Scratching the Surface of a Water-Filled Unbroken Geode

There is a finite amount of water on the earth, endlessly cycling through everywhere water goes, from rain to groundwater to sweat to vapor to ice to the sea and back again.

The water that I drank this morning may have been in a sewer pipe last year. It might have seeped through the pores of a neanderthal. But water trapped inside a geode, like a pouch of buried gold coins, has been out of circulation for thousands of years.

After my recent exploration of a small geode in which I sanded away the whole thing, I purchased a large, clam-shaped, Brazilian agate geode from a midwestern retailer. The listing stated that, as is sometimes the case, this geode was full of water.
Though the time it would take seemed outrageous, I planned to “open” it, as I did my small geode, by slowly wearing it away with sandpaper.

Full of It

During the formation of their inner crystals, geodes typically contain water. Dissolved molecules are carried by groundwater or rainwater through the pores of the older, outer rock. In an effort to find stability, they stack–molecule by molecule–in a uniform, repeating pattern lining the inside of the rock’s hollow center.

I unboxed the geode. The water’s “glug” sound was audible–barely but distinctly. The shift in weight as the water shifted with gravity was unmistakable.

In the weeks before I began sanding, its inner reservoir made it seem alive. When I would carry it around, or photograph it with my arm extended, I would imagine it shattering on the ground in grotesque beauty, its water spilling like blood as its inner crystals suddenly glittered in the sunlight for the first time.

Geode’s Day Out

Before beginning to sand into my geode, I spent some time with it in its unbroken state, imagining what was inside.

Me photographing the geode in a puddle. Panos by Brian Brooks

On inauguration day of 2017, a steady rain was illuminated by bright sunshine. I sprung into action, but by the time I had packed up the geode, an umbrella, and a borrowed SLR camera, the once complete rainbow had dissolved in half.

I held the geode at arm’s length and photographed the fading left leg of the rainbow as if it would infuse the geode with something special.

Unbroken geode with rainbow

The sky darkened and heavy rains descended.  As the sun set on the other side of the cloud cover, I set the geode into puddles to enjoy the rain on its skin.

Let the Sanding Begin

After taking a large number of photos of the unbroken geode, I took a deep breath and began sanding.  The pictures I had would have to be enough. I came down on the top of the geode. I bought professional-grade sandpaper that claimed to be extra long lasting, and sat down to begin sanding  by hand.

Concerned about ruining my life by devoting too much time to hand sanding, I tried my electric palm sander, and then a dremel tool borrowed from my local tool lending library. Aside from being loud and unpleasant–preventing me from doing anything else while sanding–the electrical tools were much less effective than forceful hand sanding with muscle.

The outer skin of the geode was thin, and its light-colored surface quickly wore away to an obsidian black.

A closer look at some of the emerging black spots showed something curious: I felt like I could look through it to see shapes layered beneath.

Since I could see through the black spots, that meant they weren’t actually black, and must be transparent, or translucent, and only looked black because of the darkness at the stone’s interior. I examined the spots with a flashlight, and sure enough, they lit right up.

I thought of the water below. A pitch-black cave with a pool is now experiencing its first few rays of light. Like sun coming through fog, or daylight through a frosted-over skylight.

The First Step of a Long Journey

I have barely even begun sanding this geode,  and so little is gone that I can’t imagine ever finishing. Still, my plan is to keep on sanding until the whole geode is gone. Will the water still be there when I get closer to the center? Will I become blinded by its beauty and unable to continue my path of destruction?

I wonder how long will it take, and what will it do to my life.

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