"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
August 21, 2014
Dreams of Far-Off Places
by Hannah Bird

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with China. I read books about the country. I took a class to learn the language. I checked out books in Mandarin and kept a notebook of characters I recognized. I got assigned a genuine Chinese name.

Somewhere in my obsession, I learned about jade. My favorite color has always been green. Rocks have always spoken to me. Here was the translucent green stone. It could be dark and mysterious. It could be light and bright as new shoots. It was different. It was glamorous.

I picked up and lost tiny pieces of jade over the years. I had a genuine jade necklace that I am sure was a fake. I had a jade worry stone that I loved to hold up to the light. Someday, I thought, I will go to China. I will have lots of jade.

But I didn’t.

I grew up to be exceptionally ordinary. When I fell in love it wasn’t with a dashing traveler with a taste for adventure. It was an Idaho farm boy with green eyes and hair that shone red in the sun.

We didn’t go to China. We went to work. We went to the hospital to have babies. We went home to his parents’ for holidays. I was not glamorous even once. Instead of the Far East, we went camping. We fished. We hiked.

My husband came complete with his favorite wild places. I tagged along. He showed the apple tree he had planted at the top of a caldera when he was a little boy. He took me to his favorite creek. We fished a little and hiked a little. I learned to cast there. I stepped on a snake there. We dreamed wild dreams there.

Then we took little kids there and showed them how to bait their hooks. Our second daughter caught a fish and tried to eat it immediately. We always ended up wading in the creek, knee deep, crossing the smooth large stones of the creek bed.

Then we had lots of kids and I started staying home sometimes. Life was busy and wild and sometimes hard. I still didn’t go to China but lots of days I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere at all. I was grateful for my life. But sometimes, I was sad at myself.

But I still loved rocks. I collected them. My mother would bring me new and lovely stones when she visited. My family would bring me heart-shaped stones home from hikes. When I went to visit the old homestead in Wyoming, we would look at rocks and visit rock hounds.

My interest grew. I started out interested in the more gemmy aspects of rocks. But I became intrigued by the composition of stones and formations. I had bowls of rocks on my tables. I had rocks displayed where others would have knickknacks. Once, my children were trying to break open a geode and they got scolded for using one of my good rocks.

I had spent quite a while gathering specimens from far-off places and stacking up heart-shaped rocks before I thought to look into rock-hounding in my own area.

So my husband I searched to see what rocks we might find in our area. There were lots of stones listed. My beloved thunder eggs were plentiful. Opals and garnets, too. There were volcanic rocks and sedimentary rocks and gemmy rocks and — jade.

I read the name of the location again and again. My husband did too. We sat there in stunned silence. The large smooth stones we walked on in my husband’s favorite creek were jade. Just like the story of the acres of diamonds, I found the thing I thought was abroad at home.

I still want to go to China. My niece is fluent in Mandarin and is focusing on that in her university studies. I asked her if I could go with her and she said yes. She’s nice like that.

But I think I will be a little harder to impress now. After all, I have been luxuriating in gem-lined pools for 23 years. You can’t get more glamorous than that.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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