I had a magical experience on a recent, sunny day.
Here’s what I expected: an exciting afternoon as a passenger on my boyfriend’s racing motorcycle — feeling its pull underneath my thighs, the thrill of holding on so I don’t go splat on the street (which has gotten more thrilling, less overwhelming as time goes on).
What I didn’t expect: to walk into an enchanted land of bizarre, painted rocks, that I hadn’t known existed. This is the Quincy Quarries.
We had gotten lost – the recipe for anything interesting – and Akira suggested, “how about we go to that park we passed?” We left the bike in the lot and followed a small trail that cut through a sparse grove of trees surrounding various small boulders. Our first hint of the unusual was the painted slogans on some of these rocks: “Teachers Inspire” and “Die 4 My Bitch.” I still regret forgetting to take a couple’s selfie next to that one.
We rounded a bend to find a wide field of close-cropped grass, bordered by sheared rock cliffs almost 50 feet tall in some places, by my estimate. Along the spine of one of these cliffs, a path wound through smaller chunks of granite that looked as if dynamite had blown them apart.
A group of teen boys and girls, hopelessly cool in slouchy athletic pants, headphones, and urgent conversation, passed us on their way out. At the granite face to our right, a rock-climbing class was underway, its participants in helmets. On the other side of that face, athletic boys, shirtless and helmetless, spotted each other on belayed ropes. A woman lay in the grass with her child. A couple stood, nuzzling and watching their phone screen. Did they own that drone that had hovered ominously over me as I snapped photos?
The most striking part: every rock surface except for some of the highest, steepest parts of cliffs and the hard-to-reach crannies, was covered in bright, painted scenes and words.
They ranged from scribbled names, to ridiculous calls for action (“Legalize Ranch”), to food for thought (“You Are conscious Matter”). Thick, slippery coatings of hardened paint covered many rocks that had been redecorated with new scenes and words again and again. The emphasis was less on murals in the style of urban graffiti pieces, and more on identity formation through names and sayings. All of it layer upon layer of reds, greens, blues, yellows, pinks, whites and blacks. All of it feeling like a space that belonged to the young – or at least one upon which you leave your mark at a fleeting time in your life.
It used to look a lot different. A guy setting up his climbing ropes on the top of our boulder-strewn spine told us that there used to be water, as deep as 200 feet down. According to this guy, who’s backed up by Wikipedia, they ended up filling it in, because people were drowning or dying from dangerous cliff diving fatalities.
Discovering something new is, to me, a gift from God. It’s another chapter in a land of infinite stories I don’t even know exist – yet. When a hidden part of the world reminds me that I don’t get the whole scene, that there’s more to the picture, that it’s not even all bad – this keeps me going. This new world came to me when I wasn’t expecting anything from the day except the dangerous joy of riding a racing bike and getting home in one piece. How much else is out there that I have yet to discover? Today, instead of feeling overwhelmed, I’m encouraged to look for more.