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On the rock cliff beside our old house  there was a small patch of mossy green grass where small white flowers stood curiously firm on delicate stems. Holding my hand, my grandfather used to guide me down the rocks as I carefully gripped a bag and spoon.

Together we scraped metallic powder off the cliff walls that had been blasted into scraggly plateaus to build a few houses which overlooked the sea. My grandfather, a homespun alchemist and man of god, collected the fine dust we gathered and sifted it in his home laboratory. Somehow he separated fine gold dust from the rest of the metals and would make waif like bars of thin gold. 

I fondly remember those quiet outings. Side by side we stood or knelt on the rocks, scratching the bedrock for precious metals. I darted around my grandfather, rasping whatever glistened in the sun, hoping to find  real gold. He’d amble over each time I genuinely shouted: “I found gold!”

Sometimes I’d lay down in the scattered patches of grass and watch my grandfather scrape the rocks.  My body nestled in the soft grass and sturdy flowers that thickly grew in the arid ground. If I looked up long enough, the sky seemed to spin as the clouds raced dizzily fast overhead. Only when I stood near the plateau’s edge did I hear the ocean collide against the rock and taste the salt on my lips. 

A few years before my grandfather’s death, with weathered hands, he gave me thin bands of gold. His knotted fingers slowly unfolded small tissues of paper that held the priceless metal we had gathered years before.

I’ve since returned to that towering cliff and shown my family the rocks that scraped my knees and peeled my finger tips as a young child.

The limestone, sharp and glistening, beckoned me still. 


June 29, 2010