Crystal Clear

One day, for no discernable reason, I felt an urge for amethyst, a common but very sought-after mineral. The purple hue of its quartz-based crystals is formed by traces of iron in its matrix, and vast deposits of amethyst line the volcanic underbelly of the Earth, particularly in Brazil and Uruguay.

What I felt wasn’t just a want. It was a need; an obsession as strong, I imagine, as a food craving is for pregnant women. I was a rock hound as a child. I wanted to be a mineralogist when I grew up, but the infatuation faded with time, and while I have never lost my appreciation for crystals, I have not collected them for decades.

As a child, my collection was limited to my budget: saved-up allowance money that bought simple, tumble-polished stones, plus a few bigger specimens gifted to me on birthdays or Christmas.

Now, however, I was on a quest for a real chunk of rock. An amethyst geode like I’d always ogled in store windows but never had the means to buy: tall and heavy; a polished face composed of an outer border of agate caving into a center filled with large, deep-violet crystal points.

In Paris, to make such a purchase, there is really but one address: Minerales Do Brasil, in the city’s 8th arrondissement. The neighborhood is posh. The boutique is not. In fact, from the street, it is all but invisible. There is a small display window on Boulevard Malesherbes, but it is just a façade. The unmarked way in is around the corner, behind a heavy door at 86 rue de Miromesnil. If you get this far, you find yourself in a courtyard, but then need to navigate a passageway to a second courtyard to find a small — and again unmarked — wood-panel door that finally brings you to your destination.

The store’s labyrinthine location would seem a death knell for business, but there is never a shortage of customers milling slowly about the cramped aisles, scrutinizing a vast selection of rough stones, polished crystals and, to my delight, a whole room given over to amethyst geodes.

I examined each one, but kept coming back to the same, a beautiful, slender-shaped geode that was puzzlingly affordable. The sales woman explained that the price was reduced because it had fallen, cracked horizontally and had been pieced back together. The fissure was visible, but barely. It was scarred… just like me. So I bought it.

———-

To me, crystal formations are nature’s perfect bouquet. If you stop to contemplate how they come about, a crystal’s existence is mind-boggling. Precise, geometric lattices, stacked, repeated and built — slowly and methodically — over millions of years. Water infusions, mineral additions, gas compressions that add brilliant color and hue.

The veins of the Earth’s crust are filled with crystals, and what fascinates me most is that these miracles of physics “just are.” By that I mean that they are perfect examples of altruism. Almost everything else in life has the ulterior motive of survival or procreation. The beauty and scent of a flower favors its pollination. A peacock’s intricate fan favors finding a mate. Crystal formations, on the other hand, seem to me a selfless act of creation. They are beauty that exists simply for beauty’s sake.

As a cancer patient, I have spent a lot of time pursuing meditative techniques that lead to “The Center Within,” also the title of one of my favorite books. It is that place of peace that resides only in the present moment and steers us away from attachment and toward acceptance. I can — and should — fight for my life. I can do chemotherapy, I can cry and pray for my health. But if I am attached to the outcome, if I am unable to move with the inevitable tides of life, I will suffer.

I want to be able to accept that life — like a crystal — “just is.” It has its beauty and its fissures. It is complex and miraculous in its creation. It is built, it erodes and it ends. It is like the mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism: the remarkable sand designs created over days or weeks by monks, one grain at a time. The result is a masterpiece of concentration. But once finished, tradition calls for the ritual destruction of the mandala, swept back to the pile of sand and dust from which it began, a reminder of the impermanence of all things.

———-

Last fall, my wife had a sudden craving for a rose quartz ring. She was never a rock hound like me. She just has a favorite jewelry store on Ile Saint Louis in central Paris and she wanted — she needed — her next purchase to be something with rose quartz.

At the time we were in a disappointing spiral of negative in-vitro pregnancy attempts spanning some three years and were preparing a new and perhaps last try.

My wife bought her ring and much later we learned that in the lingo of lithotherapy (the study of the healing qualities of crystals) rose quartz is the stone most associated with matters of the heart, love and, especially, fertility.

Twins — to my wife’s elation and my fear-filled hope — are due in August.

This too, I must remind myself, “just is.” And it is beautiful.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Minerales Do Brasil
86 rue Miromesnil
75 008 Paris
Web Site : http://www.midobras.com

Galerie Kara (jewelry store on Ile Saint Louis)
90 rue Saint Louis en Ile
75 004 Paris
Tel : (33-1) 46 34 20 80

“The Center Within” by Rev. Gyomay M. Kubose, click here for web link to publisher.

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5 comments
  1. Rick Berg said:

    Hi Andrew,

    I enjoyed your post today. Lately I have been studying, on a rudimentary level, tenets of various religious faiths. Your story ties right in with those studies and questions that have arisen in my mind. Hopefully as my thought gel I will be able to share them with you. My thought and prayers are with you daily. Love you.

    Uncle Rick

  2. So much i love about this post….I love that the crystal shop was so hard to find (good old paris non-marketing, LOL!), i love that the crystals are “altruistic…” but mostly i love the discovery of beauty, literally, in a grain of sand, wherever you choose to look.

  3. Di said:

    Andrew, as usual, you hold the reader absolutely spellbound. We think and pray for you and the family everyday, and look forward to having you in the states again with us.

  4. Millie said:

    Hi Andrew, I have so enjoyed reading your beautifully written posts and seeing Paris through your eyes..inspiring..much love to you and Kim and Aleyna and the little ones on the way! Millie

  5. David said:

    Thinking of you Andrew.

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