By day, the Ace of Diamonds quartz crystal mine’s piles of “tailings,” the rocks dug out and left over from larger crystal excavations, sparkle in the sun. Slivers of what almost look like glass buried in the dried mud shimmer across the property. A welcome breeze always seems to cool a sweaty brow at the exact right moment. People of all ages clamber up and down the dusty piles of rubble, looking for errant shiny gems, or smash chunks of rock out of the ledge with sledgehammers in search of crystals.
By night, smoke from campfires gives the area the smell of burned wood and roasted hot dogs. Patrons sporting old Megadeth and G’N’R tee shirts with bandanas tied around their heads sit, passing blunts back and forth. Tents in all sizes and colors dot the hillside, giving the place the feeling of a Grateful Dead show afterparty. The air tastes sweet.
This is just one of the crystal mines I escape to when the city gets to be too much.
A four-hour drive north of New York City to the Herkimer region you’ll find families, couples, solo folks, divorcees, the young, the old, the weird, the wonderful, the pink-haired, the hip and the super-stoned all coming together at this and other area mines to dig double-terminated quartz crystals just a few feet away from each other. This special crystal, also known as a “Herkimer diamond”, after the name of the town it is found in, hides in the dolostone and mud and is only found in a few places; namely in Iraq and in Herkimer, New York, along routes 28 and 29.
I found this haven after finding another unique orb, one in my left breast. My husband and I spent many weekends, smashing into the cliffs with wedges and 5-pound hammers, slamming out our frustrations and fears. We spent the evenings smoking killer ganja by firelight and enjoying incredible views of the night sky with no light pollution to compete with the starlight.
Every time I return, I meet the interesting, often stoned people who dig crystals alongside me—folks with stories to tell, most of them seeming to be running away from something. There was the young couple who couldn’t conceive but spent years trying to, then finally decided to have a lot of money and pets instead. They smoked cannabis and played instruments late into the night. There was the couple who had taken a respite from parenting their 7 children, one named Aventurine after a green stone. The man told us stories of having been shot at and stabbed over the years, and was currently suffering from severe back pain and walking with a cane. He and his tattoo-covered wife toked blunts and blasted Aerosmith loudly into the wee hours.
I met the man with a cat on a leash who told me about how he ran away from home at 15 to work in a carnival. He was covered in tattoos and I could practically smell the sweet, musty, familiar smell of my old friend cannabis on him.
I met a rich guy from Idaho who drives up every summer to unearth some of the largest, most perfect crystals I’ve ever seen, many the size of softballs and bananas. I’m not sure if he smokes, but he seems like he has at least inhaled.
I met the older fellow who owns the place. He looks like Jerry Garcia reincarnated. If he doesn’t smoke, I’ll go lay down in the road and let the local horse and buggies take turns running over my ankles.
Like the people who have so much in common and come to hide out, hang out, drop out and dig out beautiful crystals, I realized that crystals and cannabis have much in common.
Like cannabis, crystals have been used for eons to calm, entertain, mystify, heal and bond people. A piece of hemp cord was found in a pottery remnant at an ancient village that was over 10,000 years old. Pot has been around for ages and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Crystals and cannabis are both wonders of nature. Cannabis is a plant that grows in the ground. Crystals are created when hot liquids cool and solidify. They often cool in a uniform manner, which creates a pattern that creates the crystal structure. Cannabis leaves also grow in a pattern. Both cannabis and crystals are often found growing in soil.
Cannabis and crystals can be had for free or purchased for a small fortune, depending on your need and desire. When I was a kid growing up in Maine, we would buy a brown paper grocery bag of stems and leaves for $10 which we could smoke (yuck) or use to make brownies with. I’ve also grown my own (free) and found plants wild in the woods (OK, so maybe I borrowed a bud or so from the plants I found, though they probably had owners and I’m not talking about squirrels), and purchased varying amounts ranging from a $5 joint to an ounce for $120.
I’ve found crystals in the mud, rocks, and dirt. I’ve found crystals on the side of the road, in thrift stores for next to nothing and have been given some by friends. I have paid $10 to $20 to dig my own at mines, and I’ve also seen them for sale in stores like CB2 and Urban Outfitters and on Etsy for anywhere from $10 to $300, including an actual “Herkimer diamond” as they’re called, for $1574.99 and up. So, though they are both essentially free if you are willing to grow or find your own, they can also be costly, if you wish.
They are both beautiful. I guess this one depends on who you ask. Some politicians or anti-cannabis folk may disagree, but most honest people would say that cannabis plants are lovely, with their vast variety of colors and strains. In fact, the juiciest, perhaps most lovely and most stoneriffic part of the marijuana plant are the trichomes, a.k.a. “the crystals,” which hold the most THC.
Crystal stones also have a breathtaking assortment of colors, sizes, and shapes and are wonderful to look at and hold. Though their odor isn’t as remarkable or as pungent as marijuana—they often smell like faint earth, or nothing at all, or patchouli if you find them in a stoner’s glove compartment—they are also beautiful.
Crystals are said to vibrate at a certain frequency by some aficionados (though science doesn’t tend to agree). Marijuana gives pretty much anyone who tries it a buzz.
I reached out to a store called The Dragon and The Rose that boasts the largest selection of “Wiccan, pagan and metaphysical supplies in Orange County” on their website, and briefly chatted with the store manager, Addie, who affirmed that much of their clientele are ”pro-cannabis”. Bongs and pipes made of crystal, as well as other paraphernalia or tsotchkes such as beads or pendulums, can be found with an easy Google search, such as this unicorn pipe carved out of rose quartz. Other stores, such as Oregon Valley Cannabis and Virtue Supply Company, both out of Portland, Oregon, display crystals and rocks among their marijuana wares—a thoughtful bridge between the two communities.
It’s hard to miss the connection between cannabis and crystals unless you’re really trying not to look. If you happen to be a fan of one and not the other, with the current peak in popularity for both cannabis and crystals, now is a fine time to spend a few quality moments considering the parallels between these two spectacular forces of nature—perhaps with a pipe in one hand, and a crystal in the other.
It’s a simple, fun pastime. If you’re a smoker, imbibe using your favorite method, grab a spade and spend a little time scuffling around in the dirt near your favorite waterfall, or at the base of your most beloved thinkin’ tree. If you’re a crystal fan, vape up, hold your favorite stone in your hand and meditate on whatever pops into your head. You’ll surely begin to see the overlap in crystals and cannabis, even if they exist solely in your mind.