This is a continuation of a series on digging crystal in Arkansas. Last time we discussed what to wear, what tools are essential, and the other intimate details of what to pack in your vehicle. This time let’s get down to the actual nitty gritty of digging the crystal and let’s talk about what to look for in the tailings themselves.
In the new tailings, you will be looking for sticky masses of clay. At the majority of the mines I have been to, the clay is red. Some mines have different colors of dirt and clay, depending on the composition of the Earth. We’ll just discuss the red clay, since it is in the majority, but keep in mind it may differ according to where you are.
At any rate, the fresh tailings will look like wet, mushy mud and rocks. Most of the mud will be a dark brown color; some of it (if you’re lucky) will be red clay. Remember when we talked about the folding and faulting that created the mountains and the subsequent crevasses in which the crystal grew? Silt or mud filled in the gaps and acted as a sort of cushion for the clusters and points. This is the stuff you’ll be looking for in the new tailings. The clay is red, sticky and gooey; it is clingy and hard to move. What you’ll be looking for inside the clay is anything black and shiny. The really clear points will appear black because you are seeing “through” them and into the dark of the inside of the “hole” it has made in the clay. White looking areas in the mud are usually quartz matrix (the filler material with no points). Often there are points on the quartz matrix, so it is always a good idea to check. Sometimes the white areas are partial or whole Feminine points. Many a leaverite has been brought home, not knowing until they were washed off if they were crystals or just chunks of matrix. What’s a leaverite? That’s a rock that when you see it you “leave ‘er right” there. It’s an old tongue-in-cheek rock hounding term, and it’s one of the first rock hounding words I learned because my grandparents considered most of the rocks I picked up to be leaverites.
Back to what to look for when you’re digging; as I said, walking the old tailings is what I usually end up doing. Every time I dig, initially, I am always lured in by the promise of finding that really big, giant point or cluster in the fresh tailings. While this has yet to happen for me, I have seen it happen for many! However, after a usually unfruitful slog through the fresh tailings, the raw energy will become too much for me and I will end up strolling through the old tailings.
The same “shiny black” instruction is true for the old tailings as for the new. These need to be pried CAREFULLY out of the dirt with your trusty hemostats or garden trowel, being sure to scrape and loosen just the dirt around the crystal, but not the crystal itself.
The way I usually find crystal in the old tailings, however, is fairly easy to explain, but much harder to put into practice. Have you ever seen those Magic Eye 3-D posters that were popular in the 1990’s? After getting your eyes focused, a picture suddenly emerges from what previously looked like just a bunch of splotchy colors. Finding crystal can be like this. The splotchy colors are represented by dirt and rocks, the hologram is the crystal. You have to get your eyes set and scan the ground. If the sun is shining, that’s all the better, because a flash of light here or there will alert you to where to center your gaze. If your focus is correct, a crystal may emerge. Your mind might register just the dirt, but with practice, right where you were looking, there is a crystal. I find that if my head’s not in the right space, I don’t find very many crystals. I make it a point to remain in a space of thankfulness and gratitude. I usually like to walk off by myself even when digging with friends because I like to talk to the crystal as I’m looking and digging.
Another handy tool which I really like to bring is a long handled rake or hoe. The type I’m talking about isn’t a leaf rake, but a 3 or 4 pronged rake (like the small hand trowels but with a long handle like a hoe). It makes a handy walking stick and also makes turning over dirt much easier.
I sometimes compare digging crystals to finding Easter eggs. It is exciting and sometimes they are “hidden” in plain sight. Be sure to look in places you might not think would have a crystal such as dirt ruts in the roads. I once found a beautiful crystal in a little mound of mud on the side of one of the roads at the crystal mine. It was raining very hard, and you know how a tire will push an indent into the road, and some of the mud squishes up into a long mound alongside the rut? I was tired, soaking wet and saw a little gleam in this rut-hill. I almost didn’t stop to check, but luckily I did. I saw about an inch of a gleam and pulled out a long, thin Double Terminated Soulmate point so you never know if that tiny glimmer will be just the tip of the crystal iceberg.
It is advisable that if you find a cluster, (or even a large point) especially in the new tailings, leave the clay and dirt in place as much as possible. I know it is very tempting to clean off the clay and dirt so you can look at your new find. Try and resist as much as possible. This clay will provide protection for any long, slender points during packing and on the ride home. You can leave a cluster like this out in the weather once you get it home and the clay will dry and shrink, and as it shrinks, will often shrink away from the point. There will be more on this in the next post, on cleaning crystals.
We’ve touched on this before, but is bears repeating. As you dig, be respectful. You aren’t going to be able to bring home every single crystal that you come across. Some crystals I know instinctively aren’t for me. I have seen people mindlessly toss such crystals aside in the search for something better. Don’t be one of these people! Instead, consider doing what I do or something similar which resonates for you. When I find a crystal that isn’t for me, I thank it, tell it how beautiful it is and set it prominently on a nearby rock so it will be easily found by the person it is meant for. This doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process and it doesn’t have to occur verbally. It works just as well to think these things; the crystal will receive the message. Also, if the crystal is for me (or for one of you, through me) and it goes into my bucket, I don’t just plop it in; I carefully place it in and thank it as I do so. I don’t do this as much because I am afraid I will damage it by dropping it in, but more because to carelessly drop it in the bucket is disrespectful. We talked about how I kiss the crystal before putting it in my bucket. I will continue to do that, even if it does make me look a little demented. I have a vision of myself through other people’s eyes: this crazy girl walking around alone, mumbling away with dirt all around her mouth. Maybe this is why I like to walk away and dig by myself; it saves my friends the embarrassment of having to admit they know me!
As a final reminder, PLEASE obey all signs at the mine and do not cross ropes, taped off areas or areas which are marked off limits. The cautions are there for your safely. Usually when you check in, the person who gives you your waiver form to sign will also tell you where it is OK to dig and where it is not. If they don’t tell you, please ask.
Ok! That does it for how to find crystal when digging. Next post we’ll talk about what to do once you get your new finds home.