Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TEACH (11/29/18)
TITLE: Gems in the Rubble
By Jennifer Woodley
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‘Really?’ I asked doubting that there was anything of true worth in the dusty conglomerate of stones piled high before me.
Emma smiled knowingly as she spread the stones evenly over the frame and stared hard at the assortment. A small stone caught her attention. ‘Most local sapphires found on the Queensland gem fields are a deep dark blue, almost black. And sapphires have a glass-like appearance, like this one.’
To my untrained eye, the stone Emma held hardly looked different to the others. After setting it aside on the table, she led me to a large drum filled with cool water. Attached to the side of the drum was a wooden handle. The contraption, called a Willoughby, looked like the antiquated hand washing machine my grandmother used when I was a little girl – minus the wringer of course.
‘So we place the sieve-tray in the top of the Willoughby like this, and slowly submerge the bottom part of it into the water.’ As she spoke, Emma moved the handle with a rhythmic up and down motion, and the sieve-tray jostled on the surface of the water. The liquid washed around the rubble, rocking the stones back and forth like pebbles on a beach tumbling together when the incoming tide swirls around them.
‘Sapphires are heavier than stones’ Emma explained. ‘This constant friction of stone rubbing against stone, forces the gems to the bottom of the tray, while the rubbish rises to the top.’ After a few minutes of jigging, Emma removed the sieve-tray from the water and in one swift motion tipped its contents upside down onto a clean white sheet on the table. A neat circle of shiny, wet stones glistened before us.
‘Now this is where you need eyes that see what’s valuable and what’s not. Of course the water clears away the dust and dirt so we can see them better.’ Emma continued. ‘Look hard, here’s one, and another here and that one over there.’
With eyes that were trained to differentiate between gems and rocks, Emma swiftly collected a handful of small sapphires and placed them together in a pile. Her hands continued to carefully spread out the stones further on the sieve as she tenderly picked out flashes of dark blue.
‘They all look like rocks to me’ I laughed.
‘Oh you’ll get to recognize the gems soon enough’ she encouraged. ‘Now tip these back onto the sieve-tray and give them a go in the Willoughby for a few minutes. There’s still more slithers of sapphire lying randomly in there. Each time you put the sieve back into the Willoughby for sifting, more gems will fall to the bottom of the tray.'
‘It’s deceiving isn’t it?’ I said. ‘On the surface it looks like there’s nothing worthwhile here, but sifting through the rubble reveals a different story.’
Sometimes our life looks messy. It can be hard to see gems in the rubble. Yet, despite what trials we are going through, there are precious gems worth finding. Emma taught me that it takes desire, intention and patience to discover them. And new eyes that learn to look beyond the mess that lies before us.
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