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Amy Choate-Nielsen
Amy Choate-Nielsen's kids love to climb big rocks and did so recently at Zion National Park.

My children love rocks.

There is something about the smoothness of stone that draws them in like moths to a flame. They love striations, they love sparkles and they love the decorations of minerals that just came that way.

Recently my family went walking on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, and my daughter asked me about the characteristics of nearly every rock we passed.

“That one’s a conglomerate,” I told her as we inspected a bumpy, clumpy mass made from other rocks all smushed together and hardened. She spied conglomerates the rest of the day while my son enthusiastically hopped on every red boulder he could find.

Sometimes, rocks are beauties to behold. Sometimes, they are adventures that need to be climbed.

My kids come by their love for pebbles and gems honestly.

When I was a little girl, I collected rocks any time I left the house. I sparked an instant connection with those cold and round, but sometimes jagged, pieces of rock, and I couldn’t bear to part with them once I brought them home. I spent hours looking at the jewels exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I was fascinated by the glint and spectacle of the Hope Diamond as the light moved, but I was even more enthralled by the angular shards of crystal that looked raw and wild, like a treasure I could stumble upon in the woods.

One day I even bought a book of rocks so I could have the pleasure of looking at them without the pain of finding room on my shelf.

My dad loved rocks, too.

This week, I watched my dad gingerly make his way down into an open gypsum mine so he could get a better look at the glittering chunks of white strewn about the ground. Sometimes he picked up the crystals and put them in a paper bag, but other times he just leaned over, trying not to fall as he squinted at the minerals on the ground.

My mom sat next to me and chuckled as she remembered the time they drove down a highway in California and my father couldn’t resist stopping the car to load the trunk with the beautiful rocks scattered around. I laughed and kept my eyes on my kids who were scampering all around, collecting rocks and giggling, rolling around in the dirt because they were so happy.

What is it about rocks that can be so magical?

My 9-year-old daughter recently told me she can’t wait to get married so a man will give her a diamond ring.

“Did you get a diamond ring when you got engaged mom?” she asked me. I answered her, then she paused, as if calculating the potential for her future, and asked me a follow-up question.

“And then, when you got married, you got another ring, right? With diamonds? So that’s two rings you get when you get married? You can have two rings with diamonds?”

Amy Choate-Nielsen
Amy Choate-Nielsen's kids love to climb big rocks and did so recently at Zion National Park.

I laughed and told her it’s better to stay single and buy herself her own diamond ring than to marry the wrong person and be unhappy, but she wouldn’t hear of it. At 9 years old, she is already starting to anguish over the possibility that she’ll never get married.

Sometimes that happens. Sometimes our dreams come true, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes rocks are a beautiful surprise, and sometimes they’re obstacles that trip you on the trail.

Sometimes they’re both.

My kids recently saw a huge slab of sandstone on a hike in Zion National Park, and they couldn’t wait to scale their way to the top. They sat on the pinnacle of the rock, feeling free and proud, but then they got scared on the way back down.

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When they finally made it to the ground, they were elated.

“I can’t believe I did that on my own,” my daughter told me with excitement. “I really thought I couldn’t do it, and then I just tried really hard, and it happened. I feel so brave.”

And she is. Maybe that’s why we all love rocks so much. As we look at them and see their different characteristics — conglomerate or striated or split — we see a bit of our own uniqueness, bravery and beauty.

Rocks are strong, but then again, so are we.