Obelisk in Shadow
On the road …again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Obelisk in Shadow
Some people look at a rock outcrop and just see rocks. Others look and don’t see anything, and they say so. Yet others look and see the manifestations of natural history; they see various shapes, colors, and mineral compositions of the rocks, themselves; and they see artistic treasures.
One of the artistic treasures that now adorns the flowerbed and rock garden of his home in Pennsylvania was one of those rocks from an outcrop. The Footloose Forester is not a geologist and did not obtain the magnificent obelisk from its original source in a quarry somewhere. Rather, he spied it in the remains of a blackened, burned-out homestead in Bedford County, Pennsylvania where the workgroup from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was hauling away 2½ tons of rubbish. The 300-pound obelisk was one of the basement foundation stones. But it was not cut or shaped into its striking profile -- because there was no evidence of a stone mason’s tool; no sign of chipping or chiseling or scratching; and no use of cement. It was indeed a building stone, but one that was plucked from a hillside somewhere and used in its natural state. The original owners probably knew what they were looking at and fitted it carefully into a position where its natural shape was most impressive.
How many decades have passed since the obelisk was emplaced in its basement position? And how was it that a nearly upright obelisk was poised there, that day when the Footloose Forester saw it beckoning to him to come and have a closer look? He knew one thing; the obelisk was henceforth going to have a prominent place where others could admire its sleek lines.
About two years after standing proudly in front of our house in Pennsylvania, the obelisk changed its address to another state. It still has a prominent place where others can admire its sleek lines, in front of our new home in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The street number has changed, but not the remarkable profile of the obelisk
Of course, the description of a building stone as an obelisk is somewhat misleading. Indeed it is a natural curiosity, with its tapering parallel sides and canted apex; but what stands out is the straightness and relative smoothness of those tapered sides, parallel in two planes. One can easily imagine the 90◦ angles and four lines between the sharp corners tracing precisely from the starting point at any corner and culminating at that same point. Commercial building stones do not possess such lines, and would not be cut that way. There would be no purpose to having such tapering of parallel planes. That is why the Footloose Forester boldly concluded that the obelisk was an artistic treasure from the natural world. He hopes that others see its uniqueness and are inspired by its magnificence.
How many straight lines can you see in the second picture? The Footloose Forester sees three. How many straight lines of the obelisk can you count in the first picture? This time, he counts five.
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Beautiful, to be sure. Is it a limestone? Or perhaps a quartzite that has been formed by heat and pressure, changing sandstone into a metamorphic rock? If it had been a limestone, it would be a marble when changed by heat and pressure. Artistic shapes and colors, to be sure. But lots more natural history than three or five lines. Great, well-written story.
Thanks for the uplift. It definitively was not a limestone with which I'm pretty familiar. Its hardness was beyond the range of limestone on the Mohs Scale. It did not show bubbling with weak acid. The grains were so fine that I ruled out sandstone, of which there is plenty in that area. My best guess is that the oblelisk is what people there call traprock. No quartz crystals were evident. I'm still unsure what to call it.
You guys see things that ordinary people couldn't imagine. Thankfully, this ordinary person is being educated in a fascinating way because you have done your homework. Nice picture too!
The obelisk is supported by a layered obsidian (black-white rock) from Kenya; a white coral and pale orange jasper from Haiti.
The obelisk has a few travel stories of its own. This update tells a bit about his recent trip in the back of a moving van.