up Rocks – By Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
When you walk do you sometimes pick up a rock and look at it? Maybe toss it into a nearby pond or lake. I know that I do. When I was little I would pick up rocks all the time, sometimes I would find a rock that really grabbed my interest. These would be brought home to my Mom or Dad and I bet some of them are still around in some drawer somewhere that hasn’t been cleaned out in ages. Rocks speak to people sometimes. People take pictures of rocks, climb rocks, we even eat rocks! Salt I mean of course. They are under our feed on walking paths, above our heads when we look up at a mountain. They surround us and come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people spend a whole lifetime looking at and studying rocks. Geologists devote their lives to rocks and the stories they can tell us humans.
Where would humans be without rocks? We have used them to build homes and preserve our food, salt once again, to keep safe and to kill each other. They tell stories of the earth’s past and creation that amaze people. The oldest
[This is the rock from the rock beach that I learned how to do a traditional Maori flax weave on.]
pictures and writings that people ever made are on rocks. There are myths and legends built around rocks, whether they be Greek myths or indigenous peoples legends or religious ceremonies centered on a single rock. Our history as people is tied to rocks no matter where we come from. Rock is a generic term and can be a boring word to describe things that amaze and inspire people, but it is also a wonderful word that has the ability to describe a thousand different pieces of the earth that look and feel so different. Everyone has an image in their minds of what a rock is. Rocks have the ability to connect people to the land, to their place or their homeland. Here in New Zealand I have been picking up rocks almost everywhere I go.
[This story has to do with using traditional Waka canoes one day on the trip.]
They all tell their own story and remind me of an interesting or cool place that I visited. They provide a great memento that I can look back on when I get home. I have become a child again, bringing rocks home to my parents.
[This is most of my NZ rock collection so far.]
On the very first week of the trip here in New Zealand our Maori Professor told us all that rocks are the perfect gift to bring home to our families. He then told us to go down to the rock beach below where we were staying and find a rock. A rock that spoke to us, a rock that when you picked it up and held it you would know that it was the rock you wanted. I not only did this for the task that he would have us do later that afternoon with our rocks, but I have kept that in the back of my mind everywhere I have gone while I have been in this far away land.
Sometimes I pick up four or five or even ten rocks and look at them, carry them, and then toss them away before I pick up or see a rock that really speaks to me. I always know it is the right one because I know that I do not want to give it back to the earth. Then I take a picture of the rock, usually with a scenic background of the area where I am, so that I can always go back and look to see where I picked the rock up from if I forget.
I may forget where I picked it up, but I know for certain that I can tell a story about each rock that I have picked up. A story about what it meant to me at the time, or who I was with, or something interesting. I think this is also why I use to do this as a child, so that I could more easily remember something cool that I had done or a cool place I had been. In this way the rocks have become more than just rocks for me.
[A raging river rushed in the background of this memory rock.]
They have become a symbol of a place and a time that for one reason or another I wanted to remember at the time.
Rocks seem to have a sense of permanence. Maybe this is why great rulers build huge tombs like the pyramids or huge buildings to be remembered. I just want to remember my time in New Zealand and if picking up some rocks and bringing them back home is a way for me to do that then I am happy with that.
Having these small pieces of earth in my possession has not only allowed me to hold on to memories and remember spectacular landscapes or new experiences, it has also given me a connection to place. Looking over the little rock collection I see the places I have been. All of those places are places that I have never even come close to before. I have picked up many rocks on the north shore of Minnesota, but I have been there many a time before. These rocks are from places that are eight thousand miles from my home! Each and every one of them seems so different than rocks back home, even if they may not look that different.
Holding a little chunk of New Zealand in my hands makes me feel more connected to this lovely land that I am visiting. I think that when I go home I will once again pick up rocks when I walk around, and some of them I may even take home with me. Rocks can speak to us if we take the time to look at them, pick them up and hold them. They can be symbols of memories, good luck charms, or really anything we want them to be. Maybe all of us should grab a rock or two when we travel, whether we travel around the world or in the backyard, rocks can speak to us if we give them the time.
About Matthew Breeze. I am a junior at the college of St. Scholastica this year and I am majoring in Global, Cultural, and Language studies with a minor in Spanish and a minor in political science. I will be returning to St. Scholastica in December. I am originally from Bemidji, Minnesota, but I have come to consider Duluth as my second home.
I have a passion for politics and I hope to someday work for the State Department or the Foreign Service working in international relations in some way shape or form. I have always wanted to go to New Zealand. I have been to Canada and Mexico, but I really haven’t been anywhere different than the United States. The city in Mexico I was in was a tourist trap and Canada looks like my northern Minnesota home. I have a family connection to New Zealand as well as the general desire to visit. My grandfather was in New Zealand for rest and relaxation during World War II. The stories of his time in NZ have been passed down through the family and are one of the biggest reasons that I decided to do a study abroad semester in NZ.
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