It’s been another PNW weekend, with activities and sketchy weather. This time Laura and I went to Bellingham for the Mount Baker Rock and Gem Club’s annual show. The weekend also included another oyster party as well as more Scottish music.
First a bit of history…
I’ve always been a rock geek. This all started back in eighth grade when I was supposed to make a rock collection for Mr. Blakely’s science class. I only got a B- on the project, but I was hooked. I studied geology while at the Governor’s School at the College of Charleston one summer and for awhile I considered majoring in geology at Furman.
Laura has a similar passion. Her dissertation research was on x-ray crystallography, so she shares the same fascination with minerals. She comes by it naturally, though. Her mom loved rocks and we keep finding stacks of them around the house.
Apart from occasional forays to the Dixie Gem in Greenville, our first real experience with rock hounding was on our first sabbatical away while in Tucson. I climbed canyons and volcanoes and visited mines collecting specimens of garnet, azurite, and other cool minerals. The big rush was in February of that year at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®, which their website labels “The largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world.”
First there was the “official” show held at the Tucson Convention Center. There was a huge section with various vendors open to the public, and an even larger section open only to dealers. That alone was overwhelming. What was even more amazing were the unofficial events happening all around town. Every hotel parking lot turned into a gem and mineral flea market. It was limited to the parking lots. You could walk up and down the halls of the hotels where the vendors were staying and they would have their rooms open with display cases open on their beds. It was weird walking into some random person’s hotel room.
Fast forward twenty-six years to this sabbatical…
We had no delusions that this show would be anywhere near the scale of the one in Tucson, but we thought it would be something different to do on a Saturday. The event was held at the Bloedel-Donovan Park on Lake Whatcom, just southeast of Bellingham. Apparently this is the current home of the Mount Baker Gem and Mineral Show.
We arrived just after noon. Already the event was well-attended. Displays and vendors had set up in the park community center’s gymnasium.
The vendors were on the outer ring of the displays. Wares ranged from polished stones and semi-precious gems to mineral samples and collecting equipment and lapidary accessories.
Laura was most attracted to the polished round and egg-shaped stones. The more interesting ones had flaws – mini “geode” cavities and crystal inclusions.
There was a silent auction to support the club, as well as door prizes and activities for children.
The middle aisles contained displays by the club. There were personal collections and a demonstration of stone polishing techniques.
The displays included work by younger members of the club. It was great to see these kids showing an interest in geology, probably about the same age that I was bitten by the bug.
Just outside of the gym was a room labeled “Lapidary Room.” Inside were several grinding benches and a club member was techniques for gold panning.
The club member had some sad news about the club, though. They are being evicted from their space as of the end of the month. The City of Bellingham has raised their rental rates for the facility to the point that they can no longer afford it. They are now hunting for a new home. I hope that they can find it.
Laura and I spent the rest of the afternoon driving around Bellingham and up to the town of Ferndale. We had to laugh because we drove on East North Street, crossed Slater Road, and through the community of Marietta. A warp in the space-time continuum. In the afternoon we went to see the new Lara Croft movie and thought that Alicia Vikander did an excellent job in it.
On Sunday there was another oyster party at Slough Foods. John did his usual excellent job with the food. Clam Chowder and a Kulshan IPA rounded out the meal.
There wasn’t a music event this Sunday so I rode over to the Home and Garden Show at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. It was interesting, but very much like the annual home and garden show back home. Unless you have a specific project in mind, it’s not very useful. I left without taking any photos.
Monday was another Scottish practice session. After my rant about Irish music I really needed some reassurance that I should be attending these sessions. First, though, I stopped by Hugo Helmer Music and bought a new Feadog tin whistle in D. I’d bought a cheap one on Amazon for $5 and it just wasn’t what I needed for my lessons. This one was twice as much at a whopping $10. I thought I’d try it at the practice session.
For whatever reason there was a HUGE crowd at Monday’s session. There was the usual compliment of fiddles and small pipes, there there were also mandolins, concertina, and at least five guitars.
We had a very special guest with us. Andrew Wright is a world-class piper and had spent the weekend at the Littlefield Center teaching master classes on piping. He joined us for the afternoon session, not playing, but listening.
Wright was very complimentary of our group. He said that piping competitions can be very stodgy and set, and that our session was much more free-flowing and enjoyable. He specifically complimented my guitar playing, which I appreciated VERY much. It was the boost I needed.
I felt like I was on my best game this afternoon, not just with the guitar but also with the tin whistle. I played a couple of the slower waltzes with no problem. My favorite of these was Innisheer. Skye and Patty played low D whistles and I played my new high D and it worked well. I attempted to play some of the faster reels and jigs, with moderate success. Patty Dunn is also in my tin whistle class and she let me try the low D. Loved it, and really would like to get one at some point. However, I was pleased enough with my new whistle, despite its high cost.
So it was a successful weekend of rocks and music. I could make some joke about being a rock musician, but I’ll spare you the pun-ishment.