My husband and I left the house in a kind of blizzard this morning to go to a nearby slate quarry. I say "a kind of blizzard" because although the snow was coming down thickly and covering the ground, you could see the emerald-green grass poking through--not at all the color that grass would be in the case of a real blizzard.
But it was cold and exceedingly wet when the kindly owner of the quarry told us to just look around and take what we wanted. For free, because it was the first time. So there we were, clambering around slippery piles of slate of all colors and sizes and thicknesses. There was orangy-red slate, purplish slate, gray slate, almost-black slate, green slate, green shot through with gold, green with brown stripes....
How to choose? One criterion was weight. I long ago made a vow that I wouldn't carve anything I couldn't lift, so even though my obliging spouse would have helped me carry heavy slabs to the car, I kept my vow. Unfortunately, what I could lift today was negatively affected by the wet and frozen state of my hands, which could at best only grasp tile-sized pieces.
But no matter. The wonderful thing about slate hunting in the snow is that the colors of the wet stone show brightly, in a way that the dry stone only does after it's been polished. So even as my hands got colder and stiffer, I kept seeing more fabulous pieces that I couldn't pass up.
Eventually, the elements got the better of me, and I called it quits. I came home with a dozen pieces in different sizes and proportions. In the coming weeks, I'll find out which colors make for a harder stone, which thicknesses are not thick enough--maybe I'll even learn to tell, the hard way, which stone is most likely to flake.
The snow is gone now. The baby lettuces in the garden seem unscathed, as are the pink blooms on my little apple trees. This weekend the temperature will hit 70--perfect for carving outdoors.